The bottom line: Global views and takeaways from season 3

Ecogradia
Ecogradia
The bottom line: Global views and takeaways from season 3
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The bottom line: Global views and takeaways from season 3

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Ecogradia
Ecogradia
The bottom line: Global views and takeaways from season 3
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Season 3 is a wrap. What were the small and large, local and global challenges singled out throughout this series? What can we control at the drawing board and what remains beyond our grip? This is what we learned.

One word sums up season 3: diversity. We spoke with practitioners from regions as far-flung as Africa, Mexico and India. We also asked thought leaders about their takes on questions feeding the global conversation: How does carbon shape design? What products should we buy? How do board rooms affect thinking at the drawing board?

Diversity took centre stage with episode 10 when Ecogradia travelled to Venice to interview the jury chairs from each of the five regions in competition at the Holcim Awards 2023. All reinforced the need for a context-driven approach and suggested that the very meaning of sustainability changes with social, economic and ecological considerations on the ground.

Episode outline

00:02:27 Paul Finch: An architect’s non-liability
00:02:56 Ambrish Arora: A uniquely Indian challenge
00:03:57 “The biggest kind of challenge in that project was this question of identity […] We were very kind of cognisant of very early on was the reason people go to a leisure hotel. And increasingly one realise that, when you go to a historic city, then you want a flavour of that region.”
00:07:01 Amory Lovins: Energy patterns at the urban scale
00:08:33 “There are, of course, technical integrations you can do between buildings — swapping heating or cooling, for example […] Maybe some of them have a better solar exposure or roof area than others and can therefore power a micro-grid better.”
00:14:20 Nigel Stansfield: The business-end of sustainable manufacturing
00:14:35 “We try always to put the lens of four different stakeholders on the question or the opportunity: so the investors, the customers, the employees and the environment… those four key stakeholders. It’s not always as clean as that — and as perfect as that — we are a publicly-quoted business with an investor community.”
00:19:15 Maria Atkinson: How change happens
00:24:09 “If I’m an architecture or an engineer, then I need to be engaged with the steel, the concrete, the aluminium and the glass industry — and in the network, across competitors. It’s the kind of thing you would do as an industry association or come together collectively with the help of government to facilitate conversations. It’s actually not that hard.”
00:29:10 Benny Kuriakose: Traditional wisdom as a gateway
00:29:46 “We had to learn from our traditional techniques… All these things — climate responsive design… we can try to make the houses more thermally comfortable — all these things we have to do. So it is not very easy.”
00:30:46 Nina Maritz: Doing more with less
00:31:40 “Passive design is extremely important because we don’t have the money for technology and we don’t have the skills to maintain technology, in any case… You want to stay away from machinery as much as possible.”
00:31:58 Tatiana Bilbao: Cultivating a culture of care
00:32:14 “I would say contract the footprint and expand your social network. If we are able to understand that our interdependency and rely on that for everything we need, then we would really become much more sustainable.”
00:33:52 Paul Finch: Hope
00:34:21 “So we have a condition in which 1.2 million architects around the world are thinking every day about doing something — which most of them will be thinking will be trying to improve the world, making things better in some way.”

Summary

Episode 10, recorded in Venice, was a summary of diversity. Before that, however, episodes 1 to 9 of season 3 were a careful unpacking of what this word means. Excerpts from these are featured here, including the views of four distinguished architects. We find out that they all seek to minimise, with varying degrees of success, the impact of external pressures, such as global supply chains.

In episode 6, for instance, Ambrish Arora, founder of Studio Lotus in Delhi, North India, focuses on the relationship of a project to nearby resources. Coincidentally, this local-first approach is also the mantra of many architects in the global south who leverage what is available.

Ambrish Arora integrates new structures with heritage buildings in the RAAS Jodhpur hotel in India with a purposeful exploration of Place.
© Studio Lotus

Another case in point, Benny Kuriakose, an architect based in Chennai, South India, adopts a similar position as Ambrish, albeit with a twist. In episode 4, he channels the vernacular, i.e. construction techniques and principles that date back centuries, which leads to his views on the rural setting, which, he says, has been neglected in the sustainability discourse.

Benny Kuriakose’s work relies on traditional skills and local materials. As a result, projects like the DakshinaChitra Museum in Chennai, cost less to build and operate.
© T.P Naseef, Benny Kuriakose & Associates

On the African continent, Nina Maritz — an architect in Namibia — undertakes projects that are often poorly funded and serve the very poor. In episode 7, she argues that the spirit of frugality must be in the driving seat. This helps the team comply with tight budgets and opens the door to creativity and innovation.

Emphasis on low-tech passive design reduces the operating cost of a building. It also creates a unique aesthetic, as seen here in the Omaheke Regional Study & Resource Centre in Gobabis, Namibia by Nina Maritz.
©Nina Maritz Architects

Layering onto these ideas, Tatiana Bilbao – an award-winning practitioner from Mexico City, Mexico – says in episode 5 that there must be an ecosystem of care, i.e. services and resources available in the neighbourhood, by the community. This will reduce our environmental footprint which, at present, is too dependent on public institutions and corporations.

While some emphasise the power of architecture, Amory Lovins – a world-renowned energy expert based in the USA featured in episode 1 – stresses that it’s not about how individual buildings or their elements perform, it is how they perform collectively. He says that integration is a strong determinant of sustainable outcomes.

Amory also talks of supply chains, i.e. how products are sourced and manufactured. Elaborating on this in episode 3, Nigel Stansfield, Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer at Interface – a company that Amory singles out – reveals what it takes to produce carbon-positive carpets in a competitive market.

The global marketplace, says Maria Atkinson – a sustainability advocate in Sydney, Australia – is governed by values and norms that often override local concerns. In episode 2, she offers a peak behind the curtains in board meetings and international gatherings of experts in which she participates, where the difficult question of ‘how change happens’ is unpacked.

Parkroyal Collection Pickering, a hotel by WOHA in Singapore, changed the perception of greenery within buildings. Its success, commercially and in public opinion, led to imitators, creating a ripple of change.
©Patrick Bingham
The Pan Pacific Orchard in Singapore, also by WOHA, pushes the case for vertical greening further. It is a prototype for high-rise tropicality that challenges ideas of beauty in architecture.
©Darren Soh, WOHA

In episodes 8 and 9, Paul Finch – founder and program director of the World Architecture Festival – summarises how the worldwide community of professional architects frame ideas of good and beauty in design, which need to be reimagined when seeking sustainability. In the bonus episode, he gets the last word on what it is that gives him hope for the future.

Season 4 is now in the making. We will elevate the conversation by examining what was alluded to in season 3. Our listeners also tell us they want to know more about how ideas – local or global – affect their work and the day-to-day challenges they face. Stay tuned.

Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:07:14 “…Integration takes many forms…”
Integrative Design: A Disruptive Source of Expanding Returns to Investments in Energy Efficiency” | RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute)
00:11:31 “…and hold down the corners with a little biomimetic disc…”
Biomimetic Design in Architecture: Origin, Pros, Cons, and its Application” | Novatr
00:15:46 “…with deep targets like ‘Mission Zero’ and ‘Climate Take Back’…”
Sustainability is in our DNA” | Interface
00:19:19 “…Decarbonisation is one of the most pressing challenges today…”
What does Decarbonisation mean?” | myclimate
00:20:01 “…So carbon accounting is actually very simple…”
Carbon assessment and cost accounting of a shared building based on the life cycle assessment” | International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies (IJLCT)
00:20:38 “…That transport company might use hydrogen or electric solutions, less carbon intensive transportation mechanisms…”
Advancing Sustainable Low-Carbon Transport Through the GEF: A STAP Advisory Document” | The Global Environment Facility (GEF)
00:27:15 “…How do we talk about carbon and embodied carbon…”
Embodied Carbon 101: Building Materials” | RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute)
00:28:05 “…We talked about the Greenhouse Gas Protocol…”
Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol)
00:31:40 “…Passive design is extremely important…”
What are Passive Design Strategies & Their Importance in architecture – 2024” | Novatr
00:02:36 “…In episode 8, Paul Finch of the World Architecture Festival…”
Paul Finch” | ADF (Asia Design Forum)
00:02:36 “…In episode 8, Paul Finch of the World Architecture Festival…”
World Architecture Festival
00:03:01 “…In episode 6, for instance, we met with Ambrish Arora…”
Team: Ambrish Arora” | Studio Lotus
00:07:08 “…In episode 1, Amory Lovins, the leading world expert on energy…”
Staff: Amory Lovins” | RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute)
00:10:17 “…the late Ray Anderson, founder of Interface …”
About Ray: Biography” | The Ray C. Anderson Foundation
00:10:17
“…the late Ray Anderson, founder of Interface…”
00:14:25 “…I sat down with Nigel Stansfield…”
Corporate Governance: Nigel Stansfield, Chief Innovation & Sustainability Officer” | Interface
00:19:22 “…Maria Atkinson, in episode 2, spoke on this as well…”
Maria Atkinson AM
00:19:28 “…in a session she shared at the Holcim Foundation Impact Summit…”
Holcim Foundation Impact Summit” | Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
00:25:04 “…that all of them — the Rocky Mountain Institute, AECOM engineers, all sorts of great minds…”
RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute)
00:25:04 “…that all of them — the Rocky Mountain Institute, AECOM engineers, all sorts of great minds…”
AECOM
00:29:21 “…starting in episode 4 with Benny Kuriakose…”
About Us: About Benny Kuriakose” | Benny Kuriakose & Associates
00:30:46 “…Nina Maritz is an architect from Namibia…”
NINA MARITZ” | Nina Maritz Architects
00:32:04 “…Tatiana Bilboa, the world-renowned architect from Mexico…”
Tatiana Bilboa” | Britannica
00:03:09 “…one of his firm’s best-known projects, the RAAS Jodhpur, a boutique hotel in a desert city in India…”
RAAS Jodhpur” | Studio Lotus
00:03:09 “…one of his firm’s best-known projects, the RAAS Jodhpur, a boutique hotel in a desert city in India…”
India” | Britannica
00:03:22 “…in the heart of the bold city of Jodhpur…”
Jodhpur” (Rajasthan, India) | Britannica
00:03:53 “…and possibly the best maintained one: the Mehrangarh Fort…”
Mehrangarh Fort” | Britannica
00:22:28 “…in a highly regulated environment like Singapore or Australia…”
Singapore” | Britannica
00:22:28 “…in a highly regulated environment like Singapore or Australia…”
Australia” | Britannica
00:30:46 “…Nina Maritz is an architect from Namibia…”
Namibia” | Britannica
00:32:04 “…Tatiana Bilboa, the world-renowned architect from Mexico…”
Mexico” | Britannica
00:06:20 “…and then using the idea of the lattice in stone — the jaali…”
Evolution of the Jaali at RAAS Jodhpur” | Studio Lotus
00:09:18 “…if we don’t have the grid necessarily in between the solar panel…”
Solar panel” | Wikipedia

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Managing editor
Kruti Choksi Kothari

Communications executive
Sana Gupta

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown | Phlogiston

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