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Net Zero: The Latest Architecture and News

What COP27 Meant for Architecture and the Construction Industry

The 2022 United Nations Conference of the Parties, more commonly referred to as COP27, was held between November 6 and November 18, 2022, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference included more than 90 heads of state and an estimated 35,000 representatives, or delegates, from 190 countries. Aimed at encouraging and guiding countries to take effective action against climate change, the next edition of these conferences, COP28, is already scheduled from 30 November to 12 December 2023, in the United Arab Emirates. The CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, an oil company chief who also oversees renewable energy efforts in the Emirates, was appointed to preside over the negotiations and talks, which led to a wave of criticism from environmental activists.

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A School for Girls in India and a Vertical Community Farm in the US: 10 Unbuilt Socially Engaged Projects Submitted to ArchDaily

The year 2022 was marked by several socio-cultural and economic crises across the globe, from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the increasing cost of living worldwide, combined with a number of natural disasters such as the devastating floods in Pakistan and hurricane Ian in the US. In these difficult times, architects are stepping up and embracing their role in developing design-based solutions to humanitarian crises, ranging from temporary shelters and affordable housing schemes to centers for protecting at-risk groups such as homeless underage girls, children from low-income environments, or families in need of medical care.

This week's curated selection of Best Unbuilt Architecture highlights projects submitted by the ArchDaily community that engage with their local communities, offering safe spaces for disadvantaged and at-risk groups. From a sanctuary for homeless girls in Iraq to an affordable housing project in Prague’s first skyscraper, this selection features projects centered around people, their needs, and desires. Many of the projects employ local materials such as clay bricks to lower the construction costs. They also reuse existing buildings and hope to engage the local community in building and appropriating the proposed spaces.

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Atkins Reveals New Secondary School with Net Zero Operational Carbon Emissions in West Sussex, UK

Designed by Atkins, a new zero-carbon secondary school in West Sussex has received planning permission from the West Sussex County Council. The school will be created at Homes England’s new Brookleigh development near Burgess Hill and will offer educational facilities to 900 local children. The building is designed to generate its own renewable energy on-site, eliminating the need for any fossil fuels. It also aims to achieve Passivhaus certification, the highest standard od energy efficiency a building can reach.

Low-Carbon Strategies: Insulated Panels for Energy-Efficient Envelopes

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A 2022 United Nations report claims that the negative impacts of the climate crisis are mounting much faster than scientists predicted less than a decade ago. Rising greenhouse-gas emissions could soon outstrip the ability of many communities to adapt, and the consequences will continue to hit the world’s most vulnerable populations. As climate scientist Maarten van Aalst suggests, “Any further delay in global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” The data is clear: to protect our planet, we need to prevent a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures this century. To do so, the world must achieve a 45% reduction in global carbon emissions from 2010 levels to 2030, to then reach a net-zero state by 2050. It is evident, however, that we are on track to miss this goal by a substantial amount. The clock is ticking, and every industry should act fast (and drastically) to even dream of greener cities.

Abandoned Airport near Athens, Greece, Set to be Transformed into Europe’s Largest Coastal Park

The Athens International Airport was decommissioned in 2001, leading to two decades of work for the local government to establish funding and a governance mechanism to transform the 600 acres of unused space into Europe’s largest coastal park. The site has a layered history, from prehistoric settlements to the construction of the airport in the 20th century and the site being used for as an Olympic venue in 2004. Architecture office Sasaki is leading the design to transform the site again and create the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park, a restorative landscape and climate-positive design that will serve as a park, playground, and cultural center for the city of Athens. Developers are planning to break ground early next year.

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Foster + Partners Unveils Design for The William, One of London’s Largest Timber Developments

Foster + Partners has revealed the design for a new mixed-use development in the northern end of the central London high street. The building is located on Queensway, opposite the Whitley, the famous department store, which is also being transformed by Foster + Partners as part of a larger redevelopment scheme. Named The William, after William Whiteley, the eponymous founder of the famous Whiteleys, the project includes six floors of office space, shops, and 32 new homes, 11 of which will be affordable.

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BIG Unveils Master Plan for the Green Transformation of Aqaba Container Terminal in Jordan

BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group supports APM Terminals and Maersk in reimagining the shipping industry's future with a master plan for the Aqaba Port Terminal in Jordan, expected by 2040. Considered one of the most strategic ports in the country and an important gateway to the Levant region, the 3 square kilometers plan will merge different strategic approaches at the regional scale, starting from the terminal refurbishment, expansion of the logistics functions, and connecting to the broader port's community and natural environment.

The master plan for Aqaba Port aligns with the global net zero goal for 2030, to which BIG has actively contributed with projects such as the CapitaSpring Tower in Singapore with Carlo Ratti Associati and the recently announced 3d-printed community in Texas, co-designed with ICON.

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Stefano Boeri Architetti Unveils Vertical Forest Prototype at COP27

Stefano Boeri Architetti presented a new design for the Vertical Forest towers during COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The prototype would be in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the next host of COP28 in 2023. The ambitious project would represent the first Vertical Forest prototype for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa), and it is the latest in an extended list of greenery-covered buildings by Boeri Architetti, including the Bosco Verticale in Milan, the Easyhome Huanggang in China, and a prototype of the First Dutch Vertical Forest.

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At COP27, SOM Presents Urban Sequoia, a Building Proposal that Absorbs Carbon from the Atmosphere

In a presentation at the Buildings Pavilion Auditorium during COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) presented the Urban Sequoia NOW concept. The proposal, developed by an interdisciplinary team at SOM, represents a design that can sequester carbon from the atmosphere throughout its lifecycle. The design can be implemented with today’s technologies. This represents SOM’s concept of going beyond net zero carbon by combining multiple strategies: reducing embodied carbon, generating energy, absorbing carbon, and increasing the typical 60-year lifespan of the building.

During COP27, the Necessity to Achieve Net Zero Comes into Sharp Focus

Starting on November 6, world leaders are gathering in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, for COP27. The name stands for the 27th conference of parties, an almost annual event started under the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC). The purpose of these conferences is to ensure that counties around the world are committed to taking action to avoid dangerous climate change and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. The effectiveness of these meetings varied throughout the years, with some successful initiatives, like the 2015 Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty adopted by 196 Parties with the goal of limiting global warming below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

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Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners Wins Competition to Design a New Net Zero Carbon Business Center in Lithuania

Architecture practice Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has won the international competition to design a new nearly net zero operational carbon business center in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. The competition, organized by the Lithuanian Union of Architects and the Right Bank Development Fund, requested the design of a 19,200-square meters office space in the Central Business District of the city. One of the key ambitions of the project was the reduction of embodies carbon, achieved through a number of strategies, including the use of cross-laminated timber floor planks and locally sourced materials.

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18 Ways to Make Architecture Matter

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Was there ever a time when architects felt properly valued? Probably not. Certainly not since the profession became dependent on the business of America, which is business. With economic growth as the country’s prime directive through the 20th century, architects—as members of the construction industry—played their part. How? By designing buildings of all kinds that were lighter, cheaper, and quicker to erect. Architects’ values might have been social, artistic, even cosmic, but their value to society has been primarily economic.

How Design Can Help Ensure All Communities Benefit From Climate Adaptation

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

The urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has never been greater, and getting there is going to require bold steps for buildings, infrastructure, and communities. Incremental reductions are not enough; we need to focus on full decarbonization, which means removing carbon emissions caused by our built environment. 

These big changes in the way energy is generated and used will raise important questions about who benefits and who pays. Technology-focused incentive programs can wind up leaving our most vulnerable communities behind, exacerbating a legacy of underinvestment and health disparities, while also failing to reach the essential goals of a complete energy transition. Instead, we need holistic solutions that put disadvantaged communities first and transition buildings that would otherwise be left out, leading to bottom-up market transformation that benefits everyone. 

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Vantem, a Startup Founded by Bill Gates, is Building Cost-Effective Net Zero Housing

Vantem is a startup construction company manufacturing high-efficiency, net-zero homes at competitive costs and low embodied carbon. The company recently raised a Series A round of investment from the Bill Gates-founded firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Net-zero homes, buildings that produce as much energy as they use, are typically cheaper to own than standard housing. Still, they often involve high construction costs since they require advanced building technologies and engineering. Vantem aims to change this dynamic by employing modular construction technology.

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The Envelope's Role in Net-Zero or Positive Buildings

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The Envelope's Role in Net-Zero or Positive Buildings - Featured Image
Powerhouse Brattørkaia / Snøhetta. Image © Ivar Kvaal

In the face of increasingly alarming predictions regarding the climate crisis, just increasing the efficiency of buildings is no longer enough. Zero energy buildings - or, better yet, energy positive buildings - make it possible to mitigate the negative impacts of the construction industry, which is responsible for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. These are buildings capable of producing more energy than they consume through the use of renewable sources. To reach this ambitious goal, it is necessary to follow three main steps:

  1. Install a renewable power system to provide clean energy;

  2. Include high efficiency systems, such as climatization equipment and low energy lighting.

  3. Improve the construction envelope to conserve energy and reduce loads.