What do people think about sustainability nowadays? The word sustainability could be associated with recycling, hybrid cars, energy efficient lighting, and farmers market. It is a buzzword that encourages you to consume less and exchange the comfortable truck you got a couple of years ago for a bike and public transportation.
When it comes to building, sustainability is an even more mysterious animal. It is presumed to be an expensive burden (well, we have to save the Earth!) rather than a better way of construction. Overall, sustainable living does not seem all that fun, and our society tortures itself for the sake of our beloved planet.
Can sustainability be fun and cost efficient? Can we improve our lifestyles while preserving nature?
The answer to both questions is yes. We do not have to sacrifice our existing quality of life or invest more into living a sustainable lifestyle. Sustainability can be beautiful, exciting, profitable, and it can add value to our communities.
The means to achieve this level of sustainability lies within the creative design and architecture of a building. We have to be more open-minded, develop a new approach to building, and start thinking about sustainability on a whole new level.
In December of 2012, I posted a video from TED Talks called Bjarke Ingels: Hedonistic Sustainability. In the video a talented and innovative Dutch architect Bjarke Ingels, the founder of the BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) architecture firm, presents some of his projects along with definitions of two important terms: hedonistic sustainability and architectural alchemy. Through his projects, the architect proves that “sustainability is not a burden, but that a sustainable city can in fact improve our quality of life.” He rightfully mentions that “architects must become creators of eco-systems.”
In the Mountain Dwelling project, BIG merged parking and housing into a symbiotic relationship that gave each unit a penthouse feel with a view and a garden. The architect achieved natural ventilation in the parking garage by controlling the size of the holes on the structure’s walls. On top of it all, there is a gorgeous painting of a mountain by a Japanese artist that decorates the walls of the garage. This is a good example of what Bjarke Ingels calls hedonistic sustainability – sustainability that benefits the city and our lifestyle.
In another project, the 8 House, Ingels introduces a concept of architectural alchemy. By combining traditional ingredients (offices, shops, townhouses and apartments) in a different structural way, he created a three-dimensional mixed-use urban neighborhood where suburban life merges with the energy of a city, where business and housing co-exist. It is a community of rowhouses along a mountain path that ascends from the ground to the top of the building allowing people to bicycle all the way up and have social, spontaneous encounters with the neighbors.
The above projects are just two of many examples of how smart design and architecture can highly influence the sustainability of a building and benefit its residence. We should think of sustainability as an opportunity for innovation, and continue to look for more simplistic and creative ways to make our buildings and life more sustainable.
Inna Panchuk was born and raised in Russia and moved to the United States at the age of 18. She received her BS in Management from San Diego State University and is currently earning her Masters in Real Estate at University of San Diego. She is a curator of the MIPIMWorld Sustainability and Innovation press review magazine.
Image credit : Photobank gallery