What are the architects doing to help the planet?

February 24, 2021

The climate change and sustainable architecture.

The growth and industrialization led to extinguished the  close relationship between man and nature that our ancestors had, favoring that this new development was disregarding the ecological aspect. The accelerated growth of the population, led to focus only on the fact of generating habitable spaces without taking into account that such spaces would affect the environment in the long term.

The evident climate change around the world seems an impossible aspect to stop, our generation is in the ideal moment to rethink the possible solutions that help to give the planet a break, fortunately these solutions are established in various disciplines, not only in architecture.

For some time now, architecture must include in its development principles of sustainability that it will generate a positive impact either on the planet and in society. It would be good then to ask ourselves basic questions of how architects can continue to encourage the care of the planet and how we can also adapt our projects to this continuous climate change.

We will show some contributions of architecture against climate change.

Sponge cities

Despite China’s accelerated technological growth, it is one of the countries that continually seeks to re-create the man-nature link. In 2015, the Sponge City model was introduced for Chinese cities like Lingang and Shenzhen that suffered from constant flooding.

Sponge Cities concept, can be resumed in a design strategy that emphasizes the rainwater harvesting and reutilization in irrigation or domestic use. The basic principle underlies is to preserve or restore the natural waterways, because it is a natural way to reduce the flood risk.

In statements regarding the need for a model of this magnitude, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO in the foreword to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, expresses the following: “Today more than ever we must work with nature, rather than against it. The demand for water will increase in all sectors. The challenge we all must face is to meet this demand in a way that does not exacerbate the negative impacts on ecosystems ”.

Currently this model that began with 16 cities in the Asian country is being implemented, and only around 20-30% of rainwater infiltrates urban areas. One of its main goals for China by 2030 is to expect at least  70% of rainwater to be absorbed and reusable.

A very well known project because the Sponge City strategie is the Yanweizhou Park (Turnscape), in Jinhua, China. Water resilient terrain and plantings are designed to adapt to the monsoon floods. A resilient bridge and paths system are designed to adapt to the dynamic water currents and flow of people. The bridge and paths connect the city with nature.

The project presents the union of two districts through a snake bridge passing through three rivers. Throughout the rainwater, the park maintains a natural and friendly shape with the environment. You can learn more of this project on the website of Turnscape (https://www.turenscape.com/en/project/detail/4629.html).

Shenzhen Technology and Innovation Center by FR-EE

The project consists of a complex of offices and laboratories dedicated to technological innovation in the areas of: Medical Science, New materials, Microelectronics, Robotics, Fintech, Big Data & A.I. Most of its 198,000 m2 contain private spaces for researchers that consist of laboratories and offices, all designed under the most advanced industry criteria (state of the art): transparency, flexibility, capacity in facilities, structural resistance and modularity. At the same time it integrates common areas, specifically a Sky Lobby and an Innovation Valley designed to encourage the exchange of ideas and the interconnection between colleagues and companies. As for events and exhibitions, the complex has a 5,000 m2 Convention Center and an Auditorium for 500 people.

Working hand in hand with Three and Finding Infinity, it developed the strategies for the following aspects: 1) water, 2) energy and 3) Construction.

One of the main strategies was to recover a 30% of the podium with a permeable pavement and endemic vegetation to get the benefit of the rainwater that is constant in Shenzhen. This contributed to the green areas being self-irrigating and being able to reuse rainwater for the interior of the building, thus avoiding excessive water consumption. Also was proposed to add a green roof with wetlands to infiltrate and collect rainwater in order to use it within the Innovation Center.

In the construction subject, it is known that regular concrete is the second most consumed material on the planet, only behind water; the manufacture of regular concrete represents 7% global carbon emissions and for this reason it was chosen to use a geopolymer concrete, which unlike regular concrete, its materialization produces less carbon emissions, providing a cleaner respite to the high levels of pollution that this Asian city has.

Innovation Valley

As part of the energy strategy, one of the oldest and most effective is natural ventilation.

This option was highly exploited in the Innovation Center. One of the bigger requirements was that in the specific area of the plot, cannot be built programme inside, that is why it was chosen to generate a space that can allow the cohabitation between nature and tenants, this place was called “Innovation Valley”. This consisted of a series of ellipsoidal openings, which through the slabs generated this valley and which was proposed as an area for recreation and coexistence between the different laboratories.

With this Innovation Valley, the entry of air from the outside to the inside is originated, generating great comfort and in the same way expelling all the air that was stored towards the outside from the top.

These are just some of the strategies implemented in this project developed by FR-EE, if you want you can learn more of this project, please visit our website.

In the world of architecture there are many strategies and examples that can be listed in this article, the main purpose is to continue creating sustainable elements that allow us as architects to propose better spaces where the man-nature link coexists in complete harmony. At FR-EE we always seek the implementation of new sustainability methodologies through extensive research and with the help of great consultants that allow our projects to contribute to sustainable architecture. Special thanks to Iris Mandujano to help in this article.