Architecture

Inspiring architecture projects built on sustainable design

Inspiring architecture project...
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, is one of our picks of five inspiring examples of sustainable design for Earth Day 2021
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, is one of our picks of five inspiring examples of sustainable design for Earth Day 2021
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Goldsmith Street, by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, is a superb sustainable social housing project in the UK
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Goldsmith Street, by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, is a superb sustainable social housing project in the UK
Goldsmith Street won the Stirling Prize, which is Britain's most prestigious architecture award
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Goldsmith Street won the Stirling Prize, which is Britain's most prestigious architecture award
Goldsmith Street's black roof tiles nod to the city's longstanding Dutch trading links and its clay bricks are similar to the ones used in the surrounding Victorian homes
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Goldsmith Street's black roof tiles nod to the city's longstanding Dutch trading links and its clay bricks are similar to the ones used in the surrounding Victorian homes
Goldsmith Street's homes are built to the stringent Passivhaus green building standard, which focuses on insulation and air-tightness to offer a home that is very efficient to heat and cool
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Goldsmith Street's homes are built to the stringent Passivhaus green building standard, which focuses on insulation and air-tightness to offer a home that is very efficient to heat and cool
Goldsmith Street's homes share a secure alleyway for children to meet and play together
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Goldsmith Street's homes share a secure alleyway for children to meet and play together
Mjøstårnet, by Voll Arkitekter AS, is a timber tower that rises to a height of 85.4 m (280 ft)
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Mjøstårnet, by Voll Arkitekter AS, is a timber tower that rises to a height of 85.4 m (280 ft)
Mjøstårnet comprises 18 floors and over 11,300 sq m (121,632 sq ft) of floorspace
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Mjøstårnet comprises 18 floors and over 11,300 sq m (121,632 sq ft) of floorspace
Mjøstårnet is located in Norway and, as of writing, is the world's tallest all-timber tower
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Mjøstårnet is located in Norway and, as of writing, is the world's tallest all-timber tower
Mjøstårnet consists of glulam (glue laminated timber) columns, beams and diagonals, with CLT (cross-laminated timber) used for the elevator shafts, stairs, and floor slabs
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Mjøstårnet consists of glulam (glue laminated timber) columns, beams and diagonals, with CLT (cross-laminated timber) used for the elevator shafts, stairs, and floor slabs
The building was originally planned to rise to a height of 81 m (265 ft), however in the end, the team decided to increase this by 4.4 m (14.5 ft)
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The building was originally planned to rise to a height of 81 m (265 ft), however in the end, the team decided to increase this by 4.4 m (14.5 ft)
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, received a BREEAM Outstanding certification, which is the highest ranking by the green building standard
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Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, received a BREEAM Outstanding certification, which is the highest ranking by the green building standard
Powerhouse Brattørkaia's roof is covered in 3,000 sq m (roughly 32,000 sq ft) of solar panels which produce approximately 500,000 kWh of electricity over a year
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Powerhouse Brattørkaia's roof is covered in 3,000 sq m (roughly 32,000 sq ft) of solar panels which produce approximately 500,000 kWh of electricity over a year
Powerhouse Brattørkaia's interior is mostly given over to office space
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Powerhouse Brattørkaia's interior is mostly given over to office space
Powerhouse Brattørkaia is very well insulated and its exterior is primarily clad in black aluminum panels
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Powerhouse Brattørkaia is very well insulated and its exterior is primarily clad in black aluminum panels
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, is one of our picks of five inspiring examples of sustainable design for Earth Day 2021
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Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, is one of our picks of five inspiring examples of sustainable design for Earth Day 2021
The Xuhui Runway Park, by Sasaki, is situated on the former runway of Shanghai's Longhua Airport, which closed in 2011
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The Xuhui Runway Park, by Sasaki, is situated on the former runway of Shanghai's Longhua Airport, which closed in 2011
The Xuhui Runway Park has a large rainwater capture and filtering system that irrigates the many plants and trees on the site
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The Xuhui Runway Park has a large rainwater capture and filtering system that irrigates the many plants and trees on the site
The Xuhui Runway Park contains a total of 82 local plant species and 2,227 trees
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The Xuhui Runway Park contains a total of 82 local plant species and 2,227 trees
The Xuhui Runway Park includes a birdwatching grove, butterfly garden, and other wildlife areas
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The Xuhui Runway Park includes a birdwatching grove, butterfly garden, and other wildlife areas
Anandaloy, by Anna Heringer, is a community building made from mud in Bangladesh. It was declared the winner of the second annual Obel Award, an architecture award that aims to "test the boundaries of architecture and transcend the age in which they are created"
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Anandaloy, by Anna Heringer, is a community building made from mud in Bangladesh. It was declared the winner of the second annual Obel Award, an architecture award that aims to "test the boundaries of architecture and transcend the age in which they are created"
Anandaloy was primarily built using mud and bamboo by a team of locals, though also features a fired brick foundation and straw in the ceiling
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Anandaloy was primarily built using mud and bamboo by a team of locals, though also features a fired brick foundation and straw in the ceiling
Anandaloy measures 253 sq m (2,723 sq ft), which is spread over two floors
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Anandaloy measures 253 sq m (2,723 sq ft), which is spread over two floors
Anandaloy's interior is split into two floors. The first floor is taken up by a therapy area for people with disabilities, while the second floor features a workshop for local women
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Anandaloy's interior is split into two floors. The first floor is taken up by a therapy area for people with disabilities, while the second floor features a workshop for local women
View gallery - 23 images

April 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event that promotes environmental awareness throughout the world. To mark the occasion we've chosen five inspiring architecture projects that we feel are excellent examples of sustainable design.

We've picked a selection of recently completed projects that we think are genuinely sustainable here – so we're not including supertall skyscrapers, for example, even if they do produce a lot of energy through solar power, because they require a huge amount of concrete and steel to produce, which in turn produces massive amounts of CO2.

Concentrating on finished builds only also means that we've not been drawn in by ambitious concept ideas from the likes of Hayri Atak Architectural Design Studio, or projects that are still to be completed like the stunning Tao Zhu Yin Yuan twisting tower from Vincent Callebaut.

We've also tried to steer away from the really high-profile projects like, say, BIG's CopenHill and Foster + Partners' Bloomberg HQ. So we've attempted to shine a light on the builds that might get a little less attention, relatively speaking.

Without further ado then, here's our choice of five inspiring examples of sustainable design.

Goldsmith Street is a superb example of sustainable and affordable social housing
Goldsmith Street is a superb example of sustainable and affordable social housing

It's one thing to throw massive amounts of money and time at the problem but creating genuinely sustainable and affordable housing is a tough nut to crack. However, the UK's Goldsmith Street, by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley shows one possible solution with its fantastic Passivhaus-rated social housing.

Goldsmith Street consists of 105 homes commissioned by Norwich City Council that are arranged in seven blocks of terraces, echoing nearby Victorian-era homes that offer generous garden spaces and park areas. They're built to maximize solar gain and, like all Passivhaus projects, feature a very high level of airtightness, as well as excellent insulation. This means that very little energy is lost to drafts or through the walls and ceiling for example and so they require relatively little energy to heat or cool, resulting in energy costs that are around 70 percent cheaper annually than the average British household.

Mjøstårnet, by Voll Arkitekter AS, is a timber tower that rises to a height of 85.4 m (280 ft)
Mjøstårnet, by Voll Arkitekter AS, is a timber tower that rises to a height of 85.4 m (280 ft)

Current concrete-and-steel-focused construction methods are a major contributor to climate change but timber building has the potential to revolutionize the industry and provide a greener way to build, if done right. Additionally, thanks to the incredible strength of modern engineered wood like CLT (cross-laminated timber), fire doesn't even have to be the worry it once was. One major milestone in timber construction comes from Voll Arkitekter AS and its Mjøstårnet tower in Norway.

As of writing, Mjøstårnet's total height of 85.4 m (280 ft) makes it the world's tallest all-timber tower. Structurally, it consists of glulam (glue laminated timber) columns and beams, with CLT (cross-laminated timber) used for the elevator shafts, stairs, and floor slabs. The interior decor makes the most of the natural beauty of wood and, according to independent fire tests, even if the building's sprinkler system failed, it would cease burning without outside interference and maintain its structural integrity.

Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, received a BREEAM Outstanding certification, which is the highest ranking by the green building standard
Powerhouse Brattørkaia, by Snøhetta, received a BREEAM Outstanding certification, which is the highest ranking by the green building standard

Snøhetta's Powerhouse Brattørkaia office building in northern Trondheim, Norway, is an impressive example of sustainable design. The firm describes it as the world's northernmost energy positive building.

Its location and layout were chosen to offer maximum exposure to the Sun and its distinctive pentagonal roof is covered in 3,000 sq m (roughly 32,000 sq ft) of solar panels. These produce approximately 500,000 kWh of electricity over a year – or more than twice as much as the building requires per day, with what's left over being sent back to the grid.

Other notable energy efficient additions include excellent insulation and heat recovery ventilation systems to remove moist and stale air while retaining the warmth inside the building. It received an Outstanding rating from the BREEAM green building standard.

The Xuhui Runway Park, by Sasaki, is situated on the former runway of Shanghai's Longhua Airport, which closed in 2011
The Xuhui Runway Park, by Sasaki, is situated on the former runway of Shanghai's Longhua Airport, which closed in 2011

Green building standards and energy efficient technology is all well and good but it's actually almost always greener to adapt an existing structure than it is to demolish it and rebuild something new. One great example of this is the Xuhui Runway Park, which takes a disused airport and turns it into a public park in Shanghai, China.

Designed by Sasaki, it hosts a series of wildlife habitats, including a birdwatching grove, butterfly garden, and wild gardens, as well as a total of 82 local plant species and 2,227 trees. Rather than taking its water from the grid, rainwater from the park and from a nearby road drainage system is captured into a collection system, filtered, then fed into the water features. Bamboo was chosen as a cheap and sustainable alternative to hardwood and recycled materials were used throughout. Other similar projects that are just as good and far better known include NYC's High Line and the MVRDV-designed Seoullo 7017 Skygarden.

Anandaloy, by Anna Heringer, is a community building made from mud in Bangladesh. It was declared the winner of the second annual Obel Award, an architecture award that aims to "test the boundaries of architecture and transcend the age in which they are created"
Anandaloy, by Anna Heringer, is a community building made from mud in Bangladesh. It was declared the winner of the second annual Obel Award, an architecture award that aims to "test the boundaries of architecture and transcend the age in which they are created"

Like timber, traditional mud buildings made by local craftsmen can offer a relatively more sustainable alternative to a modern brick-and-glass home. German architect Anna Heringer is a proponent of this approach and recently demonstrated it with an impressive award-winning building Bangladesh named Anandaloy.

Working with locals, the architect used traditional cob building techniques to build a therapy center and workshop. Structurally, it consists of a fired brick foundation, with mud walls, bamboo pillars and ceilings, with straw and metal used in the roofing. Passive ventilation was also promoted throughout.

View gallery - 23 images
1 comment
ReservoirPup
When China gets serious about getting top slots on such list, the beneficiaries will be far beyond its borders