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Could Hovering Buildings be the Future of Sustainability?

Could Hovering Buildings be the Future of Sustainability?

If Arx Pax, a cutting-edge technology firm led by Greg and Jill Henderson, has its way, levitating objects could become a common sight. The team is developing what they call Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA), a technology which controls electromagnetic energy to make objects hover, and at the several months ago, they used it to produce Hendo Hover, a hoverboard capable of carrying a person. While the fact that Arx Pax was able to produce a hoverboard is fascinating, the technology could have much more serious applications: as an architect, Greg Henderson envisions that one day MFA technology could be used in buildings to produce sustainable structures which can better survive earthquakes and other natural disasters. Is this goal realistic?

Sustainability on Roosevelt Island: How Morphosis and Arup Are Making Cornell's Bloomberg Center Net Zero

© Cornell University / Kilograph
© Cornell University / Kilograph

When the first images of Cornell University's new campus on Roosevelt Island were unveiled last year, the First Academic Building (now known as the Bloomberg Center) was highlighted as a design driven by sustainability. In this interview, originally published by Arup's newly-revamped online magazine Arup Doggerel as "Net zero learning," Sarah Wesseler talks to members of the team from Morphosis, Arup and Cornell about how they designed the building to be one of the most sustainable education facilities in the world.

For its new tech-focused New York City campus, Cornell University set out to create one of America’s most sustainable university centers. With the net zero Bloomberg Center now in construction, I interviewed three leaders of the design team — Diana Allegretti, Assistant Director for Design and Construction at Cornell; Ung Joo Scott Lee, a principal at Morphosis; and Tom Rice, a structural engineer and project manager at Arup.

Bloomberg Center exterior rendering. Image © Morphosis Architects © Cornell University / Kilograph Bloomberg Center exterior rendering. Image © Cornell University / Kilograph © Cornell University / Kilograph

Through Bankruptcy and Boom: What's Really Happening in Detroit?

After exiting bankruptcy at the end of last year, Detroit has suddenly become something of a boomtown in the eyes of the media. Discourse now talks about Detroit Rising, the "Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit". Rents are rising, private investment is flowing into the city, and institutions that left the city for the affluent suburbs are now relocating back into Detroit proper. Too long used only as a cautionary tale, the new focus on the reality of Detroit and free flowing money opens the door for architects and urban planners, not to mention the wider community, to begin thinking about how they want to rebuild Detroit, and who they want to rebuild it for.

It’s the perfect opportunity to formulate plans that will genuinely aid Detroit, involve the community and create a revival that really achieves something. But as it stands, the "revival" forming in Detroit, aided and abetted by media coverage, will not improve conditions for the vast majority of Detroiters and will not create a sustainable platform for future growth, instead benefiting only the private investors and those rich enough to benefit from what is currently classic, by-the-book gentrification.

Renaissance Centre, a previous attempt to revitalise Detroit. Image © Flickr user paul bica An abandoned Detroit house. Image © Wikimedia user Notorious4life Detroit's Brush Park neighbourhood in Midtown. Image ©  Flickr user Stephen Harlan Detroit's ExpressTram. Image © Wikimedia user Danleo

2015 Norden Fund Winner to Study “Ecologies of War and Recovery” in Vietnam

The Architectural League has named Ylan Vo the winner of this year’s Deborah J. Norden Fund travel grant for her project entitled Ecologies of War and Recovery: A Case Study in Vietnam’s A Luoi Valley.

Vo’s project explores the A Luoi Valley “as an example of the post-conflict landscape of Vietnam, with particular emphasis on understanding the ecological and social conditions surrounding toxic Agent Orange hotspots that mark the valley.” Agent Orange, also called Dioxin, is the most potent carcinogen in existence, and poses major threats to environmental health and sustainability.

LEGO Invests $150 Million in Sustainable Materials Research

LEGO recently made architecture news with their BIG-designed "LEGO House," a museum and "experience center". Image Courtesy of LEGO Group
LEGO recently made architecture news with their BIG-designed "LEGO House," a museum and "experience center". Image Courtesy of LEGO Group

LEGO has long been recognized by architects as a key inspiration in the world of creative building - but the Danish toy company's influence over the construction industry may be about to get a whole lot more direct. Yesterday, LEGO announced the establishment of its own sustainable materials research center, with an investment of 1 billion Danish Krone ($150 million US), which will search to find sustainable alternatives to the plastic used in their products and packaging.

BBC Profiles Zhang Yue: The Man Who Plans to Build the World’s Tallest Building in 7 Months

BBC News has published a profile on the new projects and ambitions of Broad Sustainable Building’s Zhang Yue. A few months ago, Yue became known as the man behind Mini Sky City, a 57-story building that went up in 19 days. Now, Yue wants to further his idea of modular construction to build Sky City, which will be the world’s tallest skyscraper, stretching ten meters taller than the 828 meter-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and take only seven months to complete. In addition to being constructed from prefabricated parts, Sky City will be sustainable and built from steel to help prevent earthquake damage. Construction is expected to begin on the skyscraper in early 2016. Read more about Yue, his company, and their projects in the BBC News article.

COOKFOX Begins Construction on the Neeson Cripps Academy in Cambodia

COOKFOX Architects has recently begun construction on The Neeson Cripps Academy, a high-tech and sustainable school to be built in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as a gift from Velcro Companies to the Cambodian Children’s Fund.

The school, named for Cambodian Children’s Fund founder Scott Neeson and former Velcro Companies Chairman Robert Cripps, will employ multiple sustainable building practices, including water and energy efficiency via natural lighting, integrated solar shading, low energy lighting, and low flow water fixtures. An energy recovery system will further work to improve air quality inside classrooms by filtering outdoor air into the interior of the building, and on-site photovoltaic cells will provide a portion of the school’s energy needs.

Studio Gang to Design Net Positive Energy Campus for Chicago Children's Academy

Studio Gang has been selected to design a 60,000 square-foot campus for the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) in Chicago. Aimed to be the city's greenest campus, the net positive energy scheme will be designed as a space for learning that will "break down barriers between kids." The campus will include classrooms, an international learning laboratory, a teacher professional development center, an early childhood center, and an urban food production center. 

Between Intuition and Pragmatism: Peter Clegg on Holistic Sustainability

Founded in 1978, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios has spent over thirty years refining its approach to sustainability, and is now regarded as one of the UK's leading practices in low-energy design. Yet their work still resonates on many other levels, bringing them multiple awards including the 2008 RIBA Stirling Prize for the Accordia Housing Project which they completed alongside Alison Brooks Architects and Maccreanor Lavington. In this interview from Indian Architect & Builder's May 2015 issue, Peter Clegg talks about the principles behind their work, explaining the concept of holistic sustainability which makes their designs so successful.

Indian Architect & Builder: The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Southbank Centre and many other projects desire to involve the social aspects for the larger good of the community. How would you describe the incorporation of these into the design process?

Peter Clegg: Architecture is an art form but also social science and we have a duty not only to work with our current client base and generate ideas collaboratively, but also think ahead and envisage the needs of future generations who are our ultimate clients. Our most creative work comes from working closely with creative clients who are more prevalent in the creative and cultural industries.

Model of Feilden Clegg Bradley's proposals for the Southbank Centre renovation, London. Image © Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios Manchester School of Art, Manchester, England. Image © Hufton + Crow Broadcasting Place, Leeds, England. Image © Cloud9Photography City and University Library for Worcester ("The Hive"), Worcester, England. Image © Hufton + Crow

5 Architectural Secrets of the Badjao: 21st Century Sea People

Thousands of years ago, a small civilization of hunter gatherers migrated to the coastal regions of Southeast Asia. These people progressed into a widespread tribe of travelling sea dwellers. To this day, they remain a stateless people with no nationality and no consistent infrastructure, sometimes living miles away from land. Yet these people are one of the few civilizations whose collective life practices have survived so long through human history. They are called the Badjao, and they have a surprising amount to teach us about architecture.

Badjao community off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Image © Dolly MJ via Shutterstock Badjao woman rowing boat. Image © Dolly MJ via Shutterstock Temporary construction in Southeast Asian ocean. Image © asnida via Shutterstock Badjao child rowing near coast. Image © idome via Shutterstock

Live off the Grid in Nice Architects’ Wind and Solar-Powered Ecocapsule

Living off the grid just got a little bit easier, thanks to Nice Architects’ Ecocapsule, a self-sufficient, portable pod that is powered by solar and wind energy. Unveiled at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, the micro-home’s spherical shape is designed to maximize the collection of rainwater and minimize energy loss.

The Ecocapsule includes a 9,744 watt-hour battery, which is charged by a built-in 750-watt wind turbine, and 2.6 square meters of solar panels. The energy system can support someone living off the grid for about a year, depending on the location, according to the architects. The unit also contains a built-in kitchenette with running water, a flushing toilet and hot water.  

Learn more about the Ecocapsule and view images after the break.

Bamboom: Elora Hardy's TED Talk on Bamboo's Exploding Popularity

Perhaps the most surprising thing about bamboo - besides being an entirely natural, sustainable material with the tensile strength of steel that can grow up to 900 millimeters (3 feet) in just 24 hours - is that it's not more widely recognized as a fantastic construction material. Like many traditional building materials, bamboo no longer has the architectural currency that it once did across Asia and the pacific, but the efforts of Elora Hardy may help put it back into the vernacular. Heading up Ibuku, a design firm that uses bamboo almost exclusively, Hardy's recent TED Talk is an excellent run through of bamboo's graces and virtues in construction, showing off sinuous private homes and handbuilt school buildings.

Karawitz's open shell of bamboo. Image Courtesy of Karawitz Architects The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu One of Elora Hardy's bamboo bridges. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu

Michael Reynolds to Build a Sustainable Public School in Uruguay

Michael Reynolds, a well-known proponent of sustainable building and the creator of the Earthship house, will construct a self-sufficient public school in Jaureguiberry, Uruguay, reports local newspaper El País

Reynolds’ design contemplates a 270-square-meter building with solar panels and a water-collection system that will supply water for the bathrooms and kitchens. In the architect’s usual style, recycled materials such as tires and bottles will be used for construction. 

Learn more about the project after the break. 

Video: How Tesla's Powerwall Will Provide Energy to the World

The world's energy infrastructure may soon undergo significant change; Tesla Motors recently unveiled the Powerwall, a compact, lithium-ion battery pack that will allow residents to autonomously consume energy by drawing from their own sun-powered reserve. For just $3,500, you can purchase an attractive, wall-mounted battery capable of storing up to 10 kilowatt-hours of energy - about a third of what the average US household uses daily. Beyond this, the company will also be offering scalable Powerpacks to businesses and utility companies that will allow limitless storage. Powerwalls will go out for delivery this summer.

Open Call: ITAD Competition Seeks Student Proposals for "Urban Smart Green Office"

The Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA), together with Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) are jointly organizing the International Tropical Architecture Design Competition 2015 for Institutes of Higher Learning (ITAD Competition) for the fifth run this year. Themed “Urban Smart Green Office,” this year’s competition seeks for innovative and sustainable design entries that demonstrates the essentials and key constituents of a Smart Green Office Building in an urban city of participant's choice. The competition is open to tertiary students worldwide. Read on to learn more. 

3 Projects Win 2015 Global Holcim Awards for Sustainability

Emerging from over 6,000 entries, three winners of the fourth Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction have been selected. The international competition, occurring every three years, recognizes designs that provide sustainable solutions to local issues faced by communities throughout the world. This year's winning projects addressed sites in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and the United States and will receive monetary prizes ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.

The winning entries were selected from last year's top-prize recipients in the five regional Holcim Awards competitions, a total of 15 proposals (see our previous coverage here). An international jury of industry leaders, led by Mohsen Mostafavi (Dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design), determined the winners of the 2015 Global Holcim Awards.

See the winners after the break.

BRONZE: BIG U contains a protective ribbon: 21 km (13 mi) of flood protection tailored to each neighborhood and the community it serves. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation BRONZE: View of BIG U from The Battery in the financial district. Berms are strategically located to protect the infrastructure below and create a protective upland landscape. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation SILVER: The common lobby with its panoramic window. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation BRONZE: The undulating berm in East River Park will rise 15 feet to provide flood protection and connect coast and community. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation

Ball-Nogues Compostable "Pulp Pavilion" Brings Shade to Coachella

To demonstrate the structural potential of "pulp," Ball-Nogues Studio built an experimental reclaimed paper pavilion this year at Coachella. The lightweight, self-supported structure, known as the "Pulp Pavilion," was made from a low-cost blend of recycled paper, water and pigment sprayed onto lattices of organic rope. After its use as a place of refuge for festival goers, it will be either composted or recycled. See the pavilion illuminated at night, after the break.

Leonardo DiCaprio Taps Jason McLennan to Design "Restorative" Eco-Resort in Belize

Founder of the Living Building Challenge, sustainability aficionado and architect Jason McLennan has been commissioned by famed actor Leonardo DiCaprio to design a 68-vila eco-resort on a private island in Belize. As The New York Times reports, the ambitious 42 hectare (104 acres) "Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island" will be carried out by New York developer Delos by 2018. 

The resort will feature an arc of floating suites built over the water and a network of artificial reefs and fish shelters, along with 48 millionaire villas and an indigenous plant nursery focused on manatee conservation.

“My goal was always the fact that I wanted to create something not just environmental, but restorative,” said DiCaprio to the newspaper. “A showcase for what is possible.”