In many cases, I haven't been able to decide whether a building full of trees fits into the "sustainable" category. In fact, I've often had to make the argument that such a building is far from it.
There was a time when people appreciated self-contained architecture, in which the building envelope would not function as a moderator between the climate outside and the interior environment but rather as an inert and independent barrier. Countless mechanical devices and electrical ventilation, heating, and cooling equipment. A real machine.
The climate crisis has revealed the poor planning of our cities and the spaces we inhabit. Both construction and projects contribute to high carbon gas emissions. Fortunately, there are several ways to intervene to bring change into this scenario, either through materials and techniques adopted in each initiative or through geographical and social impact. In this scenario, the only certainty is that: to think about the future we cannot ignore the "green" in all its recent meanings from nature to sustainability, and ecology.
When you come to think of it, most of the food on your plate has a history behind it - a long journey that we are unable to describe. In her book Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating (2019), Robyn Shotwell Metcalfe refers to the paradox of fish being caught in New England, exported to Japan, and then shipped back as sushi, revealing a large and complex network that nobody can see when they buy takeout Japanese food at the local grocery store.
With the increase of urban density and the decrease in the availability of land, the verticalization phenomenon has intensified in cities all over the world. Similar to the vertical growth of buildings — which is often a divisive issue for architects and urban planners — many initiatives have sought in the vertical dimension a possibility to foster the use of vegetation in urban areas. Vertical gardens, farms and forests, rooftop vegetable gardens, and elevated structures for urban agriculture are some of the many possibilities of verticalization in plant cultivation, each with its unique characteristics and specific impacts on the city and its inhabitants.
At the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, curator Alejandro Aravena decided to reuse 100 tons of material discarded by the previous Art Biennale to create the new exhibition halls. Besides preserving 10,000 m² of plasterboard and 14 km of metallic structures, the initiative intended to give value, through design, to something that would otherwise be discarded as waste. The project also shed light on another observation: as architects, we generally restrict ourselves to thinking about buildings during the design process, construction phase, and at most through the use phase. We hardly think of what will become of them when they are demolished at the end of their useful life, an issue that should urgently become part of the conversation.
How many changes have you done to your interior space during this past year? Whether it was a change of furniture layout, repainting the walls, adding more light fixtures or perhaps even removing them, after spending so much time in one place, the space you were once used to didn’t make sense anymore. We could blame the overall situation for how we’ve been feeling lately, but as a matter of fact, the interior environment plays a huge role in how we feel or behave as well. However, if you were wondering why some neighbors seem much more undisturbed and serene even in the midst of a pandemic, it could be because the interior is greener on the other side.
Students at the School of Engineering, RMIT University recently published a study experimenting with a new form of waste management and recycling. As they note in their research, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded single waste item in the world, with an estimated 5.7 trillion having been consumed around the globe in 2016. However, the materials in cigarette butts—particularly their cellulose acetate filters—can be extremely harmful to the environment due to poor biodegradability. The RMIT study builds on a previous research study by Mohajerani et. al (2016) that experimented with adding discarded cigarette butts to clay bricks for architectural use. In their research, the RMIT students found that such a measure would reduce the energy consumption of the brick production process and lower the thermal conductivity of the bricks, but that other issues including bacterial contamination would have to be addressed prior to successful implementation. Below, we explore this research in more detail, investigating its relevance to the architecture industry and imagining possible futures of application.
Interior gardens and plants produce many day-to-day benefits, like mood boosting and memory enhancing effects. Interior landscape design, also known as "plantscaping", is much more than the act of bringing plants indoors; it's actually about the strategic placement and selection of plant species within an architectural project to highlight and enhance aspects of spatial design.