Carbon-neutral architecture goes beyond building materials: planning, logistics and context

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Carbon-neutral architecture goes beyond building materials: planning, logistics and context

Talking about carbon neutrality in architecture should not be based solely on local materials and new technologies, because many aspects impact the construction production chain. From design to construction, without losing sight of the context and the economic system of our society, the construction industry is responsible for a considerable part of the energy consumed in the world. To interfere in this reality, it is necessary to broaden the fronts of action, to question the place of construction in our society.

Xiangshawan Desert Lotus Hotel / PLaT Architects.  Image Cortesia by PLaT ArchitectesBuilding 78 Corlett Drive / Daffonchio and Associates.  Image © Adam LetchJardim Botânico VanDusen / Perkins+Will .  Image Cortesia by Perkins & WillColapso da represa de minerio de ferro de Brumadinho, Janeiro de 2019. Imagem via Daily Overview.  .  Image © Maxar Technologies – Westminster, Colorado+5

The concept of carbon neutrality consists of canceling or canceling the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activities, reducing existing emissions of carbon dioxide and applying methods of absorbing these gases from the atmosphere. In recent years, this concept has been integrated into certain architectural practices, mainly in large corporate projects, located mainly in wealthier cities around the world, which has generated a development of technologies, tools and knowledge that highlights carbon neutral architecture. .

Jardim Botânico VanDusen / Perkins+Will .  Image Cortesia by Perkins & Will
Jardim Botânico VanDusen / Perkins+Will . Image Cortesia by Perkins & Will

Although it is a broad debate, carbon neutral architecture tends to emerge mainly from two fronts in the discussion of architectural practice: design strategies and construction technology. It seeks to reduce the impact on the environment by consuming its environment as little as possible and by generating as little waste as possible. To this end, projects usually propose strategies that respond to this dynamic, for example by reducing the need for air conditioning through passive design solutions, which use natural cross ventilation and the thermal inertia of materials. In addition to passive design strategies, technologies such as energy self-sufficiency, which consists in producing what one needs from wind or solar equipment, or even the retention and use of rainwater, are also widely used. explored in projects aiming for carbon neutrality.

Building 78 Corlett Drive / Daffonchio and Associates.  Image © Adam Letch
Building 78 Corlett Drive / Daffonchio and Associates. Image © Adam Letch

While these strategies focus on the maintenance and lifespan of buildings, it is important to note that of the 40% of global energy consumption linked to construction, 80% concerns transformation, production and transport. building materials. This means that in addition to resource reuse and energy optimization, an important neutral architecture strategy is to map the construction production chain, with a view to emitting greenhouse gases and to propose alternative solutions in the possible scales, either by changing the construction technique, by prioritizing local materials and vernacular techniques, or from possible local consumption, by seeking suppliers and workers close to the territory, by saving circuits with fossil fuels, for example.

Xiangshawan Desert Lotus Hotel / PLaT Architects.  Image Cortesia by PLaT Architectes
Xiangshawan Desert Lotus Hotel / PLaT Architects. Image Cortesia by PLaT Architectes

It is important to emphasize, however, that construction is one of the main economic activities in the world, playing an important role in the employment of people and in the movement of resources and has on several occasions represented an important ally in the economic recovery in the midst of crises. At the same time, after the industrial revolution, the construction industry integrated a logic that transformed the entire production chain in the search for efficiency and speed, not only on construction sites, but also in the way of extracting and transforming natural materials, even to the detriment of the environment and labor relations. Currently, despite numerous efforts and research, it is increasingly evident that this production logic is incompatible with a carbon-neutral production chain and also with the maintenance of life as we know it today on the planet. .

Colapso da represa de minerio de ferro de Brumadinho, Janeiro de 2019. Imagem via Daily Overview.  .  Image © Maxar Technologies – Westminster, Colorado
Colapso da represa de minerio de ferro de Brumadinho, Janeiro de 2019. Imagem via Daily Overview. . Image © Maxar Technologies – Westminster, Colorado

Therefore, on the one hand, the key elements of neutral architecture are in planning and design, seeking to employ solutions that seek low energy consumption and low greenhouse gas emissions in its production chain, taking into account all the stages, from the extraction of the raw material to the work, on the other hand, this intervention is limited by the social conditions of the construction activity in each context. The standardization of the production chain, linked to materials and techniques with a high impact on the environment, makes it difficult to find alternatives in the sector, whether due to its high cost, the difficulty of the hand -work or logistical incompatibilities, such as lack of access to materials and technologies.

Thus, discussions on carbon neutral architecture must integrate, in addition to technology and design themes, debates on the production chain of civil construction and how the context impacts the acceptance and incorporation of these solutions. in the projects, seeking to broaden the debate and consequently its performance.

This article is part of ArchDaily Topics: The Road to Net Zero Architecture. Each month we explore a specific topic through articles, interviews, news and projects. Learn more about ArchDaily topics. As always, ArchDaily welcomes contributions from our readers; if you want to submit an article or a project, contact us.

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