Fri 27 Sep 2019

5 sustainable architecture projects shaping the future of cities

In 2019, sustainability is not just a trend we only hear about when we discuss ecology, environment or even mass product design. The threat of climate change is so massive and obvious, that every aspect of human interactions must be rethought.
Thankfully, (and finally!) sustainable design is becoming standard practice in many design and strategy areas. Urban planning is being reinvented in the quest for a zero-carbon footprint future. Cities are becoming greenerthrough projects that aim to help urban areas grow food and reuse waste.


Sustainable building materials, energy efficiency and the quest for a healthy environment are also key for a more comprehensive and improved architecture, aiming to create sustainable and healthy communities.
These are some of the sustainable architecture projects that are shaping the future of cities:
Tree Tower Toronto:  A skyscraper made of wood
Most of the skyscrapers in our metropolis are made of steel and concrete. However, mass timber is more environmentally friendly as it requires less than one-quarter of the carbon emissions needed by the former two alternatives. As a result of this, timber is gaining traction as a structural material to reduce carbon footprint. Bearing this insight in mind, Penda architecture studio has conceived the first wooden skyscraper for Toronto city: a breathtaking 18 story-high modular timber tower under the name of "Tree Tower Toronto". The cross-laminated timber modular panels will be prefabricated off-site and craned in to reduce noise and waste while also generating less disruption in neighbour's lives. The 62-meter high building is an attempt to reconnect with nature, a feeling reinforced by the trees, veg gardens and plants growing in the façade's many terraces. Will this be the blueprint of the next generation of high-rises?


RenGen Villages project by studio Effekt is a holistic approach that creates a model on community living through climate action: it plans energy-positive homes that produce more energy than they consume and self-feeding families through vertical farming, aeroponics and aquaponics organic food production, along with waste recycling under a waste-to-resource systems mindset.
These self-sufficient and ecological neighbourhoods are also tech-friendly via an IoT-integrated infrastructure and aim to reduce mortgage payments for community dwellers thanks to all the self-produced assets.
The pilot project is being developed in the Netherlands but they hope to expand soon to UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, USA and Asia. This approach of blending architecture and agriculture in the same project is starting to spread under the name of 'Agritecture'. 





Zhangjiang Future Park (Shanghai): landscaped buildings reshaping urban public space
 Zhangjiang Future Park by MVRDV is a groundbreaking project for a high-technology and innovation park in Pudong district (Shanghai), an innovative community that combines Hi-Tech companies and a residential area for workers and their families. 
This urban redesign will integrate the communal public and leisure space with lush green landscaped buildings and a public park, in a way that will bring Nature's relaxation to the heart of a vibrant urban area. The 37,000m2 of buildings will be housing a library, an art centre, a performance arts centre and sports centre, in combination with 10 000m2 of public plazas and 56 000m2 of green areas. The terraced spaces create two different levels connected by multiple paths. The complex is located on an island between two rivers so water bodies are also in close proximity.
In the past, urbanism and landscape design have being planned as separate features while Zhangjiang Future Park proves that "Landscape urbanism", organizing a city planning both of them together, is a brilliant way to fight climate chance and enhance the citizens' well-being.
Stefano Boeri's vertical forest apartments in Egypt: bringing vertical forests to the desert
From Milan to Singapore, Italian architect Stefano Boeri has proved to be faithful to his beloved concept of vertical forests (bosco verticale). Boeri is committed to bringing back Nature to the front of urban planning. Promoting urban reforestation, creating a healthier environment and enhancing biodiversity, vertical forests are the new blueprint for sustainable residential buildings.
Having completed the material translation of his vision in Milan, where he developed two residential towers containing 800 trees, 4,500 bushes and 15,000 plants, he is already planning different spin-offs in several other cities.
Now, he is planning to go a step beyond. He will be bringing this model for greener urban environments to the desert. To be precise, he has planned the development of three green apartment buildings brimming with planted terraces, in Egypt's new administrative capital, east of Cairo.
This project is a milestone since it will constitute Africa's first vertical forest. But Boeri won't stop here. Along with the Tongji Shanghai's University’s Future City Lab, he is working on a hypothesis to develop a colony of Shanghai in Mars, based as well on the vertical forest model, under the name of 'Vertical Forest Seeds on Mars'.

Green Villa in the Netherlands: A living façade made of plant pots
Dutch architecture and urban design practice MVRDV advocates for smart, livable inclusive and green cities. They champion radical green living as a way to improve both society and the environment (fighting CO2 emissions and cooling cities' temperature). Based on these principles, they have designed, in collaboration with Van Boven Architecten, a 4-storey plant green villa in Sint-Michielsgestel in the Netherlands.
The façade's grid system (formed by shelves of varying depths) is covered in plant pots with a variety of trees and plants (birch, pine, jasmine, forsythias...) that provide shade and intimacy, while also integrating the building in the surrounding bucolic environment. Plants are watered by a sensor-controlled irrigation system that reuses stored rainwater.
The plant species are selected and planted considering the façade orientation and the function of the room behind it. The roof of the building is also part of this livable greenhouse concept. As a result of this approach, the villa blends seamlessly with the nearby natural setting.

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