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.
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.
At the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe in the iconic Seagram Building, a rectangular pool played the leading role in the space, highlighted by four trees planted in pots at each of the vertices. The soft noise made by the water became consecrated. In addition to giving the hall some personality, it served to absorb the sounds of conversations (often secret) among tables. Just as the way that light enters a space, or how interior landscapes are perceived, sound is one more characteristic of an environment, though it is generally overlooked by architects. This goes beyond providing it with efficient acoustics, but creating a sound atmosphere for a space. This is the concept of soundscape.
Textures play a leading role in an interior project. Metals bring integrity and sophistication. Stones and their variations in colors and designs can become focal points in spaces. Different wood types, with their fiber and knot designs, and their characteristic coloring, bring warmth and comfort. If we think about the combination of these, together with different types of surfaces and lighting, we have a universe of possibilities to try to bring pleasant sensations to the occupants of the spaces.
Concrete and sustainability are two words that are often considered incompatible. Used as early as the Roman era, concrete has shaped much of our built environment, being the most widely used manufactured material in the planet thanks to its resistance, versatility, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility, among other inherent benefits. Its popular use in buildings and infrastructure forms the foundations of cities, connects communities, and will continue to play a vital role in providing solutions to the challenges of the future – especially as cities must respond to a growing global population. But with cement as its key ingredient, it also comes with several environmental costs, being responsible for at least 8% of the world’s carbon emissions in a climate-change context. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. With the rise of innovative technologies and products, there are many ways to make concrete greener.
Unlike classical architecture, characterized by a series of rooms with very defined functions and spaces, the current architectural design seeks to integrate spaces to achieve high degrees of adaptability and flexibility. In this way, the boundaries of the enclosures are blurred and new solutions appear that are worth analyzing. In the case of bedrooms, bathrooms are often no longer a small and secluded adjoining room – instead, they are now integrated to form a multifunctional space that is subtly concealed. Just like Mies van der Rohe, who used to group services in strategic areas to create open floors, let's review some cases that have adopted the specific solution of the hidden bathroom just behind the bed.
From Handcrafted Stone to 3D Printing: The Technological and Material Evolution of Gaudí's Sagrada Familia
A masterpiece is often defined as the most remarkable work in an artist's career, one which highlights the height of their techniques and ideals. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci; Michelangelo's Pietá; the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. There are many examples, which are not always unanimously agreed upon. But what if what many consider to be the masterpiece was started by someone else, the credited creator didn't live to see its completion, and almost all of its documentation was destroyed? Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and his world-famous Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família are examples of these complications. From a highly crafted stone construction to the most modern 3D printing techniques and high strength concrete, numerous technologies were and continue to be incorporated in the project's construction.
The building construction industry currently accounts for 40% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, due to its high carbon embodiment and carbonated energy demands. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) is a sustainable solution to address these concerns and to contribute to a net-positive world. This advanced technology can be utilized in solar building envelopes, skylights, windows, and balcony railings to produce green energy.
Since its inauguration in the 1960s, every year more than 10 million tourists visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame in hopes of experiencing the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles’ most famous attraction. To this day, its 18 blocks of terrazzo floors remain in a good state, revealing the longevity and durability of a material able to withstand heavy foot traffic over the course of the century.
A rock like marble is usually light in color when formed through a process involving the heat and pressure of limestone. Carrara marble, for example, became famous for having good workability for sculptures, but also for its extremely uniform appearance. Under skillful hands, rough stone could become works of art such as Michelangelo's Pietá or David, among many others. But if during the rock formation process there are impurities such as clay minerals and iron oxides, the resulting stone may acquire bluish, gray, pink and black hues. Something that would make its use in a sculpture unfeasible can be seen as the real beauty of the piece, and how the passage of time was printed on it. Likewise, it is very difficult to predict exactly how zinc or copper will oxidize over time, and its patina effect takes on beautiful greenish, reddish or grayish tones, depending on the conditions to which they were exposed.
While we are still trying to understand the possibilities and limits of three-dimensional printing and additive manufacturing, a new term has emerged for our vocabulary. 4D printing is nothing more than a digital manufacturing technology -3D printing- which includes a new dimension: the temporal. This means that the printed material, once ready, will be able to modify, transform or move autonomously due to its intrinsic properties that respond to environmental stimuli.
By 2025, Dubai plans for a fourth of its buildings to be printed in 3D construction methods, demonstrating the potential of a fast-growing technology capable of redefining and pushing the limits of traditional architecture. As the technique emerges as a viable solution in the construction, engineering, and architecture areas, its popularity is quickly increasing. In fact, just between 2021 and 2028, the global 3D construction market is expected to grow by 91%, according to a July 2021 report by Grand View Research. Why this rapid growth? Besides being a faster alternative and having lower construction costs, it can also provide affordable housing solutions and allow countless design possibilities, among many other benefits. Thus, as architects must adapt to a new technological era, where speed and efficiency have become key factors in design and execution processes, the rise of 3D printing shows enormous promise. It could even help reshape construction as we know it.
The Potential of Bamboo and Mass Timber for the Construction Industry: An Interview with Pablo van der Lugt
Pablo van der Lugt is an architect, author and speaker. His research focuses on the potential of materials such as bamboo and mass timber for the construction sector, and their positive impacts on the world. “Throughout my professional career both in university (including my PhD research on the carbon footprint of engineered bamboo and wood) and industry the past 15 years I have found there are many misconceptions about these materials which hamper their large scale adoption. For this reason I ‘translated’ my research findings into two contemporary books for designers and architects about the potential of bamboo: Booming Bamboo, and engineered timber: Tomorrow’s Timber. They aim to dispel these myths and show the incredible potential of the latest generation of biobased building materials in the required transition to a carbon neutral, healthy and circular built environment.” We recently had the opportunity to talk with him about these topics. Read more below.
Generally made from kiln-fired clay, it is estimated that bricks have been used since 7000 BC, as examples were discovered in the ancient city of Jericho. Since then, bricks have been omnipresent in the history of architecture, combining constructive ease, aesthetics and comfort. Nowadays, with the growing concerns around the environment and the larger impact of materials used and decisions taken on a project, there are ways to modernize an ancient material such as brick through a few updates to its manufacturing process, making it even more eco-conscious. Brick can already be considered a sustainable material because of its durability and recyclability, but there are ways to further improve it. The new project for the headquarters of the food manufacturer Danish Crown, under construction and developed by CEBRA office, is a good example of how to apply this product in a more sustainable way.
Transcendentalist philosophers have long shared the idea that humans and nature are equal forces that should coexist in harmony. The notion has since expanded to the architecture world, with Frank Lloyd Wright shedding light on the term “organic architecture” as early as the 1900s. In recent years, driven by an increased interest in living closer to nature, architects continue to delve into the concept of integrating interior and exterior, blurring out visual and physical boundaries to bring landscapes indoors.
There are a variety of wall coverings, façades and ceilings on the market, with multiple aesthetic options, fulfilling different functions and supplied by many companies. One thing they all have in common is that they are structured on frames which usually don't get much attention, yet directly influence the installation and the final result. These frames can vary in materials and complexity, as well as in how the panels are connected. The fixing of the panels cannot always be hidden, with visible screws or other parts, which end up requiring the use of other methods to hide them.