Each year, architects and builders outdo themselves on the beauty and practicality they incorporate into the world’s new structures. As legislation and social awareness make eco-conscious green buildings an imperative going forward, eco friendly construction companies continue to live up to the demands to make green buildings that require fewer new materials and create less waste.
The green buildings on this list were designed years ago, so they won’t reflect the building trends that green builders supply in 2021, but they all factor sustainability into their designs. Though these green buildings are located all around the world, each takes into account not only environmental but also social impacts of the buildings on the community at large, both key elements in Canada’s Sustainable Building Council’s plan for advancing the environmental and energy performance of the built environment. These green buildings focus on bringing people together in public common areas, fostering the positive impacts of greenery and natural light in users’ daily lives, and working to minimize the carbon footprint each building creates.
Valley in the Netherlands
This 75,000 sq. m. mixed-use project by MVRDV is mainly residential, but it brings some urban amenities to the area, too, including a publicly accessible sky bar that sits 100 meters off the ground. Also included are 7 stores of offices, and various retail and cultural facilities. Perhaps the most notable thing about this green building is the greenery that grows on a terraced, publicly accessible valley between two of the three towers on the 4th and 5th levels and surrounding the central tower, along with the vegetation that runs up and down the sides of the building. The greenery adds to the impact of the building’s sustainable construction – the building has reached a -0.3 EPC rating and a GPR score of 8.
World’s Largest Waste-to-Energy Plant in Shenzhen, China
Expected to incinerate 5,000 tonnes of waste per day and produce 550 million kWh of electricity annually, the Shenzhen power plant will turn trash into treasure for the city’s 20 million inhabitants. Designed by Danish firms Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Gottlieb Paludan, much of the building’s 66,000 sq. m. roof will be covered in photovoltaic panels, so the green building will have its own renewable energy source on site. Not only will the 112,645 sq. m. building serve to cope with a third of Shenzhen’s annual waste, it will also serve to educate the public about the growing concern garbage poses by inviting the public to walkway tours and detailed views of the plant’s operation.
Bee’Ah Headquarters in the UAE
Located in the middle of the desert, Bee’Ah’s new headquarters will need to withstand some harsh environmental conditions. That’s why the green building has been designed with its locale in mind: the rolling, the wind-resistant dune-like structure is clad with materials that can reflect the sun’s rays, minimizing the amount of cooling that’s needed during the day. Waste heat generated by air conditioning the 7,000 sq. m. structure will be used to provide hot water. A central courtyard welcomes natural light into the interior, and adjustable openings in the facade allow cooler air in for natural ventilation when weather conditions are favourable. Although the green building’s design is unique, it’s been kept to standard dimensions so much of the material used to build it can be recovered from construction and demolition waste. The green building will produce some of the power required to run it through photovoltaic panels, and through energy produced at the waste management facility.
BRAC University Campus and Public Park in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Divided into two separate layers, BRAC’s 5.3 acre university campus will serve as a private learning area for “Acadamia” in a raised canopy, and a ground-level “Campus Park” that will welcome the public. The park area will clean up an existing swamp and replace it with a sustainable bio-retention pond, surrounded by native landscaping, and sheltered from the hot sun and monsoon rains by the structure above. Leaving no space unused, a recreation park will live on the roof, complete with swimming pool, running track, and a sports field, all sheltered under a layer of photovoltaic panels that will power the building’s lights and High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) fans. Green walls will help cope with some of the heat accumulated from the sun and act as natural noise suppressants. The floor plan is designed to allow natural light and cross-ventilation through each classroom.
Aquarela Complex in Quito, Equador
The best known fact about the Aquarela may be the architect behind it: Jean Nouvel, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, who teamed up with Alberto MEDEM and Humboldt Arquitectos, gives some serious notoriety to the work. When complete the Aquarela will boast nine towers, the first three of which are scheduled to be completed in 2021. The total project will be home to 600 residential units, plus a gym, spa, squash court, barber shop, pet spa, ice skating rink, and games rooms, among many other amenities. The towers are designed to blend in with their surroundings, to fit in as part of the Cumbaya valley. As such, vegetation features heavily throughout the buildings, including 1.5 hectares of outdoor greenery spread between vertical gardens, terraces, balconies, and walkways. Water for the green buildings will be heated using energy produced by solar panels, and the project adheres to an eco-efficiency matrix, meaning technical design, materials, and construction were focused on creating the least possible impact when it comes to the use of non-renewable resources.
While this year is likely to see a spike in COVID-inspired building trends that focus on flexible indoor spaces and on increased outdoor living, green building technology isn’t going anywhere. The Canadian Green Building Council says over 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be avoided by 2030 if new structures are built to zero-carbon status. Climate change is a continuing concern, using ingenuity and artistry, as these builders have done, the built world can have a huge impact to reduce the amount of waste and emissions humans emit.