ECO ARQUITECTURE

by Jordi Teixeira July 2017 SPECIAL FEATURES Read in PDF format N14/2017
ECO ARQUITECTURE Buildings that breathe, self-sufficient homes, alternative energy... A new architecture recovers human scale and embraces the organic and the traditional

Making plans for one year, we plant rice. Making plans for ten years, we plant tress. Making plans for one hundred years, we prepare people.” This is the ancient Chinese proverb with which the archi- architect Johan van Lengen opens The Barefoot Architect, a treatise on tect construction that combines a look at diff erent materials with the study of light, water and vegetation. The work is a nod to a univer- universal architecture, integrated in local traditions and

executed using local materials, that is setting the trend for a new way of building sustainable homes in the future by looking at the past. Th e idea is hardly new: the civil architecture that has emerged over the last few decades out of a construction revolution based on the use reinforced concrete and industrial material, has changed the face of the world with designs that are increasingly less connected to their immediate surroundings. So-called “environmentally conscious architecture” seeks to bridge that dichotomy between spaces created by humans and nature. Th roughout history, human beings have exploited natural resources, such as the sun, wind and water to built shelters. Th e century of fossil fuels and concrete reversed this trend. In a glo- globalised world that is expected to exceed 9 billion inhabitants in the balised second half of the century, of which 75% will live in cities, it is to be expected that confl icts will arise in the future around the need to adapt spaces and provide services to a largely urban population. This is where sustainable architectural design comes in, which would counteract the environmental impact of buildings on the environment and its inhabitants.

Above these lines is a structure that incorporates biophilic design, evoking the organic forms of a forest. 

MATERIAL. Green buildings seek to minimise the conflict between architecture and nature, recovering the city’s fragmented organic spaces. This is achieved with buildings designed based on bioclimatic criteria, according to which the building’s orientation helps reduce the use of resources. Th e concept is a simple one: buildings must face south in the northern hemisphere and north in the southern hemisphere so that sunlight can be used to heat the structures. Similarly, deciduous trees are used to provide shade in the summer, which is another way to minimize climate impact and create healthy spaces. British architect Robin Moore points out three basic characteristics for environment-friendly urban planning: the use of large public squares, the preservation of forest areas and curbing development around natural spaces. Many urban planners defi ne this trend as a “return” to nature, by putting organic matter out on the pavement as a means of restoring the quality of the air we breath, reducing noise pollution, and above all, allowing nature to become part of citizens’ day-to-day life again. Instead of industrial concrete, there is a return to using wood and clay, quicklime and new material, such as straw bales. What the earth produces can be reused for shelter. Th e practice of re-using material prevails, a kind of conscious recycling aimed at making the material cycle circular by turning waste into resources. In addition, this type of architecture aims to generate healthy environments free from plastics and toxins, counteracting pollution and reducing environmental degradation, while also improving the health of people who inhabit these spaces. Some, like Luis Barragán, went back to using adobe years ago, or started covering buildings with moss, like Korean architect Minsuk Cho. As van Lengen reminds us: “In ancient times, the first architects used to mix mud with their feet to prepare bricks: barefoot architects treading in the mud is an image far removed from our reality, which is increasingly distant from nature.”

ENERGY. Never has the generation of solar energy been so democratized. A small house can become self-sufficient by installing solar panels on its roof, using batteries to store the surplus. So when the visionary Elon Musk assures us that the new Tesla Powerwall batteries have the capacity to “change the world’s energy,” what he’s referring to is an inevitable solar future. Solar batteries are manufactured using lithium ions, like mobile phone batteries. At a cost of $3,500 dollars, they currently have the capacity to store up to 10 kilowatts per hour, thus bringing clean energy for the whole planet closer to reality. On the other hand, for 21st century architects, harvesting rainwater and storing it in tanks is a nod to ten centuries of Arabic culture. This is also the case with the organic management of grey water (from the bathroom and washing machine), which uses plants to purify and filter the water. Designs such as the bioclimatic building 25 Verde in Turin, designed by Italian architect Luciano Pia, a structure that breathes and purifies its environment; or the Tao Zhu Yin Yuan tower in Taipei, designed by Vincent Callebaut, which has the capacity to absorb up to 130 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, point the way towards sustainable urban planning. Europe appears to be leading the green construction revolution, with the Netherlands at the head, while the city of Paris has launched the ambitious Callebaut 2050 eco-city project, with futuristic towers equipped to filter pollution and perform photosynthesis. On the other hand, the Astro Tower in Brussels, by the Spanish studio Estudio Lamela, has just become Europe’s tallest green building. All of this represents a green future. Your next home will be green and it will be alive.

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