Truly sustainable construction projects do not solely focus on environmental performance, but also incorporate aspects of innovation, economic feasibility, architectural quality and above all social impact. These so-called five target issues serve as the basis for the adjudication process of the Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects and visions. Naturally, each project has its own focus, but to be successful in the competition they have to perform well in all five target issues.
A Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize winner for Africa Middle East in 2008, the Vele High School in a deep rural, mountainous region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa is currently under construction and serves as an outstanding example of the holistic approach of sustainable construction. The project transforms schools into community centers of lifelong learning. Here, sustainable livelihoods training can take place – energy efficiency, renewable energy use, rainwater harvesting and local food production are all part of the program.
Some of the features of the Vele High School site include: extensive community engagement; rainwater harvesting; solar photovoltaics providing electricity for 80 computers; energy measuring and monitoring systems to increase energy awareness and reduce energy costs; and passive and low-energy design creating naturally lit and ventilated classrooms that are warm in winter and cool in summer.
Besides keeping the different target issues in mind, sustainable construction projects also require out-of the-box thinking. This is demonstrated with the winner of the Holcim Awards Silver 2005 for Asia Pacific. The project focuses on an eight-legged concrete spider which proved to accelerate coral growth in degraded reefs. Destructive fishing practices, pollution and other damage together with climate change are severely impacting the coral reefs. Marine biodiversity and fish stocks have dwindled causing significant impacts not only on the oceans, but also on local communities who rely on fishing for food and economic development. The project designers found that concrete is an ideal material not only for making the framework strong and resistant to the elements, but also due to its low acidity which favors accelerated coral growth. The young corals can therefore be soon harvested and successfully transplanted to other areas.
The transplanted coral reef area has become one of the tourist attractions of the Duka Bay Resort, Medina, in the Southern Philippines. The influx of local and foreign tourists to the resort generated revenue exceeding the expense of the trial coral transplantation project.
Fishing communities who originally were responsible for the massive coral reef destruction are now beginning to shift away from fishery exploitation to the more lucrative yet less harmful tourism in Medina. Income from tourism supports fishing families and generated additional economic activity and the local community, who were initially skeptical about the coral reef rehabilitation project are now convinced that there is income in environmental restoration and conservation. With this experience, environmentalists and other lobby groups would have better chances of disseminating environmental restoration and protection techniques to other communities e.g. the concept of implementing Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) which is often acceptable to coastal townspeople of the country.
The Holcim Awards competitions are an initiative of the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. The 3rd International Holcim Awards competition with a total of USD 2 million in prize money is currently open for entries and seeks exemplary sustainable building and civil engineering works; landscape, urban design and infrastructure projects; and materials, products and construction technologies. Construction may not have started before July 1, 2010. Registration closes on March 23, 2011 at 14:00hrs GMT.