June 14, 2016
by juan
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Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture, also called sustainable architecture, eco-architecture, green architecture and environmentally conscious architecture

In the last two decades, architecture has accentuated its orientation towards environmentally friendly projects in an intend to help solving or at least mitigating a problem that besets us all. Sustainable architecture, also known as eco-architecture, green architecture or environmentally conscious architecture, is an evolution of the architectural trend called high tech and is a way of conceiving the architectural design that involves reducing the environmental impact and promoting the inclusion of efficient and sustainable energy sources.

In this sense, sustainable architecture values efficiency and moderation in the use of materials and keeps an eye on the management of the natural resources of the locations, considering weather conditions, hydrography and the ecosystems in order to achieve a maximum performance with the minimum impact.

It also puts special attention on the reduction of energy consumption for heating, cooling, lighting and using any other equipment, covering the unsatisfied demand with renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind generators, solar thermal energy, biomass or even geothermal energy. There is a consensus on the fact that under changing climatic and environmental conditions combining different energy sources is the way to secure energy supply all the year round.

Organizations such as Green Building Council (GBC) and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) – among others- are responsible for defining the standards of sustainable building and for evaluating and certifying the sustainability of buildings through its specific tools: LEED, BREEM, GREEN. In spite of this, and given the difference of criteria or priorities set by each organization, one of the biggest difficulties that owners, developers, technicians and builders face today with regard to the design and construction of a sustainable buildings is precisely the fact that there are no uniform parameters upon which they could base themselves to certainly determine the what order of importance should be established for the different parameters or how much emphasis should be given to each one of them. But at the end, what we all have to keep in mind is that a sustainable architecture should meet the needs of its occupants, without endangering the well-being and development of future generations.

You can read about it in less than 5 minutes …

ZGF Architects and the conversion of the building Seattle 1202: a new workspace for the United States Army Corps of Engineers

ZGF Architects (Zimmer, Gunsul and Frasca) is a design firm founded in Portland, Oregon, with offices also in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York, and Vancouver. ZGF design portfolio is diverse and international: transport terminals, offices and multipurpose developments, corporate campus, buildings devoted to health and research, academic facilities, libraries and museums. They have received more than 770 awards at local, regional and national level.

The 1202 Building project is actually the refurbishment of an already existing building destined to host the regional headquarters of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The firm ZGF Architects was selected by the Program of Design of Excellence of the General Services Administration. This program is committed to select teams capable of generating innovation in the design of federal buildings, for which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides specific resources.

With the express mandate to reuse materials and achieve energy efficiency while still projecting the strong corporate identity of the USACE, ZGF Architects designed the transformation of the 1202 Building in less than 18 weeks, turning it into, not just a sustainable building but also in an open and collaborative work environment.

The shape of the building – reflection of the forms of the islands of the adjacent Duwamish Channel- is functional and flexible enough to accommodate the USACE, which by their mode of work, requires team working and constant rotation of these teams. Its indoor environment reinforces the concept of community and identity by centralizing an important part of the activities in the “commons” which constitutes the social heart of the building.

Regarding the reuse of existing materials, it must be highlighted the employment of recovered wood partially covering floors, walls and ceilings, and used in the stairs and bridges that connect inside points of the building.


CONTRATIST: Sellen Construction.

CUSTOMER: United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

LOCATION: 4645 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98134, USA.

SURFACE: 209000.0 ft2.

YEAR: 2012.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS: The 1202 building was selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Commission of Environment (COTE) as one of the top ten examples of sustainable architecture and green design in United States solutions in 2013.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Benjamin BenschneiderLara Swimmer, ZGF Architects.


LOOK Architects and a community library in Singapore designed as a “tree house”

LOOK Architects is a firm founded by Look Boon Gee and Ng Sor Hiang that has been recognized with numerous national and international awards that demonstrate their commitment to the pursuit techniques that synthesize traditional architectural knowledge with sustainable design practices, without disregarding the inclusion in their designs of concepts representing their culture and local traditions. It must be pointed out as well, that this Studio, not only focuses in generating sustainable projects, but is also concerned about keeping the firm updated regarding quality standards certifications.

Look Boon Gee shows his passion for architectural design, often offering lectures and seminars in institutions around the world, aiming at stimulating debate and expanding the limits of architectural knowledge.

The project of the community library in Bishan, Singapore, was designed with the spirit of a great tree house. This metaphor creates a learning environment through a journey of discovery and game.

The building is particularly interesting from the point of view of design, not only because of the aesthetic effects, but for the smart handling of solar light, which embellishes it at the time that generates an important energy economy.

To start with, it has a very well-studied orientation. A large patio in the main zone allows the passage of natural light to the busiest area. It also has numerous skylights, and windows that go up to the ceiling covered with colored glass that appear to be giant books and generate colored patches on the inside that generate the idea of sunlight being filtered through the leaves of a tree. This effect of warmth and serenity creates an enabling environment for intellectual activity. Besides this, these big windows allow to observe from the outside people circulating and reading inside the building.

The structure is made of concrete and includes four slabs over the basement, which are linked by a common elevator and a core of stairs. Post-tensioned slabs allow restricting the use of internal columns and maximize space. A gently sloping ramp leads the public from street level to the interior and vice versa. Sustainable Architecture

The basement is designed to accommodate the children’s section, and is presented as an underground cavern: a recreational area, where the imagination can express freely and where knowledge can be acquired in a ludic way.




CUSTOMER: National Library Board, Singapore.

LOCATION: Bishan, Singapore.

SURFACE: 4.000 mt2.

YEAR: 2006.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Patrick Bingham-Hall, Tim Nolan, LOOK Architects

Studio505 and its office of the future: the Pixel building in Melbourne (Australia)

Studio505 created by Dylan Brady and Dirk Zimmermann has been responsible for numerous public and private projects around the world. The firm closed its doors this year, but Brady and Zimmermann continue their careers through two new studies: Decibel Architecture and Zimmermann Design Studio. Together they had a remarkable career and were awarded with numerous prices and recognitions.

Among their most prized works, is their ambitious project Pixel, which arose initially as a prototype of offices of the future.

The Pixel building is a great example of sustainable construction. Located in the urban area of Melbourne, Australia, it is the first office building in the country with zero carbon dioxide emissions and capable of generating its own power and water.  Scoring a perfect 105 points on the Australia’s Green Star rating system, the building also obtained other 105 points from the U. S. Green Building Council´s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design that makes it to the date the building that has accomplished the highest LEED qualification.[i]

The first thing that draws the attention in this four-story building is its colorful façade. This, in addition to performing an aesthetic function, serves to regulate the light, with its mobile panels made from 100% recycled material. The panels are in turn supported by ailerons which play a role in the treatment of wastewater.

The most outstanding feature of this project is its energy efficiency. Pixel uses renewable energy: solar panels and vertical axis wind turbines installed in the roof generate enough energy to offset the building’s electricity use. The building in fact produces more power than it uses, enabling it to supply renewable energy to the power grid. The building also employs a water harvesting system, has green roofs, a system of vacuum toilets and is equipped with waste reduction facilities.

Water harvesting system is so efficient, that provided the average rainfall of the decade prior to its construction remains unchanged, the building can auto sustain itself in this aspect.



LANDSCAPE DESIGN: studio505 & Universidad de Melbourne

CONTRATIST: Grocon Constructors Pty. Ltd.

CUSTOMER: Grocon Pty. Lt.

LOCATION: Melbourne, Australia ENGINEERING:


YEAR: 2010.

COST: A$ 6 million.

CARBON ANALYSIS (Pixelcrete): RMIT University Centre for Design


Nepean Award for Innovation

ARBS Awards 2012
HVAC Project Excellence Award

National Master Builder’s Awards 2011
Boral National Environment and Energy Efficiency Award

BPN Sustainability Awards 2011
Large Commercial Award & Best of the Best’ Award

Australian Property Industry Awards 2011
Presidents Award

Victorian Architecture Awards 2011
Award for Sustainable Architecture

Premier’s Sustainability Award 2011
Built Environment Award & Products or Services Award

FSC Developer of the Year 2011
Pixel 100% FSC Certified

Australian Business Awards 2011
Best Eco Product – Pixelcrete

Master Builders Association Awards (Vic) 2011
Best Sustainable Building

Melbourne Award 2011
Contribution to Sustainability – Corporate

Green Building Award, New Buildings
Asia Pacific, Commercial Project Merit Award 2010

Banksia Award for Built Environment
Harmonious Man Made Landscapes 2010

Finalist – Australian Private Business Award 2011

Finalist – United Nations Assocation of Australia (Vic) 2011
World Environment Day

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Gollings, Ben Hosking, Studio505

[i] LEED® (U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized certification system that measures how well a building or community performs across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. 


FOTOGRAFÍAS: John Gollings, Ben Hosking, Studio505



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