Sustainable construction takes centre stage
Sustainable construction aims to meet present day needs for housing, working environments and infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in times to come.
It incorporates elements of economic efficiency, environmental performance, and social responsibility. It has the greatest impact when architectural quality, technical innovation and transferability are included.
This is how the sustainable construction was defined at the Regional LafargeHolcim Awards 2017 for Asia Pacific.
LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, an independent legal entity supported by LafargeHolcim, organised the awards ceremony at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 23.
The fifth edition of the competition for architects, engineers, urban planners and developers attracted 5,085 entries from authors in 121 countries, said Donald Bates, head of the LafargeHolcim Awards Jury for Asia Pacific, at the awards night.
The foundation okayed 1,836 entries after the pre-screening phase, he said.
This year, the foundation honoured three projects with the main award and four projects in each region with acknowledgement prizes and another four with Next Generation prizes.
The International LafargeHolcim Awards is the world's most significant competition in sustainable design, said Edward Schwarz, general manager of LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.
The foundation, a non-profit organisation, was initiated in 2003 mainly to promote sustainability in construction, Schwarz said.
"Upfront, a set of five target issues for sustainable construction were developed, to make it easier to measure what we are doing in this foundation and to be able to live up to certain standards with regard to innovation, environmental performance, social performance, economic compatibility and also architectural proficiency," he said.
The foundation carries out two main activities. On one hand are the academic symposiums taking place once every three years, dedicated to a specific topic relevant to sustainable construction, he said.
"And on the other hand, the LafargeHolcim awards competition, a series of five regional and global competitions for projects and visions in sustainable construction."
The broad scope of entries in the competition makes it difficult to anticipate much beyond an exciting array of projects responding to the challenges of sustainability in various local contexts, Schwarz said.
Through its activities, the LafargeHolcim Foundation has developed a close-knit global network of academic and professional experts and acts as an information hub connecting professions, geographies and generations.
To pursue its goals, the foundation collaborates closely with some of the most renowned technical universities worldwide, with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich/EPFL Lausanne), Switzerland, as the seat of the academic committee of the foundation.
Projects and visionary concepts in the fields of architecture, building, civil engineering, landscape and urban design, materials, products, and construction technologies that live up to the five "target issues" for sustainable construction are eligible for entry, Schwarz said.
A total of $2 million in prize money is awarded in each three-year cycle to leading projects of professionals as well as bold ideas from the next generation, he said.
The competition is handled in two stages. In the regional phase, the best projects and concepts are sought in the five world regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East Africa and the Asia Pacific.
The juries evaluate the projects based on the five "target issues" for sustainable construction set forth by the LafargeHolcim Foundation and its affiliated universities.
In the global phase, the 15 projects that receive the Gold, Silver or Bronze Awards in the regions automatically qualify for the Global Awards.
In the main awards category of the LafargeHolcim Awards 2017 Asia Pacific, a home for marginalised children at Thane in India won the Gold Award.
A home for 30 children, this building replaces their existing facility which tends to flood and lacks ventilation.
The jury was taken with the project's "Alice in Wonderland"-like approach which re-envisions a small urban building through the eyes of children.
The concept of an impressive micro library to be established at Bandung in Indonesia achieved the Silver Award.
Set within a park, the micro library aims to raise literacy by offering attractive spaces for reading. In the words of the authors, "Being situated within a park, having an all-side open pavilion where one can enter from any direction is contextual and relevant."
The floating campus project of Brac University, to be established in Dhaka of Bangladesh, bagged the Bronze Award.
The authors aim to introduce buildings and open space on remediated swampland in Dhaka. They designed a university building that floats on a pond. The jury believes the campus will set a net benchmark for sustainability in Asia.
The most interesting thing is that more than half of all entries were submitted by participants younger than 30 years of age, said Schwarz.
The Asia Pacific competition region is particularly diverse in terms of cultures, countries, and climates, said Marc Angelil, head of the academic committee of the LafargeHolcim Foundation.
The diversity of the Asia Pacific competition was perfectly reflected in the more than 1,100 projects submitted, he said.
Angélil noted how the "target issues" for sustainable construction allow diverse projects to be compared and ranked.
He also shed light on the high quality of submissions: "Sustainability has become comprehensive, systematic and specific – you have to deliver a truly special entry to stand out!"
"What is important for me is to anticipate what the next step would be within sustainable construction. It is a developing concept. It's constantly changing its focus," said Angélil who is also an architect and professor of architecture and design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
"It started with technical issues and moved into social issues and now questions of economy are more and more at the forefront. And we are looking for the next possible steps that will form sustainable construction."
"I think one of the biggest impacts that the LafargeHolcim Foundation has is to promote truly the next generations of architects, landscape designers and urbanists – the people that we haven't yet heard of," he said.
The LafargeHolcim Foundation recognises the critical importance of supporting the future generation of professionals to develop "out-of-the-box" sustainable design concepts.
To make the criteria of sustainable construction concise and transparent, the LafargeHolcim Foundation defined five "target issues":
Progress: Projects must demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development, pushing the envelope of practice and exploring new disciplinary frontiers.
People: Projects must adhere to the highest ethical standards and promote social inclusion at all stages of construction, from planning and building to use and servicing, to ensure an enduring positive impact on communities.
Planet: Projects must exhibit sensible use and management of natural resources throughout their entire life cycle.
Prosperity: Projects must be economically feasible and able to secure financing – whether from public, commercial, or concessional sources – while having a positive impact on society and the environment.
Place: Projects must convey a high standard of architectural quality as a prevalent form of cultural expression.