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SA POWER, WATER CRISIS SPURS ECO-BUILDING DEMAND

High demand for affordable, innovative eco-building coupled with dramatic rise in green-star certified projects; Estate agencies report ‘green’ homes are more sought-after by top-end buyers

Soaring electricity prices, frequent load-shedding and crippling drought has seen a surge in green developments nationwide as landlords seek to ease their reliance on the strained and ailing national grid.

Backing this trend is the sharp rise in eco-friendly buildings which have been green star certified by the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA) – from four in 2010 to 56 during 2015 alone (January up to mid-October), bringing the total in the country to 121. The trend is spurred by buyers’ eagerness to have homes and businesses which are load-shedding ready, and also boast a reduced environmental impact, according to real estate agencies Pam Golding and Seeff.

Developers and home owners are more willing than ever to fork out for eco-building solutions, given the long-term savings amid surging electricity prices and increasing water scarcity, according to green building solutions firm Rhino Green Building.

The firm has been involved with the development of the entirely off-grid Rhino Group showcase home, House Rhino, which is located at Crossways Farm Village outside Port Elizabeth and recently won acclaim at a global sustainability conference in the UK.

The home is unique for South Africa and, according to green building academics, one of about 50 globally to incorporate unique water and energy-centric eco-building solutions, making it a green energy generator (also known as energy-plus houses). House Rhino treats its black and grey water using a high-tech filtration processes, while natural aqua-gardens allow for a chemical-free swimming pool. It also harvests rainwater.

According to architectural designer and Rhino Green Building director Ian van der Westhuizen, there is an increasing need to “respect and promote the importance of green design principals” given the electricity crisis and increasing scarcity of water. The firm focused on combining water and energy-centric eco-solutions, such as was used for House Rhino, he said.

“We are at the forefront of exploring innovative eco-building methods. We work with architects, engineers and developers in order to incorporate cost-effective and cutting-edge green building solutions on their projects,” Van der Westhuizen said.

The firm is now involved in developing other green residences at Crossways Farm Village. It was also involved in the construction phase of the nearby R1.7-billion Baywest Mall.

Government has also joined the green building trend, with the departments of Environmental Affairs in the Western Cape, Public Works in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the City of Cape Town all boasting Green Star SA rated state buildings.

“Apart from the obvious cost savings associated with sustainable and energy efficient buildings, hopefully those who live and work in green buildings will start to see the [cost, health, and lifestyle] benefits of doing so,” said GBCSA chief technical officer, Manfred Braune.

“Corporate South Africa will benefit from the cost savings – direct and in terms of increased productivity – increased asset value and return on investment, as well as increased global competiveness.”

Braune said that issues feeding into the demand for green building included:

  • Rising electricity prices, which have put energy efficiency onto many agendas, while load-shedding was causing property owners and occupiers to seek alternative energy sources;
  • A rising awareness of humans’ impact on – and role in – protecting the environment. An increased consciousness of water scarcity, for example, appeared to be resulting in an increase in the installation of rainwater catchment devices, grey water systems and low-flow taps; and
  • Several major banks and property funds which were differentiating themselves in terms of green buildings.

Department of Construction Management academic at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Chris Allen, along with colleague Katharina Crafford, co-authored a study of House Rhino and the benefits of green building.

“This paper reports on a case study of an energy-plus residential building in South Africa, one of the first of this project type on the African continent. House Rhino… provided an unprecedented opportunity to research the potential for a residential energy-plus building as a proof of concept for a future where energy and water are rare commodities. House Rhino combines active and passive features in a modern residential design that has been created as a living lab,” the paper’s abstract reads.

Allen presented their study, African Energy-Plus construction: A case study of House Rhino, at the international sustainability conference known as SEEDS (Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society) at Leeds Beckett University in the UK in September.

The firm also incorporates other unique, but utilitarian green building concepts, such as light-weight concrete.

“The light-weight concrete walls aid in sound proofing as well as thermal insulation,” explained fellow Rhino Green Building director, Jarred van Niekerk. “It’s a fast means of construction and our team can construct up to 150m² of wall in nine hours.”

Source: rnews


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Mobius Architecture’s modern Edge House is ringed by a green-roofed terrace

Mobius Architecture’s Edge House is a spacious residence that puts a modern twist on traditional architecture in the mountains of Poland. The house has a traditional pitched roof required by local building code and is framed by a huge green-roofed terrace set on an 8-meter arm that protrudes beyond the hillside.

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Mobius Architecture‘s Edge House by is carved 8 meters into a lime rock in the mountains near Krakow, Poland. The building features a pitched roof which, combined with the tilted orthogonal layout of the house, creates a quadric-prism form. This volume contains the living area and offers impressive views of the surrounding landscape.

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The upper part of the plot is separated from the neighboring one using artificial banks instead of fences. Two additional wings house the garage and swimming pool. The home’s stone and timber composition, balconies, terraces and footbridges give it an organic aesthetic that makes it fit in with the landscape.

Source: Inhabitat


 

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The three principles of sustainable home cooling

There are three simple principles for keeping a home cool in summer without inflating your carbon footprint, according to architect Steffen Welsch who will be one of the experts giving advice at the Alternative Technology Association’s Speed Date a Sustainable Expert event in Melbourne this weekend.

First, prevent hot air from entering; second, soak up any heat that does enter within the interior; and third, move air around inside to increase comfort. And most are achievable in an existing detached home or apartment, even if it’s a rental.

Keeping the heat out

To prevent hot air entering is partly a matter of sealing the building envelope, but also preventing sun hitting the windows and other glazing, Welsch told The Fifth Estate. The simple solution is vertical blinds installed on the exterior of windows.

Conventional interior design dictates blinds hung inside to block sun, but Welsch says while the blinds might block the glare, by the time the sun enters through the glass they do not block the heat.

It is worth considering the social aspect, too, of people feeling comfortable in your beautiful, green home and enjoying spending time in it. When people want to be in your home, it makes you feel proud of it. – Steffen Welsch, architect

“Vertical blinds are also more efficient at shading glass than horizontal ones, and vertical blinds reduce the effect of radiant heat on the building,” he says.

Another easy cooling measure those in freestanding homes can implement is creating areas outside the house that soak up heat, such as garden beds and other vegetation, or a timber deck area that will absorb heat instead of paving, which radiates heat.

For an apartment, where many have only an outdoor terrace or balcony, plants in pots, timber decking placed over ceramic tiles or concrete, or even a large timber outdoor table can all help add shade and soak up the sun, reducing the amount of heat the outdoor space radiates.

Soak it up

Welsch says the principle of interior elements that will absorb heat is “underrated and often completely overlooked”. The basic principle involves having thermal mass inside, elements such as stone or concrete floors that will absorb heat from the air, or reverse brick veneer, where the brickwork is on the inside. Exposed solid plaster also works well, he says.

Timber floors generally perform better than carpeted floors for absorbing heat, and in homes where there are struts under a timber floor, it is possible to retrofit underfloor insulation.

Options for insulation include the new “phase change” materials that are only a few millimetres thick but deliver the insulation benefits of a 200mm brick wall. They work by absorbing heat, which changes the state of the material from solid to liquid when it is hot, and from liquid back to solid when it cools.

These are still quite expensive, however, due to the current small market share. Welsch does think the price will, however, go down.

Indoor breezes

The third principle of moving air about can be achieved through mechanical measures such as ceiling fans and through strategic window placement.

“When the air moves, then you feel more comfortable at higher temperatures,” Welsch says. Fans also assist with airing a house out when the cooler evening change hits.

“You also need to check the window openings are in the right place. For example, in Melbourne the cool change comes from the south west, so a low window should go there, and a high window in the north-east corner.”

The cool air entering shifts the hot air out the higher window, but window placement is another thing Welsch says is often not being properly considered. Generally, diagonally opposite windows will work better for cooling and ventilation than multiple windows on the same side of a room – a good thing to keep in mind when renovating, extending or planning to build.

Clerestory windows set up high under the eaves are also effective for ventilation and cooling. They rely on the natural stack effect of air at different temperatures. They can be manually operated, or it is possible to install automated window opening, which is particularly effective when combined with a temperature sensor control. These are not expensive technologies at the domestic scale – Welsch says an automated window opener can cost between $60 and $80, and a temperature sensor control for about $30.

More cool, green ideas

Even though sealing the building well is part of managing heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter, some form of ventilation is essential for occupant health. Having well-sealed homes also means it becomes more important to be careful in the choice of interior finishes and materials, including furnishings, to minimise the level of volatile organic compounds and other nasties.

Other things those looking to build or renovate would want to consider are double glazing, insulation and zoning controls for any ducted airconditioning system. These are, however, best avoided altogether, Welsch says.

Ideally, in terms of environmental impact, airconditioning should be viewed only as a back-up system, not the main solution. If there is no shading or other measures, a refrigerated ducted system is “questionable” in terms of carbon footprint.

Check the specs

Welsch says it’s best to do the simple things first, and with a new build, this means checking that what was promised is actually being delivered in energy terms.

“[In Victoria] even mass produced houses or dwellings need to have six star energy ratings. But people getting a new home built need to check the certification of the rating and check that all of the assumptions made in the certificate have been implemented.”

This includes checking doors and windows are sealed properly, and checking that where double-glazing has been specified, that’s actually what got put in throughout.

Commonsense is cooler too

“A lot of the solutions people can use are commonsense and good practice,” Welsch says.

That good practice extends to how people occupy their homes, so that when sustainability measures are installed, they are operated properly. Simple things such as closing bedroom doors and blinds before leaving for work while also leaving some strategic windows open for ventilation to let any hot air out.

“Appropriate use is very important. You have to be active about it.”

Growing green thinking needs to embrace new ideas

He says that over the past 10 to 15 years he has seen sustainability shift from being mainly architect-driven to something clients now increasingly want.

But while there is an increasing amount of knowledge, once the design starts to move into details clients can struggle to reconcile their green ambitions and old ways of thinking about design, construction and materials.

Heavy is cooler

“A high performance building in our climate needs to be constructed with heavy materials,” Welsch says.

“The proposition with concrete [however] in terms of sustainability is the amount of CO2 it takes to produce. It is the ‘bad boy’ of building materials in terms of its embodied energy.”

Solutions for a lower footprint can include using concrete containing fly ash, or with recycled content. The real stars in sustainability terms for heavy materials though are rammed earth, also known as pise, which is very low on embodied energy, or the new hemp composite walls, which work extremely well as thermal mass inside a home.

Hemp walls also have the potential to be carbon neutral, Welsch says, as they are a store of carbon. They are not cost-competitive yet, and he would not recommend an entire house be constructed of them. Instead, a number of feature hemp walls could be incorporated, and the cost of this balanced out through downsizing airconditioning.

Ultimately, he says, the way to approach sustainability in a home is as it being something to be proud of.

“It is worth considering the social aspect, too, of people feeling comfortable in your beautiful, green home and enjoying spending time in it. When people want to be in your home, it makes you feel proud of it.”

Source: Eco-Business


 

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Case Study: Bio-climatic Building design for tropical climates

By Antoine Perrau

Environmental design in the humid tropics requires special consideration. This chapter is based on two case studies which attempt to develop a practical approach to including key elements of bio- climatic design in tropical regions.

Location: Reunion Island
Population 840,000 inhabitants
Area: 2512km 2
Geology: Volcanic island
Highest point: Mount des Neiges 3070m
Rainfall: Reunion holds all world records for precipitation between 12 hours and 15 days

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Case Study 1: Malacca flores

Promoter: SIDR (Semi-Public Social Housing) Architects: Michel Reynaud / Antoine Perrau Environmental quality department: LEU Meeting City: Le Port
Altitude: 10 m leeward coast
Delivery: 2011
Total floor area: 8950 m2

The Context:

The project is located in a Development Zone and the objectives include: opening the city towards the sea, to reinvigorate the city centre, create a link between the periphery and centre of the community, and to implement the principles of sustainable development through a green master plan.
The projects location and surroundings were thus crucial to its success.

The Site:

The site of a project and its concomitant micro climate is of particular importance in the tropics. Favourable conditions on site will impact the performance of buildings constructed there.

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For instance the presence of trees plays a fundamental role in the areas micro-climate.

Our firm’s offices are in the centre of the island, allowing us to illustrate these differences.

During February, the month with the highest temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, a temperature differential of 7 ° C was measured between the street and the inside of the office (without air conditioning). This is achieved in part, by planting buffers of vegetation such as grass and shrubs between the street and the building. The effect of the plants is to cool the air through evapotranspiration, and reduces the albedo effect by shading the concrete and other hard surfaces.

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The role of plants in reducing the urban heat island effect has also been demonstrated in the city of Paris by researchers from Météo France. The diagram below illustrates the difference in temperature between the suburbs and the city center during a summer’s day, which was 4 ° C.

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We therefore sought a favourable site for the project, and special effort was taken to re-vegetate surrounding buildings and find space on natural land.

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Shading:

The second step was to determine the most favourable orientation of the shading devices through computer simulations of sunscreen designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parallel to this reflection, we verified the thermal comfort. It should be noted that the concept of comfort temperature is different from the temperature measured with a thermometer and is not absolute but depends on several parameters: humidity, air velocity, air temperature, the radiation

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temperature of the walls, metabolism and clothing. One can evaluate the effect on internal comfort of a building as influenced by the first four factors mentioned above using the comfort graph developed by Givonni:

Red air velocity of 1m / s Yellow air velocity of 0.5 m / s Green air velocity of 0m / s

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The graph demonstrates how essential it is to ensure natural ventilation, which is achieved through the porosity of the facades, and in this latitude, there should be a minimum porosity of 20% between two opposite facades.

Effective implementation of these interventions allows urban and architectural buildings to reduce their energy consumption by between 28 and 41 kWh / m2 / year. In fact spaces designed in this way provide thermal comfort without the need for air conditioning, even in the tropics.

 

 

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Additional Features:

Beyond these provisions, the specification proposes a number of other environmental features:

Implementation of solar hot water panels and photovoltaic roof panels

These panels are also used to shield the roof from high levels of solar radiation. 70% of the heat input comes through the roof, and so this element of the design should be treated with the utmost consideration and care.

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This dual purpose of the solar devices can increase their efficiency and reduce overall cost. Increased use of wood to reduce the carbon footprint of the project Wood was specified for the structure of corridors, sidings, sunscreens and pergolas.

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Grey water recycling

We used a filtration system with a settling tank and a filter zeolite vertical which provided regular contributions of water for irrigation.

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Source: Continue reading to Case Study 2 in the Green Building Handbook Volume 4, pg 146


 

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2015 Green Building Trends

The US Green Building Council’s Colorado chapter predicts the following green building trends for 2015:

Green construction powers industry: the Centennial State will continue to grow as a center of green construction expertise and ownership. “As a panel of developers and owners told us at our Commercial Real Estate Forum, green buildings are becoming a must-have for owners,” said Sharon Alton, executive director, USGBC Colorado.

Commercial real estate brings together the public and private sectors: Denver’s Union Station opened its doors in summer 2014, forming the core of a major urban revitalization project to sustainably build a 21st century urban community. The project is attracting international attention for its commitment to creating partnerships between the private and public sectors.Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 8.58.03 AM

USGBC Colorado credits Colorado’s commercial real estate industry with successfully bridging the gap between sectors to execute Union Station and other green building projects large and small. The organization’s 2015 Commercial Real Estate Forum will work to facilitate the relationships public, private and nonprofit leaders need to realize sustainable design.

Green schools leaders gain resources: Colorado schools are under enormous pressure as their enrollments grow and their buildings age. A handful of private and public programs in the state support schools that wish to renovate or build their facilities sustainably.

The Colorado Energy Office will bundle all its programs in a new Energy Savings for Schools offering this year while the Colorado Department of Education will open a new Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program grant round with an expected $35–$45 million of available funding.

Meanwhile, a study published last month found certified commercial green buildings on average cut greenhouse gas emissions from water consumption by 50 percent, reduced solid waste management-related GHG emissions by 48 percent and lowered transportation-related GHG emissions by 5 percent, when compared to their traditional California counterparts.

Source: Environmental Leader


 

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Green Building With Renewable Rice Straw

For every ton of rice that is grown, 500 lbs of rice husks and straw are created. Typically, those husks and straw are burned as waste. But two innovations on opposite sides of the world are changing that.

In India, 16-year-old Bisman Deu saw all those rice husks being burned and wondered whether they couldn’t be put to better use. So she started experimenting in the family kitchen and came up with a material she calls Green Wood.

Her creation is a waterproof participle board that is fungus resistant and mud-proof, making it a good alternative to the earthen bricks used by many poor farming families around the world, especially when monsoon season arrives. Turning the rice waste into a useful building product instead of burning it keeps carbon dioxide out of the air and augments farm income because now farmers can sell the waste rather than destroying it.

Deu has been recognized by a Junior Achievement award and praise from UNICEF for her creation.

Meanwhile, in Goleta, California, a start-up company called Oryzatech, formed by architect  Ben Korman and  his partner Jay Ruskey, is experimenting with building blocks made from compressed rice straw and glue. Looking much like oversized Legos, their Stak Blocks have three times the insulating power of a 2X6″ studded wall and are easier to handle than straw bales, which have become popular for making sustainable buildings.

A 1′ by 1′ by 2′ long Stak Block weighs 30 pounds and can be easily maneuvered by one worker. Like straw bales, they require a concrete foundation and must be kept dry with exterior siding. Sheetrock and paneling can be screwed to the interior surface. Korman thinks the blocks will sell for about $8.00 each once production ramps up.

Both products take waste agricultural products and turn them into carbon neutral, sustainable building materials. Both can be made locally near where rice grows, reducing the energy and expense needed to haul the waste to a factory.

Source: Green Building Elements


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South Africa’s new government building is “milestone” in green leadership

The South African government’s Department of Environmental Affairs has opened a brand new head office in Pretoria that exemplifies its approach to sustainable building, including the country’s National Climate Change Response Policy.

The building, which is 6 Green Star SA Office Design rated, is designed with the aim of capping energy consumption at 115kWh/m2 per year, 20% of which comes from the solar photovoltaic panels that cover the roof. A concentrated photovoltaic panel in the car park also tracks the sun in order to provide solar-powered charging stations for electric cars.

The design also makes use of rainwater harvesting and irrigation systems, and water-saving indigenous plants, in order to reduce water consumption by 30%.

In order to incentivise low energy consumption, the building also operates a “green lease” with it maintenance contractors, which monitors performance and introduces penalties if the building consumes more than planned.

For any building to achieve a 6-star rating is a feat that should be celebrated because of the high standard of green building design and construction applied.

This landmark new Green Building represents a major commitment by the government to green building and sustainable development. We welcome the green leadership shown,” commented Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the government-affiliated Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA).

For any building to achieve a 6-star rating is a feat that should be celebrated because of the high standard of green building design and construction applied. For a government building, this is a precedent setting move by the leadership of our country and is quite a progressive demonstration of consciousness for the green movement.”

Source: Intelligent Building Today


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Gorgeous Shipping Container Home Goes Up in Ireland

This recently constructed shipping container home is another prime example of just how versatile cargotecture really can be. Irish architect and farmer Patrick Bradley built this home using four shipping containers, which he obtained from the Belfast Docks. The home is located in a rural area of Northern Ireland, where his new home is by far the most modern one around.

Shipping Container Home

The hardest thing was getting the precut shipping containers to the building site, since the access roads are so narrow in places the trucks that delivered them had a hard time getting through. Once there, the containers were placed atop the concrete pad foundations, which were a perfect fit for the containers. The containers were then welded together to form a large cross-shaped structure.

Shipping Container Home
Placement

 

Shipping Container Home
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The home is designed in a very innovative and modern fashion, and is cantilevered over a stream. Little on the outside of the structure reveals that that home is actually built out of shipping containers. The ground floor is clad in wood paneling, while the first floor has metal cladding. Due to the innovative placement of the containers, the home also features two patios, one on the ground floor, and the other on the first floor, which is accessible via an outdoor staircase.

The home contains many large, floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow for great ventilation and let in plenty of natural daylight. Heating is provided via a wood stove. Shipping container origins of the home are nowhere in evidence on the inside either. The walls are painted white and the flooring is of grey tile.

The initial budget for the home was £100,000, which is approximately 160,000 USD, but the final cost of the home, including all the interior design elements and decorations, came to £133,000, which is just under 215,000 USD. A lot of this cost is made up of the expensive and luxury interior decorations and extras, such as the £16,000 (25,773 USD) bathroom.

Shipping container Home
Living Room
Shipping container Home
Bathroom

Source: Jetson Green

Four innovative African architects bring a new wow to buildings on the continent

Ever heard of a floating African city? Now you have.

African architecture is as diverse as the different cultures and peoples that make up the continent.

Islam and Christianity have produced astounding churches and magnificent mosques. The mix of colonial and modern influences have clashed in the urban environment, in some cities economic or political turmoil resulted in an eclectic clash of styles and little consideration of aesthetic beauty, and in rural areas the local environment was often the driver in the influence of design and structure.

Recently, however, something different has sprouted on the continent. There is a new breed of architect whose work is suffused with social responsibility, and the designs that emanate from them are nothing short of genius.

Their structures created are carefully crafted to fit in with the various demands or pressures of modern day society in Africa.

Here we take a look at a few examples of these extraordinary architects:

Diébédo Francis Kéré

Even though he’s had international success and is based in Berlin, Germany, this hasn’t stopped Burkinabé architect Kéré from making waves back home, in Burkina Faso. Founded in 2005, Kéré Architecture is dedicated to supporting the educational, cultural, and sustainable needs of communities in Burkina Faso through sustainable building practices. Using his formal training as an architect, Kéré has developed strategies for innovative construction by combining traditional Burkinabé building techniques and materials with modern engineering methods.

His projects in Burkina Faso are impressive. In the village of Gando, his birth place, Kéré made a great push for education by constructing schools, along with the help of the local community, and the necessary teacher housing, library and wells to support them.

Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com
Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com

Each structure was carefully conceived to support the learning environment and be as adaptable as possible to the areas geography. Mud brick walls combined with raised tin roofs use material which is locally available and keep the buildings cool and dry. The school library has a roof with traditional clay pots that have been cut in half and inserted in the ceiling, letting in light and allowing air to circulate.

In June this year the “Surgical Clinic and Health Centre” was opened, serving a population of over 50,000 people from the town of Léo and its surrounding communities. In planning for the most sustainable building solution with least ecological impact, the main construction of the centre is compressed earth bricks.

Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com
Image courtesy of Kerearchitecture.com

Their high thermal mass capacity allows them to absorb the cool night air and release it during the day, helping keep the interior spaces cool. The clinic also features ten large overlapping roofs that protect the walls from rain and shade the interiors from the hot daytime sun. The vibrantly-coloured buildings are sited around a central outdoor corridor – a friendly characteristic which is important for the success of the centre, as it attracts patients who would normally not seek medical attention.

Kunlé Adeyemi

Kunlé Adeyemi is a Nigerian architect and urbanist – heavily influenced by the fast-paced urbanisation of African cities. After studying at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, followed by Princeton in the US, Adeyemi founded NLÉ – an architecture and design practice based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

One of his recent projects has focused on his homeland and its fast urbanisation rate. In 2013 Adeyemi completed the “Makoko Floating School”, a prototype floating structure, built for the water community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This pilot project took an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanising context.

Image courtesy of NLE
Image courtesy of NLE

At a cost of less than $7,000 the school accommodates 100 students, uses 256 plastic drums to keep it resting on top of the water, and the frame is constructed from locally-sourced wood. Electricity is provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting helps to keep toilets operational.

Adeyemi has been able to produce an ecologically friendly, alternative building system that could revolutionise Africa’s urban water societies. Now, he is taking the project a step further. He is now looking to expand on his pilot and create a group of floating structures in Makoko, allowing its estimated 250,000 inhabitants better access to sanitation, fresh water and waste disposal.

Image courtesy of NLE
Image courtesy of NLE

Another notable Adeyemi project is the community-built Chicoco radio, in Port Harcourt. The radio station is a floating media platform that provides a voice to 480,000 residents of Port Harcourt’s waterfront slums which line the creeks fringing the city. The governor plans to demolish them all. Not only is the innovative design sustainable and resistant to flooding, but the architecture has also merged with media to become a platform for modern communication and civic participation.

Mick Pearce

Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce is dedicated to designing low maintenance buildings with low running costs, using renewable energy systems. His aim is to ensure buildings are suited to their natural environment and the people who use them. Over the past 20 years his work has focused heavily on bio-mimicry – an the imitation of natural processes and the use of natural materials.

Image courtesy of MickPearce.com
Image courtesy of MickPearce.com

One of his most famous examples is the Eastgate Centre in Harare. Largely made of concrete, the Eastgate Centre has a ventilation system, which operates similarly to the self-cooling mounds of African termites. Because of its altitude, Harare has a temperate climate and the typical daily temperature swing is 10 to 14 °C, making a passive cooling system a viable alternative to artificial air-conditioning. Passive cooling works by storing heat in the day and venting it at night as temperatures drop. Without relying on conventional air-conditioning or heating the building stays regulated all year round, dramatically reducing energy consumption and the building uses 10% of the energy a conventional building of its size would use.

Tsai Design Studio

Architectural genius is most of the time a combined team effort, on the part of a firm or when two firms come together. It would be impossible to have a list looking at architectural efforts linked to social reform or environmental sustainability without mentioning South Africa’s Tsai design studio. Even though it was established in 2005, this small team of architects has earned a number of design accolades and awards for its architecture and design work – though their community work, re-purposing shipping containers is what stands out.

Image courtesy of Tsai design Studio
Image courtesy of Tsai Design

The studio first became famous for this in 2010 when South African shipping company Safmarine commissioned the studio to develop several designs using recycled containers for community projects. The first Sport Centre prototype was built under a month to coincide with the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The centre allowed disadvantaged children and communities to be twinned with a Dutch football club who trained local coaches with football techniques and life skills.

The design included a grandstand seating social area, a sheltering roof and an advertising billboard and movie screen as an extension of the roof structure that folds down vertically at one side. This can be used as a possible source of income for the sports centre or be converted into a movie screen for the children. Since then, the containers have been re-purposed for a variety of other community projects.

One example is “Vissershok primary school”. Sponsored by three South African Companies; Safmarine, Afrisam and Woolworths, “Vissershok primary school” was created. Serving as a classroom in the morning and a school library in the afternoon, the container provides a well planned environment for the pupils. The large roof keeps out direct sunlight and reduces heat while the windows staggered along the sides of the container ensure cross ventilation.

Source: Mail and Guardian Africa

 


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