24 hours in Durban

Beautiful beaches, warm weather, curry, seafood, art-deco architecture, culture, history … Durban has it all.

So, you’ll be visiting Durban and have just a day in which to see the best that South Africa’s third largest city has to offer. Here are some ideas of what you can get up to.

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This coastal playground is most famous for its perennially warm climate and beautiful beaches. While summer temperatures may reach 34°C, winters are balmy, with days averaging in the mid- to high 20s.

As a result the lifestyle in the city is geared to making the most of the outdoors, and so should you.

A day’s itinerary should definitely include a visit to the Golden Mile, Durban’s famous beachfront, where a long, paved promenade provides pedestrian access between golden sands and a variety of hotels and holiday apartments that overlook the Indian Ocean.

You may choose to join the joggers and walkers in the early morning or late afternoon; or rent a bicycle from a promenade vendor; or follow the promenade northwards to theMoses Mabhida Stadium to sign up for a Segway tour along the beachfront.

The stadium is a beautifully designed modern sports structure that’s well worth a visit. If you’re in need of an adrenalin boost, there’s a bungee swing from the top; or take the SkyCar to the viewing site on the stadium’s great arch for a 360-degree view of Durban and a great photographic opportunity.

While in the beachfront environs, at the most southerly end, just before the Durban harbour, is uShaka Sea World, the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere and an extensive marine fun park. An aquarium tour will see two hours fly by, as there’s an incredible array of marine creatures to see.

Fancy some breakfast, or perhaps a hearty brunch? You could stay at uShaka, where there are many eateries to choose from, or pop up to the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts in Bulwer Road for a tasty meal under the trees, and then browse the gallery and ethnic craft shop for mementos afterwards.

If “retail therapy” is high on your list of things to do in Durban, the N3 road will take you to the Pavilion shopping mall in Westville, while the N2 South takes you to the Galleria shopping mall in Amanzimtoti, and the N2 North to the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga.

Durban’s best-known cuisine is curry, followed by seafood. The city has many excellent curry restaurants that specialise in this spicy cuisine, and there are as many that have made seafood their main drawcard. A hollowed-out half-loaf filled with curry – a “bunny chow” or “bunny” – is a traditional way of enjoying a Durban curry.

In the city itself, historical points of interest on your itinerary might include the City Hall, KwaMuhle Museum, the Old Court House Museum or simply taking in the many examples of 1930s art-deco architecture. Walking tours of the city also depart daily for a more comprehensive experience.

Also try the Durban Botanic Gardens, where you’re assured of a good cuppa and a plate of the best crumpets, syrup and cream south of the Sahara.

Enjoy a stroll around the gardens or take a golf-cart tour if you’re running out of time and want to see the orchid house, herbarium and other hidden parts of this magnificent green lung.

You may also cocktails on the pier at Moyo (back at the beachfront) as a lovely way to end the daylight hours, as surfers below catch the last waves of the day.

An evening meal may be a meat-lovers’ delight at the Havana Grill at the Suncoast Casino (on the promenade), or at one of the trendy restaurants that line Florida Road; or head north on the N2 to Umhlanga for a stylish repast at one of Durban’s two oldest hotels, theOyster Box or the Beverly Hills. Umhlanga has a host of alternate dining venues within a stone’s throw of these grande dames.

Source: southafrica

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Reconnecting People with Nature through Architecture and Design

By Whitney Hopkins, Vail & New York City

“The more we know of other forms of life, the more we enjoy and respect ourselves…Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life.” — E.O. Wilson

A recent, satirical New Yorker piece by Andy Borowitz quoted a fictitious resident who blamed scientists “for failing to warn us of the true cost of climate change. They always said that polar bears would starve to death, but they never told us our lawns would look like crap.”

Although this does not represent a real person’s exact feelings, the underlying sentiment sadly has more than a hint of truth. To many people, the impact of a changing environment seems distant and completely separate from our existence until we are directly confronted with the negative results.

Poorly conceived design divides us in urban areas from our wilds and has contributed to seeing nature as something isolated from us. Yet reinvigorating our bond with nature is a challenge architecture and urban design are well placed to address.

Architects and designers have control over our built environment; by changing the way we design cities and buildings to connect to rather than disconnect from nature, we can change our proximity to nature and shift our physical relationship to the environment.

Photo: Schristia. Creative Commons.

The separation that we have crafted over the centuries through our isolating designs hasn’t come without costs.

Obesity, ADHD, autism, a decline in creativity—these are all connected to a lack of environmental connection.

Unfortunately, this estrangement from nature has not only directly impacted our health, it has impacted our ability to respond to crucial modern challenges, such as climate change, because these dire environmental topics feel removed from us.

The environment appears distant because we designed it as such. Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan describe this impact in their seminal book, Ecological Design:

“What do we learn from this kind of ‘nowhere’ environment? When living and working in nowhere places becomes normal, it is no wonder that we literally lose some of our sensitivity toward nature.

Through the daily experience of the designed environment, we learn detachment… As nature has receded from our daily lives, it has receded from our

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Yet despite putting up physical barriers between nature and us, we still cannot shake our deep tie to and need for other species.

Humans have an ingrained desire to connect. E.O. Wilson describes this impulse in his ‘Biophilia Hypothesis’ in which he explains,

“…When human beings remove themselves from the natural environment, the biophilic learning rules are not replaced by modern versions equally well adapted to artifacts. Instead, they persist from generation to generation. For the indefinite future… urban dwellers will go on dreaming of snakes for reasons they cannot explain.”

We crave connection to the natural world, even if we, individually, have always been seemingly divided from it.

By calling architects and urban designers to ‘Make Nature Visible,’ as Van der Ryn and Cowan request in Ecological Design, we can begin to design places grounded in their own unique environment.

In this way, designers can revive an awareness of the natural systems that affect us and recover place-based knowledge.

The advantages of interacting with and seeing nature are numerous. Beyond technical benefits, feeling the presence of the living world around us elevates the spirit.

Supporting this movement, many architects and urban designers are inventively finding ways to reconnect us with the touch and feel of our wider biological community.

Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen
Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen 


Children seem particularly moved by biophilia and quickly gain many advantages from access to the outdoors.

Schools that get children outside into natural places find that their students perform better academically (this has proven especially true for low-income students) and are more engaged and motivated to learn.

These benefits come in addition to decreasing the need for disciplinary action, reducing stress, and increasing student attention spans.

But the gains are not just performance-based—it turns out that the outdoors even improves vision andincreases Vitamin D levels, all advantages that make students healthier.

There are some great schools that strive to put children outside and reflect this philosophy in their design.

Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen
Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen Daycare Center in Holbæk, Denmark

Sitting at the highest point in the neighborhood, the daycare center on the outskirts of Holbæk, Denmark provides a base for an outdoor-oriented school.

Teaching children outside has long been a traditional education approach in Denmark, with ‘forest schools’ dating back to the 1950s.

This daycare, designed by Henning Larsen, includes large south-facing windows, a green roof, and gardens to allow children to play outside throughout the entire year.

Fuji Kindergarten in Japan

Physically encircling a tree, the innovative Fuji Kindergarten, designed by Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, highlights nature as a teacher every day.

The children can play on an outdoor structure that surrounds the tree, climb the tree itself, or just admire the tree from every room in the school.

The school furthers its connection to nature with lots of glass and open air, which means the outdoors flow seamlessly into the indoors.

Photo by Katsuhisa Kida/FOTOTECA.

Bronx Zoo School Proposal in the Bronx, New York

In the New York City borough of the Bronx, few people have close interaction with their natural environment. This proposal, which I designed for a public school in the Bronx zoo, was aimed at rectifying this problem.

Our connection to the ecological systems becomes apparent day-to-day through this school’s open architecture and outdoor classrooms and is bolstered by the whooping crane breeding program, which is integrated into the school and managed by the students.


Connecting patients to nature has been innately valued for centuries—the first health centers were at remote monasteries intended to foster the tie between healing and the environment.

Now, a growing body of modern scientific evidence supports this notion; patient outcomes appear to be closely related to interacting with nature.

Connection to the natural environment has been shown to improve overall healthcare quality in multiple ways by reducing staff stress and fatigue, increasing the effectiveness in delivering care, improving patient safety, and reducing patient stress.

All this leads to improve health outcomes and patients who are happier and heal faster. Hospitals foster this by having views, natural light, and access to gardens or the outdoors.

The few following hospitals do this exceedingly well.

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, California

Designed in the early 1960s on the California coast, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula was ahead of its time in pulling the outdoors inside a healing environment.

The patient rooms and public spaces have large panoramic views of the surrounding forest, gardens, and courtyards and a flow between all the indoor and outdoor spaces.

It has been recently expanded and remodeled by HOK to be state of the art while maintaining the original natural tranquility.

Photo: Frank Keillor. Creative Commons.

Children’s Psychiatry Center (KPC) in Genk, Netherlands

In an artistically crafted, patient-centric building, the Children’s Psychiatry Center in the Dutch city of Genk innovatively marries a designed outdoor environment with the hospital.

Children’s well being was at the core of OSAR’s design, so every space in the center captures views of internal courtyards, gardens, or the forest.

In so doing, the hospital reduces the stress of the patients, their families, and the staff and creates a safe and warm atmosphere within the center.

Children Psychiatric Center, Genk, Belgium. Photo courtesy of OSAR.


Because the evidence of diverse benefits is so strong, contact with nature in the workplace has become a central element in the design of healthy office spaces.  Various studies have repeatedly shown thataccess to outdoor gardens or parks, indoor plants, and windows with views of natural places reduceworker stress levels.

Beyond manipulating stress levels, it appears that employees are also happier and more productive with a connection to nature.

And firms greatly benefit because sick leave and worker turnover is reduced.

With all these advantages, it is no wonder that creating contact between nature and workers is happening in offices, manufacturing plants, and every type of work environment in between.

Photo by Greg Williams. Creative Commons.

Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Michigan

A historic manufacturing facility that had been deemed a heavily polluted brownfield site, Ford transformed the facility into a vibrant, sustainable new factory.

Nature takes center stage at the facilities, which boast the largest green roof in North America, various treatment ponds and gardens, natural vegetation, and ample day lighting.

As a result, the productivity of the workers increased and sick days decreased.

One complaint: the amplified bird poop from the population that has taken up residence on the factory premise.

Selgas Cano Offices in Madrid, Spain

Within the urban area of Madrid, the architectural firm of Selgas Cano made waves with their design for their own office.

Sunken into the ground, curved glass opens the office up to spectacular and unusual views of the surrounding woods.

The space is filled with natural light that bounce of the bright interior colors.

Reportedly, employees love working in the space.

Selgas Cano Office 2885_Iwan Baan
Selgas Cano Office. Photo: Iwan Baan.


In urban areas, the expanse of human construction can particularly estrange people from the environment, so it becomes crucial to consciously give residents access to natural places.

A recent Danish study by Stigsdotter and colleagues found that people who lived more than 1 kilometer away from green space were generally less healthy.

They also showed worse vitality, were at higher risk for depression, and reported higher levels of stress and pain.

These advantages must partly contribute to the increased values of real estate adjacent to urban green space.

Some cities are working hard to bring nature into the urban core by creating or revitalizing parks and seeing green space as an essential element in their infrastructure.

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, with a highway running over it.
Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, with a highway running over it.

Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea

A stream runs through the center of Seoul, but for decades, most people would never have known.

After years of polluting the Cheonggyecheon river, the city covered it in 1968 with an elevated, 8-lane hightway, hiding the river from view.

But in 2003, the mayor began an initiative to improve traffic and restore the river.

The Cheonggyecheon park opened in 2005, bringing people into close contact with the water and newly established parks through a central urban corridor.

This project revitalized the local busineesess, improved transportation, and made the citizens happy by providing them with a delightful green space and reconnecting them to their historic river.

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul.</p><p>Photo: David Maddox
Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul. Photo: David Maddox

In partnership with nature

With nature providing such joy and many health benefits, it is time that architects and planners leverage designs that highlight the environment in our built spaces.

We can hope that beyond making a healthier and happier world, we can also prompt a more ethical relationship to nature.

As Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan conclude:

“Design transforms awareness. Designs that grow out of and celebrate place ground us in place. Designs that work in partnership with nature articulate an implicit hope that we might do the same.”

Whitney Hopkins is a designer in architecture and product design. She is interested in how design shapes society and the environment and has expertise in empathy, sustainability, and biomimicry.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective


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GREEN BUILDING is rapidly becoming the norm for new large building projects. As awareness, price and environmental pressures rise, so too has the demand for sustainable office and commercial space. New design strategies, building materials, and approaches are contributing to an ever more innovative and rapidly changing built environment. Get the latest thinking, perspectives, case studies, and projects as they unfold in multiple presentations and interactive discussions at the 9TH ANNUAL GREEN BUILDING CONFERENCE.
GREEN BUILDING is rapidly becoming the norm for new large building projects. As awareness, price and environmental pressures rise, so too has the demand for sustainable office and commercial space. New design strategies, building materials, and approaches are contributing to an ever more innovative and rapidly changing built environment. Get the latest thinking, perspectives, case studies, and projects as they unfold in multiple presentations and interactive discussions at the 9TH ANNUAL GREEN BUILDING CONFERENCE.

The Connection Between Architecture And Health

Internationally renowned architect Tye Farrow told an audience in Sydney, Australia recently that there is a connection between architecture and health. “What if our health became the basis for judging every building and every public space?” he asks. “What if each of us – every person, everywhere – asked, ‘Does this place cause health? How does it make me feel?’”

Farrow lists 5 attributes every architect should have firmly in mind when designing a building:

  • Nature:  Incorporating materials that grow naturally and that let in natural daylight as it moves with time have been proven to stimulate the brain.
  • Authenticity: Usiing designs that draw on things we know and stimulate our memories.
  • Variety: Buildings don’t all have look the same. They can express the aspirations of the organizations they are built to serve.
  • Vitality: Designs should come alive and activate spaces.
  • Legacy: Creating designs that make a lasting contribution.

If the industry understood the health-causing potential of every building, every public space and every home Farrow says, then “dreary design and merely functional places would become unacceptable. Instead, people would expect optimistic design that encourages social interaction, pride in community identity, connections to nature, cultural meaning and a positive legacy.”

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Farrow advocates for designs that focus not just on a sustainability, such as a building’s carbon footprint, but also on whether a space “causes health”, or allows people to thrive mentally, socially and physically. Farrow refers to those factors as “salutogenic” elements.

He points to the South Africa Health Center (right) which takes the shape of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, and therefore serves as a metaphor for hope, healing and renewal. “One of the team’s goals was to demonstrate what can be done in a tangible way to move beyond minor improvements in achieving a healthier population. On a global scale, the design will serve as a ‘leapfrog model’ that opens the eyes of decision-makers,” Farrow explains.

In recent years, expectations for environmental impact have been expanded to include awareness for how physical surroundings affect our state of mind,” he said. “We believe that sustainable building objectives must embrace human health issues as well as environmental effects. This means that the public should expect design to make a holistic, meaningful contribution to their lives.”

When it comes to design of outdoor spaces Farrow says, “A walkable neighborhood…..has potential in enlivening a suburb, but distance, safety and access aren’t the only ingredients for a successful recipe – it also requires streetscapes that are not boring and repetitive but which attract local residents.

“This requires thinking about the visual and physical qualities that motivates people to create thriving spaces.” He points to New York City’s Highline Park (right) as an example of healthy design. The park is built on top of an unsightly railroad trestle that used to bring freight trains into Manhattan’s West Side.

One Farrow creation the embodies all of his design ideas is the tree house shown below that Farrow Partners designed for Eterra Resort. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up inside and feel at one with nature?

Source: Green Building Elements


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Green Building Conference in June

As Green Building becomes the norm, the demand for innovative and sustainable construction solutions grows. The latest perspectives, new design strategies and cutting edge examples from international and regional speakers will be presented at the ninth annual Green Building Conference, which takes place on 24 and 25 June 2015 during the annual Sustainability Week at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria.

Buildings are a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore a more sustainable built environment is needed. The Green Building Conference, which takes place at this year’s Sustainability Week, will focus on these issues as citizens have a responsibility to minimise electricity usage, with demand exceeding supply in both commercial and residential areas. The latest best practice will be shared by renowned practitioners around the globe at this thought-provoking conference.

“The world’s population could reach almost 10 billion by 2050. Most people will live in cities. To accommodate an additional 3 billion people, we’ll need to build the equivalent of one new city, that can support one million people, every five days between now and 2050,” says Professor Barbara Norman, Foundation Chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Canberra. Norman will present extensive insights into building resilient and healthy cities for the 21st century at the Green Building Conference.

Co-founder architect of UNITYDESIGN Inc and researcher at Tokyo University, Tomohiko Amemiya will discuss how to improve urban living in high density residential areas. Amemiya will share insights gained from his work on the award-winning Slum Housing Project, Megacity Skeleton, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Kenneth Stucke, Director of Environment Response Architecture (ERA Architects) will present two green building case studies of energy, water and waste efficiency. Stucke will discuss the value of climate, geology, geography and ecology as a resource with which architecture synthesizes to produce built form.

Joan-Maria Garcia-Girona, Vice-President and Head of Business Center South Africa and Sub-Sahara at BASF, one of the sponsors of the Green Building Conference, says, “We at BASF define sustainability as a balance between economic success and social and environmental responsibility. Sustainability is at the core of our business with global standards implemented across all value chains, and we’ll be showcasing our innovative solutions that drive sustainability at the Green Building Conference during Sustainability Week 2015.”

The Green Building Conference will also offer breakaway sessions with practical learning and knowledge sharing opportunities. Retrofitting of buildings for energy efficiency, smart metering and feed in tariffs for roof top solar panels, water efficiency for buildings and landscaping, modular building designed for deconstruction and reuse or recycling, smart mobility interfacing with the built environment and sustainable infrastructure are just some of the riveting sessions to provide the foundation for green buildings.

“South Africa is now seeing a strong move to sustainable development. We at Lafarge have always played a leadership role in the industry and promoted cooperation in sustainable development. Green building in the broadest sense of sustainable development is an integral part of all aspects of our business strategy, and that is why we attach such importance to and are pleased to be a major sponsor of the Green Building Conference 2015,” says Felix Motsiri, National Mineral and Sustainability Manager at Lafarge South Africa.

Living sustainably is a cross-cutting issue that requires knowledge sharing across sectors; from water, to transport, mining and building. The Green Building Conference, sponsored by Lafarge and BASF, forms part of the larger alive2green hosted Sustainability Week which runs from 23 to 28 June 2015.

Sustainability Week, hosted by the City of Tshwane, offers a variety of conferences and seminars at the CSIR ICC from 23 to 25 June 2015. The Youth and Green Economy event will take place on 26 June 2015 at Tshwane University of Technology and the Green Home Fair will mark the end of Sustainability Week on 27 and 28 June 2015 at Brooklyn Mall. For more information on Sustainability Week, visit

Source: Leading Architecture




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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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.34.10 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.36.00 AM

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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Mauritius Commercial Bank: Ebene Building

By: Jean Francois Koenig, Architect

The Mauritius Commercial Bank, the oldest bank in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean islands founded in 1878 and based in the capital city Port Louis, February 2006 saw me design offices and training facilities in Ebene, in the centre of the island, which decentralised them from Port Louis for the first time in history.

Their brief came with instructions to keep it simple and inexpensive. They got something different that went far beyond the brief. The building reinvented the client’s way of working and thinking about the workplace and the environment.

To put it in context, it started at a time before many Green Building Councils around the world had been formed and it became the first building in the southern hemisphere to obtain a British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certificate. The building also became the first Mauritian work of architecture to represent with four others the best of African architecture at the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress inTokyo 2011, a triennial event and with it, I was elected as one of the ‘100 Architects of the World 2012’ in a competition organised by the Union of International Architects (UIA) and the Korean Institute of Architects (KIA).

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 2.03.57 PM

It has become so popular with the client that they all want to work there and sometimes board meetings traditionally held in Port Louis have been switched from head office to the new building. Energy savings begin with a well insulated building and optimum orientation. The concrete shell is insulated with 50mm rigid polystyrene, an air gap of 350mm and an 8mm thick honeycombed aluminium external skin. The portholes in the glass rings all around the ellipse are double glazed and with the air gap of the outer reflective glass skin creates a triple glazing solution. The two glass facades of the ellipse are true north-south with sunscreens whose projection depths were determined by sun path analyses. They are 1.8m on the north face and shallower at 1.2m on the south to prevent direct sunlight hitting the full height double glazing during working hours from 8.30am to 4.30pm. During this period, the blinds remain up to allow maximum glare free daylight to enter the 22m deep floor plate eliminating the need for artificial lighting entirely. Low angled early morning and late afternoon sun is controlled by perforated blinds which drop down automatically from sun sensors relayed to the computerised building management system.

The building is the expression of an abstract geometric shape in the form of a pure ellipse. It is held aloft on four pillars. Born from the need to accommodate both auditoria and offices, it is the architectural synthesis of these two different requirements fused into one single shape. It is an example that Islands care about, and can make a leading contribution to global sustainability even though they have a low carbon footprint and insignificant impact on climate change.

The orientation of the elliptical glass facades is true North-South. The blank curved East and West ends are well insulated and the portholes are triple glazed. The photovoltaic cell farm contributes to over one third of the total energy needs at peak with clean solar power.

The Board Room on the top floor shows the expressed steel structure, natural light entering from the roof and the sides, and the ample space provided for the long table as well as two rows of plants under the glass rings.

Plant rooms, traditionally situated on the roofs of buildings, are situated on lower levels for ease of access and maintenance. This liberates the roof allowing large spans and column free spaces on the upper floors facilitating internal planning.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 2.07.17 PMFull height double glazing allows in a maximum amount of natural daylight. The depth of sunscreens, deeper on the north facade and shallower on the south facade are determined from the study of sun paths. Sensor controlled perforated venetian blinds are activated automatically to control glare. To eliminate interference from external noise from the nearby motorway the glass walls of the auditoriums are triple glazed.

There are no suspended ceilings in the building, not even in the acoustically engineered auditoriums. The underside of the concrete slabs are kept bare and painted white.

Underfloor cooling passes through a stabilised air plenum without ducts optimising flexibility. No ceilings allow cold energy stored within the thermal mass of the structure to radiate directly into the floor below keeping ambient temperature down and diminishing cooling loads.

The ‘all air’ air conditioning uses ‘free cooling’ in winter months. Three large thermal storage tanks insulated and clad in polished stainless steel store energy to further reduce cooling loads.

Night time illumination accentuates the shape of the building whereby its beauty, like the soul, comes from within. Five glass rings encircle the building accentuating the purity of its geometry. Portholes enhance the air and space ship quality of the architecture gives the sense that the building is ‘landed’ on its base.

Access to the plant rooms are through “gull wing” doors. The materials chosen are long lasting and mostly maintenance free. The pillars are clad in travertine marble. The louvers are in semi-matt stainless steel. The shell is clad in aluminium and, in an honest expression of function, no attempt is made to hide the blue insulation of the shell which is seen through the glass rings. The drop off entrance porte-cochere lights are recessed in the thickness of the concrete slab. Kerbs, bollards and the sloping and curved retaining walls are in white off -shutter precast concrete.

Source: The Green Building Handbook Volume 6

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Eco-Tourism Meets Sustainable Architecture

Earlier this year a team of students from the University of Technology in Trondheim designed a very sustainable hut as part of a design- and building workshop. They were assisted by Rintala Eggertsson Architects and several others. The international seminar that the workshop was part of was focused on the future of eco-tourism in the Western Ghats region in India. And the main purpose of it was to find sustainable solutions, which would benefit both the local population as well as help preserve the environment in the region.



To solve this problem, the huts the design team proposed would be built using only locally sourced materials and renewable energy sources. This has the multi-faceted purpose of creating a small footprint, involving the community in the building efforts, simplifying the construction and ensuring that maintenance of the buildings is easy and feasible in the long run.

The placing of the huts follows the local building tradition, namely a cluster of houses placed around a central, shaded courtyard that serves as a gathering spot. There is room for a couple of more houses next to already existing dwellings, or more could be built to form another cluster of buildings with it’s own courtyard. Also, more than one of these houses can be added together and create an even more urban setting, situation and space permitting, of course.



The hut proposed by the design team also makes it possible for the local population to take part in environmentally conscious tourism. By renting the huts out they will make a profit, but it will not interfere with their traditional culture and lifestyle, as much as a more modern hotel would.


Each hut is designed to function completely off-the-grid. They are all fitted with roof-top mounted solar panels, which is capable of taking care of the occupants’ energy needs. There is also a composting latrine, which produces enough biogas for one household. The huts are located in Karnataka, India.

Source: Jeston Green


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Sweden’s greenest City Hall is topped by solar panels and a green roof in Lund

Christensen & Co Architects recently completed the first phase of Lund’s City Hall, a building that when complete, will be the greenest City Hall in all of Sweden. Designed with a pleated W-shaped plan, the building’s curtain walls bring in natural light and offer views out towards the landscape. The City Hall is located at Lund’s historic city center and will host 269,000 square feet of office space, conference facilities, a public ground floor, and accessible green roof.

Equipped with solar panels and earth water cooling, Lund City Hall only uses a fraction of the energy normally consumed by typical government buildings. Its dynamic, W-shaped facade was key in reducing the building’s energy footprint, and each facade is carefully oriented to optimize passive technologies and solar heat gain. The north-facing facades are completely glazed to maximize natural lighting indoors, while the south-facing facades are covered with dynamic solar-control panels that respond to daylight conditions. The facades facing the city center are designed with classical features to match region’s historic character.

The accessible green roof also plays a big role in making Lund City Hall energy efficient. In addition to sequestering carbon, the green roof helps regulate internal temperatures, store rainwater, and provide natural habitat for local flora and fauna. The green roof also acts as an extension between the neighboring new park and the adjacent historic city center.

Source: Inhabitat


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VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, Vancouver, Canada

Inspired by organic forms and natural systems, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver seeks to create a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape from both a visual and an ecological perspective. Completed in 2011, this dynamic 1,765 sm single-story structure includes an innovative roof form that appears to float above the building’s curved rammed earth and concrete walls. Metaphorically representing undulating petals, the building form flows seamlessly into a central oculus and the surrounding landscape.

The building was designed to align with, and contribute to the Garden’s conservation mission. Through mapping and analyzing the Garden’s ecology, the project team successfully integrated natural and human systems, restoring biodiversity and ecological balance to the site.

The Visitor Centre recently achieved LEED Platinum certification, and is the first building in Canada to register for the Living Building Challenge (LBC). The LBC places enormous constraints on projects, such as requiring materials to be supplied locally/regionally and restricting Red List Materials like PVC.

Green Building
Photo: Nic Lehoux/Courtesy Perkins+Will

The Visitor Centre uses on-site renewable sources—geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaics, solar hot water tubes—in conjunction with passive design strategies to achieve annual net-zero energy. With wood as the primary building material, enough carbon is sequestered to achieve carbon neutrality. Rainwater is filtered to provide the building’s greywater requirements; 100% of blackwater is treated by an on-site bioreactor—the first of its kind in Vancouver—and released into a new feature percolation field and garden. Natural ventilation is assisted by a solar chimney, composed of an operable glazed oculus and a perforated aluminum heatsink which converts the sun’s rays to convection energy. The solar chimney is located in the centre of the atrium and exactly at the centre of all the building’s various radiating geometry, highlighting the focal role of sustainability in form and function.