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Green Infrastructure: The Latest Architecture and News

“Soft Infrastructure” Is Crucial for a Post-Carbon World

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

On a recent day in Santa Monica, California, visitors sat in the shaded courtyard outside City Hall East waiting for appointments. One of them ate a slice of the orange she’d picked from the tree above her and contemplated the paintings, photographs, and assemblages on the other side of the glass. The exhibit, Lives that Bind, featured local artists’ expressions of erasure and underrepresentation in Santa Monica’s past. It’s part of an effort by the city government to use the new soon-to-be certified Living Building (designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners) as a catalyst for building a community that is environmentally, socially, and economically self-sustaining.

Is There Anything More Natural Than Nature? Our Readers Weigh In On "Green" Houses

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. 

It seems that the vast majority of contemporary marketing for sustainable architecture operates under the guise of greenwashing. What's more, the line between what truly creates healthier and more sustainable living spaces and what doesn't is often a blurred one.

To see just how blurred this line is, we asked our readers to weigh in on just what makes a house "green". Is it being able to trace the source of your building materials and knowing the people who harvest, process, and sell them? Is it the ability to fulfill the day-to-day needs of the inhabitants using renewable resources?

How Are Public Washrooms Shaping Places in China?

Public Toilets in Zuzhai Village / cnS. Image © Siming Wu
Public Toilets in Zuzhai Village / cnS. Image © Siming Wu

In recent years, with the accelerated urban development of public spaces in China, public washrooms have been assigned numerous new roles. Designers have come up with a variety of proposals which suggest turning public washrooms into a place where social gathering can be redefined, and temporary stay can be more engaging. Although the scale of public washrooms is significantly smaller than that of any other type of architecture, Chinese architects have been working innovatively on fitting the public washrooms into the changing social contexts. Below are a few examples that demonstrate some current architectural experiments with public washroom design in China.

Public Toilets in Zuzhai Village / cnS. Image © Siming WuNantou Public Toilet / Edge Studio. Image © Zhuoheng FuPP Garden / People’s Architecture Office. Image Courtesy of People’s Architecture OfficeToilets with a View / guó bàn ér. Image © Shu He+ 35

Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

In a study recently published by AIA, less than 13% of architectural firms have incorporated building performance as part of their practice. With buildings contributing 40% of total carbon emissions leading to climate change, just 25 projects are roughly equivalent to planting 1 million trees each year. In addition to that, teams that are able to showcase data-driven and performance-driven decision-making and feature an energy analysis in every pursuit are able to increase fees and generate more revenue. Although integrating building performance sounds like a no-brainer, it proves to be difficult at many firms, because in addition to the practical changes, it requires a culture shift. That culture shift can only happen if the tools are easy to use, accurate, and mesh well with current workflows. Right now is the perfect time to tackle these culture changes due to a few reasons:

5 Ways to Discuss Building Performance for Your Next Project Pursuit

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Today in the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions (EESI) and 78% of electricity usage. The most sustainability-focused firms run energy simulations for less than 50% of their projects (10% for a typical firm) and only doing so late in the process when design changes are limited and insufficient to combat red flags found in the performance report (AIA 2030 report). We can make building performance widespread once we help the entire community discuss the subject in terms of investment and return. Especially during a project pursuit, since having the buy in from the whole team helps ensure the key project metrics are met. Owners are seeking out teams who are using actual metrics and data driven processes that affect their bottom line. This new approach to practice is what makes the younger teams’ standout and will benefit both the climate and the bottom-line. Here are 5 ways to talk about building performance in your project pursuits: 

Rwanda’s Bugesera International Airport to Set Records for Sustainability

Rwanda’s largest publicly funded project, Bugesera International Airport is on track to be the first certified green building in the region. A few pieces of this net zero emission complex include: a 30,000 square metre passenger terminal, 22 check-in counters, ten gates, and six passenger boarding bridges. Funded by Public Private Partnership, the project is cost estimated at $414 million USD. The international hub was only one of several initiatives discussed by the Africa Green Growth Forum (AGGF) in Kigali at the end of last year.

The Eco-Friendly Floating Cities of the Future

As the world population grows, designers look to develop the seas. Architecture and planning firm, URBAN POWER strategically designed nine man-made islands off the southern coast of Copenhagen to combat many of the city’s impending challenges. The islets, called Holmene, address demands for tech space, fossil-free energy production, flood barriers, and even public recreation space.

Cold Pavilion and Warm Pavilion / Atelier Lai

Cold Pavilion Swimming Pool. Image © Yilong ZhaoWarm Pavilion Perspective. Image © Xuguo TangCold Pavilion Perspective. Image © Yilong ZhaoCold Pavilion Interior View of Mountains. Image © Xuguo Tang+ 42

  • Architects: Atelier Lai
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  150
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2016

Snøhetta Designs Sustainable Data Center as "The Body and Brain of Future Cities"

Snøhetta has released images of its proposed sustainable data center concept, named “The Spark.” The project seeks to address the typical high-energy-consuming typology of the data center, transforming it into an “energy-producing resource for communities to generate their own power.”

The proposal is adaptable for a wide range of contexts and can be scaled for any location around the world, fueling connected cities with energy from the center’s excess heat.

Courtesy of Snøhetta/PlompmozesCourtesy of Snøhetta/PlompmozesCourtesy of Snøhetta/PlompmozesCourtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes+ 5

New Photographs Explore BIG’s Waste-to-Energy Plant as Ski Slope Roof is Installed

Photographer Aldo Amoretti has captured new images of one of 2018’s most awaited projects, as the BIG designed Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant takes shape in Copenhagen, complete with an SLA-designed park and ski slope. The images show to the completed power plant, which opened in March 2017, while work progresses on the 170,000-square-foot (16,000-square-meter) park and ski slope that will cap the scheme.

Initially master planned by BIG, the unique design seeks to reclaim a typically unused element of a building for the public through the introduction of the nature-filled program. During summer months, the SLA-designed rooftop activity park will provide visitors with hiking trails, playgrounds, fitness structures, trail running, climbing walls, and of course, incredible views. In the winter, the park will be joined by over 1,640 feet (500 meters) of ski slopes designed by BIG.

© Aldo Amoretti© Aldo Amoretti© Aldo Amoretti© Aldo Amoretti+ 45

Power on Campus - Harvard Energy Facility Showcases the Beauty of Infrastructure

On a prominent, highly visible site within Harvard University’s Allston Campus, a celebration of the beauty of infrastructure is beginning to take shape. Designed by Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the 58,000 square foot Allston Campus District Energy Facility (DEF) represents a new, highly efficient infrastructure typology, delivering electricity and water for the campus, whilst simultaneously showcasing the intricate complexity of engineering and design.

Night view. Image Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel AssociatesView across the river. Image Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel AssociatesDaytime view. Image Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel AssociatesEast elevation. Image Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates+ 4

Yuen Long District Library & Indoor Recreational Centre / P&T Architects and Engineers

Tirana 2030: Watch How Nature and Urbanism Will Co-Exist in the Albanian Capital

In 1925, Italian designer Armando Brasini created a sweeping masterplan to transform the Albanian capital city of Tirana. Almost one hundred years later, the Tirana 2030 (TR030) Local Plan by Italian firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has been approved by Tirana City Council. Collaborating with UNLAB and IND, Boeri seeks to define a new era in the country’s capital, incorporating controlled development, advanced infrastructure, green corridors, and an enhancement of the city’s architectural heritage.

A layered strategy approach aims to usher in a new era for the city. Image Courtesy of Attu StudioAerial view of the city centre masterplan. Image Courtesy of Attu StudioGreen space within the city centre will be tripled. Image Courtesy of Attu StudioThe Elbasan-Krrabe Valley will produce, store, and distribute clean energy. Image Courtesy of Attu Studio+ 19

This Conceptual Design Reinvents Power Plants as Mixed-Use Megastructures

What if a power plant could also be a home, an office, or even a park? That is the question behind Cypher CO2ling Plant, a conceptual design developed by Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi. Power plants are a ubiquitous and inevitable byproduct of modern lifestyles, but they are typically located in remote areas, far from where the power is actually needed, due to their unsightly appearance and the emissions associated with combustion-fueled energy generation. Cypher CO2ling Plant proposes an alternative scenario that utilizes the infrastructure of the power plant’s cooling towers to support mixed-use development, while also mitigating the less desirable aspects of energy generation.

© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi+ 12

Mt Tung-Yen Public Toilet / AMBi Studio

© Te-Fan Wang© Te-Fan Wang© Te-Fan Wang© Te-Fan Wang+ 30

  • Architects: AMBi Studio
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  101

How to Design for Disasters (The Experts Weigh In)

In this article on Fast Company, seven leading architects in the field of designing for disaster - including Peter Gluck, Michael Manfredi, and principals of James Corner Field Operations and Snøhetta - give their take on what lessons Hurricane Sandy, one year on, has taught us. Their responses raise a number of issues, but above all share one common theme: urgency.