The Steel Age Is Over. Has The Next Age Begun?

As of now, carbon fiber has only been applied to small scale applications, such as the Textile Room by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Monica Nouwens

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century steel magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — steel was the new kid on the block. People were wary of steel, scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.

Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American , with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel .

So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper –  what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.

Wood Encouragement Policy Coming To Australia

Cross Stitch House; Melbourne / FMD Architects. Image © Peter Bennetts

Latrobe City Council is pushing an initiative that would put “wood first.” If implemented, the “Wood Encouragement Policy” would educate architects and industry professionals about the structural and environmental benefits of wood in an effort to promote the local timber industry and use of sustainable building . Following the lead of the United States and New Zealand, both of which recently established “wood encouragement” policies, the council hopes that this will set a precedent that can be applied throughout the rest of

AIA Names Top 10 Most Sustainable Projects in U.S.

Sustainability Treehouse; Glen Jean, West / Mithun with BNIM © Joe Fletcher

In honor of Earth Day, we have complied a preview of the top ten most sustainable exemplars of U.S. architecture selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (). Each project featured will be honored with a Top Ten Award for “sustainable design excellence” at the 2014 National Convention in Chicago. View them all, after the break…

Building Trust International Constructs Sustainable Housing in Cambodia

Courtyard House render. Image ©

Building Trust International, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and Karuna Cambodia, has realized three winning designs from the 2013 Future of Sustainable Housing in Cambodia

Built on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the constructed designs sought to provide impoverished Cambodians with new options for safe and secure homes under $2000 that are capable of withstanding flood and able to be expanded in phases.

Check out the three completed designs, after the break…

Paul Rudolph’s Iconic Walker Guest House To Be Re-Constructed

Walker Guest House / Sanibel Island. Image © Ezra Stoller / Esto

The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) has announced that a replica of Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House will be constructed at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, It is hoped the iconic, 24′ x 24′ vacation cottage will be opened to the public by 2015, after which it will be disassembled and transported to select museums around the country.

More information about the Walker Guest House, after the break…

What’s “Green” Anyway? ShapedEarth’s Accurate, Carbon-Based Alternative

Courtesy of ShapedEarth.com

“Green” measures nothing. Which is greener: a building that saves water or a building that uses certified carpet? There is no obvious answer to this question – this is why trying to quantify “green” is biased and leads nowhere. Using carbon as a metric, on the other hand, makes sense. This is something you can accurately measure and therefore reduce. Going “low-carbon” not only contributes to fighting climate change but also totally redefines (choice of materials, energy sources, etc.).

This is why shapedearth.com, the first free online calculator for assessing the whole life embodied carbon of building projects, is such a useful tool.

Copenhagen’s Mayor Reveals What Makes His City So Enviably Green

Courtesy of Iwan Baan

In an enlightening interview on Future Cape Town, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen discusses what it is that makes , and Denmark as a whole, such a green-focused society. The key it seems goes beyond simple politics, stemming from a combination of early adoption, a robust and widely appreciated welfare system and a culture of collaborative innovation. You can read the full interview here.

RAIC Honors Peter Busby with Gold Medal

VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

The Royal Architectural Institute of has named Peter Busby the 2014 recipient of the , the highest honor awarded by the organization. Since founding his Vancouver practice in 1984, Busby has built a reputation for being a “powerful catalyst in the growth of the green architecture movement,” a pioneer in sustainability. In 2004, Busby merged his firm with Perkins+Will. He now serves as the Managing Director of Perkins+Will’s San Francisco office. More information on Busby and the award, here.

William McDonough Designs Ultra “Clean” Manufacturing Facility for Method

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William McDonough + Partners has been selected to design Method’s first U.S. manufacturing facility on a brownfield site in ’s historic Pullman community. The company, known for producing environmentally conscious cleaning products, commissioned McDonough to design an ultra clean, LEED Platinum facility constructed from Cradle to Cradle Certified materials and powered entirely by renewable energy.

For Flood Prevention, We Need to Raise Our Game (And Flatten Our Roofs)

Courtesy of Arup

This article by Jonathan Ward, originally published on Arup Thoughts as “A Top-Down Approach to Flood Prevention” discusses a cheap, simple, but effective method of easing the load on drainage after a storm: temporary storage of water on flat roofs, which can not only help to prevent floods, but also provide unexpected benefits as well.

Gravity offers a simple and cheap way to attenuate stormwater flows – by storing water temporarily on a flat roof. All sorts of causes are being blamed for the current flooding in the UK; lack of dredging, poor management of catchment areas, on flood plains and paving over front gardens are all being mentioned in the press.

One thing is for sure – we will be paying a lot more attention to the topic given the current experience, and the fact that wetter winters are predicted in our changing climate, with a certainty of more extreme events.

Read on for an explanation of why this counter-intuitive measure actually makes perfect sense

A Vision for a Self-Reliant New York

Street view of Amsterdam Ave. in northern Manhattan featuring a mix of traditional and advanced agricultural growing techniques. Image Courtesy of Terreform

“In an era of incompetent nation states and predatory transnationals, we must ratchet up local self-reliance, and the most logical increment of organisation (and resistance) is the city.” This is how Michael Sorkin, writing in Aeon Magazine, explains his hypothetical plan to radically change the landscape of New York City, bringing a green landscape and urban farming into the former concrete jungle. The plan, called “New York City (Steady) State”, produced over six years by Sorkin’s Terreform, is not designed simply for aesthetic pleasure; it’s not even an attempt to make the city more sustainable (although sustainability is the key motivation behind the project). The project is in fact a “thought-experiment” to design a version of New York that is completely self reliant, creating its own food, energy and everything else within its own borders. Read on after the break to find out how New York could achieve self-reliance

The Fear Sustaining Sustainable Urbanism

‘Habitat of Homo Economicus’, a piece for ‘The Competitive Hypothesis’, Storefront for Art and Architecture in , 2013. Image Courtesy of Ross Exo Adams and Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco

In this article, originally published on the Australian Design Review as “Longing For a Greener Present“, Ross Exo-Adams examines the fear that lies behind the trend toward sustainable urbanism, and finds that the crisis we find ourselves in might not only be confined to an ecological one.

Over the past decade, architects have found themselves increasingly commissioned to design districts, neighbourhoods, economic free zones and even entire new cities: a phenomenon that has been accompanied by a commitment to ‘sustainability’, which now seem inseparable from urban design itself. While ‘’ remains a vague concept at best, it nonetheless presents itself with a sense of urgency similar to that which galvanised many of the great movements of modern architecture vis-a-vis the city. Underlying such urgency is a rhetorical reference to a collective fear of some palpable sort, whether it be fear of revolution (Le Corbusier), fear of cultural tabula rasa (Jane Jacobs, Team X) or our new fear: ecological collapse. It is obvious that the myriad ‘eco’ projects that have popped up all around the world would not be viable if not for the fact that they appear against a background of imminent catastrophe – a condition of terrifying proportions. Yet the essence of this fear is far from clear. Indeed, in light of ecological catastrophe and amidst any fetish for windmills or vegetation, architects have cultivated what seems to be a curious nostalgia for the present – a pragmatism whose lack of patience for the past seeks a kind of reconstitution of the present in imagining any future. So if not for climate mayhem, what is the true nature of fear that lies at the core of today’s urban project, ‘ecological urbanism’?

Find out after the break

Behind “Hy-Fi”: The Organic, Compostable Tower That Won MoMA PS1′s Young Architects Program 2014

The Living’s Hy-Fi, winning design of the 2014 Young Architects Program. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMAPS1. Image © The Living

This article, published by Metropolis Magazine as “Behind the Living’s “100% Organic” Pavilion for MoMA PS1“, goes behind the plans for this year’s PS1 Young Architects Program’s winning design, “Hy-Fi” – looking at the compostable eco-bricks which make the design possible.

“It all starts on local farms with waste corn stalks,” says Sam Harrington of Ecovative, who will help build this year’s winning entry for the MoMA PS1 Young Architect’s Program. Hy-Fi, designed by the New York-based firm The Living, will be made of bricks that are entirely organic and ultimately, compostable. A good chunk of that material is corn stalks, stained clay-red with an organic dye from Shabd Simon-Alexander and Audrey Louisere . The rest is mycelium—mushroom roots to you and me—that will hold the corn stalks together as they cohere into a molded shape. The , developed by Ecovative in 2007, has so far been used as a packaging material. “But we love the chance to try something bold, and that’s what PS1 is all about,” Harrington says.

Read more about the bricks behind Hy-Fi after the break

Light Matters: 7 Ways Daylight Can Make Design More Sustainable

Kaap Skil, Maritime and Beachcombers’ Museum, Winner of the Award 2012. Image Courtesy of Mecanoo Architecten

Daylight is a highly cost-effective means of reducing the energy for electrical lighting and cooling. But architectural education often reduces the aspect of daylight to eye-catching effects on facades and scarcely discusses its potential effects – not just on cost, but on health, well-being and energy.

This will explore the often unexplored aspects of daylight and introduce key strategies for you to better incorporate daylight into design: from optimizing building orientations to choosing interior surface qualities that achieve the right reflectance. These steps can significantly reduce your investment as well as operating costs. And while these strategies will certainly catch the interest of economically orientated clients, you will soon discover that daylight can do so much more.

More Light Matters with daylight, after the break…

Winners of Hong Kong ‘GIFT’ Ideas Competition Announced

First Prize: Seeding Architecture. Image Courtesy of Hong Kong Science Park GIFT Design Ideas

Winners of the ‘GIFT’ (Green Innovation Future Technology) Ideas Competition in Hong Kong have been selected by a panel of judges representing Hong Kong Science Park (HKSTPC), local government, and private organizations. The winning proposals best displayed the aim of the competition: to create an innovative and iconic architecture; design a low- emissions building that promotes sustainable strategies and lifestyles; nurture and uncover new local talent, and to create a scheme that unifies the Park’s development.

Review the winning proposals after the break…

Mecanoo’s Francesco Veenstra on “Sustainability as Social Responsibility”

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, one of six partners at the Dutch practice Mecanoo and Lead Architect on a number of major projects in the United Kingdom, recently spoke to Mies. UK about the practice’s approach to design and their unique take on sustainability. Having recently completed a major public building in Birmingham (which was put to the vote and won the AJ’s 2013 Building of the Year), and with more in the pipeline, the practice’s international outlook is growing. How has the practice’s design methodology and core ideas influenced this success? Read more after the break.

Video: design/buildLAB’s Reality Check

The design/buildLAB at the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design has recently released a new documentary by Leon Gerskovic titled Reality Check, a film that chronicles the journey of 16 students as they undergo the design and of their Masonic Amphitheatre in Clifton Forge, . The project was a complete redevelopment of a post-industrial brownfield into a public park and performance space; the video relates how students collaborated with local community and industry experts to bring meaningful architecture to this struggling American rail town.

SOM Unveils 500-Meter “Energy Tower” for Jakarta

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has unveiled a 99-story tower planned for the Rasuna Epicentrum neighborhood in Jakarta. Designed as a “highly sustainable corporate headquarters” for the state-owned energy company, Pertamina, the “energy tower” aims to become a new landmark on the Indonesian capital’s skyline. Once complete in 2020, the large-scale project will feature a 2,000-seat performing arts auditorium and exhibition , public mosque, and central energy plant in addition to the office tower.