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Comfort and Sustainability in Architecture: The Latest Architecture and News

When It Comes to Design for the Disabled, Let the Science Lead the Process

This article was originally published on Common Edge

Steven J. Orfield's firm, Orfield Laboratories (OL), has spent 50 years in architectural design, research, and testing, dedicated to the premise that what matters in design is the end user, because design in the absence of user comfort, preference, and satisfaction is a failure. In this process, the firm has developed building performance standards for most commercial building types, and has now added to those standards the requirements for half of the world: people who are perceptually and cognitively disabled (PCD). The expense in doing this has been significant, but it has been one of the most important quests in Orfield's life.

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The Most Sustainable Building Is the One That Is Already Built: Multi-purpose and Healthy Spaces

The Most Sustainable Building Is the One That Is Already Built: Multi-purpose and Healthy Spaces - Featured Image
This Once-Abandoned Chinese Cloth Factory Was Refurbished Into a Thriving Cultural Center by O-Office. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection sought to explain the origin and survival of species on the planet. In short, it points out that the fittest organism survives and can reproduce itself, perpetuating useful variations for each species in a given place. Adaptation is, therefore, a characteristic that favors the survival of individuals in a context. In the construction world, we could draw some parallels. Could adaptation be an important quality to increase the useful life and efficiency of a building over time, considering the changes and demands of society, as well as technologies and lifestyles?

Replacing Cement with Waste: Embracing the Circular Economy with Polymer Technology

When approaching the process of recycling building materials, there are a number of obstacles to achieving a comprehensive and effective result. First, careless demolition can make the process very complex, as products with different recycling products are often mixed. In addition, not all materials can be efficiently recycled or processed, as many still need expensive or overly complex processes. But the construction industry, being a huge contributor to waste production and greenhouse gas emissions, has also developed multiple new technologies to improve its practices. This is the case of the WOOL2LOOP project, which seeks to solve one of the biggest challenges in applying a circular approach to construction and demolition waste.

What Can We Learn About Zero Carbon From Lelé’s Work?

The Zero Carbon policy is intended to create a kind of ecological balance to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions. Several studies report that the construction sector is one of the main responsible for the unbalance in which we find ourselves today, after all, it consumes natural resources on a gigantic scale and still builds buildings that do not collaborate with the maintenance of the environment. Therefore, searching for paths towards a carbon neutral architecture has become fundamental and one of them is learning from past masters, such as the Brazilian architect João Filgueiras Lima, known as Lelé.

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As Climate Becomes Extreme, How to Deal with the Building Envelope?

As Climate Becomes Extreme, How to Deal with the Building Envelope? - Featured Image
House with Gable / mia2/Architektur. Image © Kurt Hörbst

When talking about energy efficiency in buildings, it is inevitable to mention thermal insulation. We rarely see it in a finished building and, even in the technical drawings, the insulating layer appears as a thin hatch. But this is an element that is of vital importance, as it acts as a barrier to the flow of heat, hindering the exchange of energy between the interior and the exterior, reducing the amount of heat that escapes in winter and the thermal energy that enters in the summer. In a building with good thermal insulation, there is less need for heating to keep the house at a pleasant temperature, also reducing its carbon footprint. Currently, there are many countries that require a minimum level of thermal insulation for buildings, with increasingly strict parameters. But how should this issue be dealt with in the near future, with the worrying climate crisis forecast?

Winners of Saint-Gobain’s International Gypsum Trophy 2021

Winners of Saint-Gobain’s International Gypsum Trophy 2021 - Featured Image
Courtesy of Saint-Gobain’s International Gypsum Trophy 2021

Today, drywall and gypsum-based systems are currently present in almost all architectural works. These allow you to coat buildings with products that combine, among other attributes, construction ease, fire safety and the possibility of recycling, both in historic structures or completely new constructions. Since 1998, Saint-Gobain - one of the largest distributors of these types of systems - has awarded the projects that best apply them in their solutions, dividing them into 6 categories (Ceilings, Plaster, Plasterboard, Innovation & Sustainability, Residential, and Non-Residential). The submitted projects are meant to demonstrate how the architects managed to ingeniously unite the company's products with innovative solutions to overcome each of the difficulties that the works or contexts impose.

In its 12th edition, participants came from 30 different countries and showcased 74 projects. See the 14 awardees below:

Off-Site Construction is Radically Changing the Rules of Architectural Design

The popularity of pre-designed and pre-fabricated homes is growing, moving much of the construction process from the building site into factories. While countries like Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom are increasingly adopting modular buildings to meet labor and housing shortages, Nordic countries like Sweden already build 90% of residential single-family houses in prefab wood. Despite the recent surge in interest, off-site building is by no means a new concept. In fact, the construction method has been present throughout history in many attempts to consolidate its use in construction: as far back as A.D 43, the Roman army brought with them prefabricated forts to Britain, while Japan has been building in wood off-site and moving parts in pre-assemblies for at least a thousand years.

Design Guide: 7 Essential Features of a Net Zero Building

Design Guide: 7 Essential Features of a Net Zero Building - Featured Image
Weekend House in Bazel / Bovenbouw architectuur. Image © Stijn Bollaert

Kiribati has a population of around 110,000 people and its economy is centered on fishing and agriculture. Comprised of 33 islands in the Central Pacific, its highest point is only 81 meters above sea level, which makes it potentially the first country that could disappear completely due to global warming and the consequent rise in sea levels. The climate crisis has been a hotly debated topic in recent years and terms such as carbon footprint, greenhouse effect, atmospheric aerosols, and many others, are already staples in our vocabulary. Another widely spoken term is “net zero”, or net zero emission, used as a goal for buildings in different industries and countries. Basically, it means that the energy balance is zero.

How Fire Protection Glass Can Save Lives without Compromising Design

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While glass is generally singled out as the weakest part of a building, it is not always true. With technological advances and the continuous innovations of the industry, there is glass that, even while allowing natural light to enter an environment, can protect the building from fire. Beyond fire, there are also other threats such as hot gases, smoke, and heat transmission, which put the safe evacuation of people and the protection of property at risk.

How to Design the Perfect Acoustic Enclosure: Comfort in Flooring, Ceilings, and Walls

As our cities densify and building types become more and more mixed-use, we tend to spend a lot of time in noisy environments. When we think about acoustic comfort, we rarely think of places like restaurants, venues, and big offices; places with a lot of people, machinery, and background noise. The quality of sound can entirely change the experience of people in an interior space, and improving the space's acoustic quality relies on treating all surfaces, from walls to ceilings, and flooring. In this article, we will present a variety of solutions for ceilings, flooring, and walls, their different combinations, and a simple guide of how to apply them correctly in public spaces without compromising the aesthetic of the interior.

Will Refurbishment be the Architectural Specialization of the Future?

The choice of Lacaton & Vassal to receive the 2021 Pritzker Prize was, above all, emblematic. Under the mantra “never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse”, the French duo built a career focused on renovating buildings, providing them with spatial quality, efficiency and new programs. Their approach contrasts with most of the architecture we are used to honoring: iconic, imposing and grandiose works. It also contrasts with the notion of the tabula rasa, of building and rebuilding from scratch, so well represented in Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse, and which has fascinated architects and urban planners ever since.

Whether because of the sustainability demands currently in vogue, or simply because there are already enough buildings around the world, the task of rehabilitating spaces and buildings has been seen as an important driver of change. The focus is generally to center efforts on interior spaces, paying special attention to the environmental quality and comfort of the inhabitants, in addition to adapting the uses to contemporary demands. The main question revolves around how to update (and even automate) the buildings of the past to adapt to new needs for efficiency, sustainability and well-being.

Multi Comfort: Meet the Winners of the 16th Edition of the Saint-Gobain International Student Contest

Saint-Gobain has announced the results for the 16th edition of its international Multi Comfort Student Contest. This year, the challenge was to convert the post-industrial area of the Coignet company in Saint-Denis (France) into a space for living, learning, and leisure in the heart of a large green space, respecting both the historical heritage and the needs of sustainable development of modern neighborhoods, in collaboration with the city of Saint-Denis.

Learn more about the top three winning projects below.

Natural Ventilation Isn't the Most Efficient Solution in All Cases

Ventilation serves two main purposes in a room: first, to remove pollutants and provide clean air; second, to meet the metabolic needs of the occupants, providing pleasant temperatures (weather permitting). It is well known that environments with inadequate ventilation can bring serious harm to the health of the occupants and, especially in hot climates, thermal discomfort. A Harvard University study demonstrated that in buildings with good ventilation and better air quality (with lower rates of carbon dioxide), occupants showed better performance of cognitive functions, faster responses to extreme situations, and better reasoning in strategic activities.

It is not difficult to see that ventilation plays a vital role in ensuring adequate air quality and thermal comfort in buildings. We have all felt it. But when we talk about ventilation, a light breeze from the window might come to mind, shifting through our hair and bringing a pleasant aroma and cooling temperature that brings fresh air and comfort. In mild climates, this experience can even be a reality on many days of the year. In harsh climates or polluted spaces, it could be quite different.

Comfort & Sustainability in Architecture: Trends 2021

Just before the global lockdowns began in response to the spread of the widely discussed COVID-19, we met with Saint Gobain experts at their new headquarters in Paris to discuss an extensive investigation conducted in 2019, with the aim of understanding the transformations that architecture and construction have experienced in recent years. After an interesting exchange of ideas, we chose the most relevant topics to be analyzed in depth by our team of editors, resulting in a series of articles that combined the trends identified with the unexpected events that occurred during 2020, connecting them directly to architectural design.

Now, entering an uncertain but promising 2021, we took the time to stop and reread these articles carefully. How many of these trends are still valid and how much have they evolved? What new trends are likely to develop in the coming years?