BREEAM-Excellent Le Monde Group HQ by Snhetta opens in Paris

February 3, 2021 by  
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French media company Le Monde Group has recently welcomed its 1,600 employees into its new headquarters, a striking Snøhetta-designed building that’s not only certified BREEAM Excellent but has also been awarded the prestigious French real estate prize, Grand Prix SIMI, in the category “New Office Building Larger than 10,000 square meters.” Located in the city’s 13th arrondissement, the curvaceous office building draws the eye with its bold plaza, soaring archway and semi-transparent outer skin that comprises over 20,000 pixelated glass elements in a pattern with nearly 800 possible configurations. The facade’s sophisticated, text-like pattern evokes the printed letters of newspapers and magazines.  Located at the intersection of Paris ’ old historic parts and the more modern district on the Rive Gauche, the 23,000-square-meter Le Monde Group Headquarters unites the company’s six newsrooms, which had been previously scattered across different sites in the city, under one roof. Transparency, accessibility and a sense of open dialogue with Paris drove the design of the building’s translucent, dynamic facade and public plaza with ground-floor retail spaces. The site also features over 300 bicycle parking spots and easy access to a neighboring train station. Related: Snøhetta completes stunning Norwegian cabins for glacier hikers “Since its inception the Le Monde Group Headquarters has embodied an architectural and symbolic counterpoint to the many challenges our societies face today,” said Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founding partner of Snøhetta . “The building is primarily about opening up in a time where fear and uncertainty pushes our societies to increase barriers and strengthen security enforcement. In this sense, the project invites us to reflect on how architecture can create spaces that can be both public and private, exterior and interior, transparent or opaque. Like so many other of our projects, it is a hybrid building that explores the interstices of architecture and that is conceived to be at the service of the public.” Solar panels cover almost the entire roof of the building, while a portion of the building is pulled back to make room for an open-air terrace framed in vegetation. Accessible from both sides of the structure, the elevated terrace provides stunning views of the surrounding cityscape and the Seine River. Inside, the light-filled interiors include high-quality, expansive offices with a variety of flexible workspaces and meeting rooms as well as amenities such as a library, a staff restaurant, an auditorium and a Le Monde Group analogue archive. + Snøhetta Photography by Marwan Harmouche, Ludwig Favre and Jared Chulski via Snøhetta

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MIA Architecture’s office blends into the landscape with a mirrored facade

January 21, 2021 by  
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If ever there is a building type to emphasize dynamic appeal and make a statement, it should belong to an architectural firm. Standing true to this idea is the new office building for MIA Architecture, a firm located in Beaufays, Belgium. To articulate, MIA Architecture’s offices are actually an extension of an existing building, a home built in the 1970s. Expanding on the footprint of the home, the new addition honors the established height and also works with the same base of painted bricks and masonry heads. The project added an office as well as a meeting space and technical premises. Related: Bangkok’s Mega Park reimagines mega-malls as green community hubs If you approach the building from the front, you would barely notice it’s there, thanks to an ultimate harmonization with the heavily wooded environment. The exterior is framed in a “ mirror box ” that reflects the surrounding landscape, effectively cloaking the building from view. This ability to nearly disappear allows the unique office building to stand out while simultaneously blending into its environment. Windows are hidden behind the translucent skin (SGG Mirastar glass) and are only visible after dark, adding to the sci-fi effect. The design is remarkably discrete while making the entryway obvious with a metal grate walkway that seems to float above the ground. A wooden door materializes as visitors come closer toward the northwest corner of the building. Once inside, the oversized window provides views of the landscape, drawing the outside in and immersing the workspace into the gardens. The décor is minimalist with a streamlined black-and-white color palette. Beyond the look is the function, and MIA Architecture’s offices are constructed with efficiency in mind. The wood frame is filled with energy-saving insulation. Perhaps even more impressive than a nearly invisible facade is the technique used to construct the space in around three month’s time with low site-impact . + MIA Architecture Images via MIA Architecture

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MIA Architecture’s office blends into the landscape with a mirrored facade

Past and future come together at the sustainable Auric Hall

January 14, 2021 by  
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How can architecture serve the needs of culture and civilization? IMK Architects, a pioneer in urban design founded in 1957, answers that question with Auric Hall, its new project in Aurangabad, India . Auric Hall serves as a landmark building for Aurangabad, an industrial smart city . The city itself was developed as part of a strategic development plan created by the Indian government to completely change the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. At the center of the development plan is Auric Hall, a 16,600-square-meter building. Designed to provide space for administrative and commercial functions, Auric Hall also promotes collaboration, the flow of ideas and an amazing environment that honors the past while looking toward the future. As an architectural showcase, Auric Hall pays homage to Aurangabad’s history and works with its climate. To this end, the design includes decorative features such as ceremonial gateways, arches and beautiful jaali screens. The design evokes historic Mughal architecture, with an incredible style that combines ornate design, symmetry and function. Auric Hall puts on a modern twist on these historical elements via its beautiful atrium garden and indoor terraces that promote a social, community-oriented environment. The design seeks to encourage discussion, cross-collaboration and interaction. With Aurangabad’s semi-arid climate in mind, Auric Hall’s design incorporates passive cooling. A laser-cut aluminum jaali screen on the facade serves not only as an eye-catching design feature but also minimizes solar heat gain and controls the building’s airflow. These features help regulate internal temperatures. Meanwhile, solar panels and energy metering help keep the building energy-efficient. The building also includes CO2 monitoring to ensure environmental quality control. Incorporating these features alongside high-performance materials allows Auric Hall to achieve IGBC Gold rating, the second-highest IGBC available. These environmental and sustainability considerations demonstrate IMK Architects’ commitment to its company values of “sustainable, environment conscious architecture.” + IMK Architects Images via IMK Architects

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Drought leaves Istanbul with just 45 days’ worth of water

January 14, 2021 by  
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Turkey’s capital Istanbul could run out of water in the next 45 days if rain does not fall. Other major cities in the country also face the risk of running dry in the next few months. These circumstances are due to poor rainfall in the past year, leading to the country’s severest drought in over a decade. Istanbul alone is home to over 17 million people but has very low levels of water. Akgün ?lhan, a water management expert at the Istanbul Policy Center, says that the country has been approaching the water scarcity issue the wrong way. Related: Thousands of farm workers face extreme conditions in California “Instead of focusing on measures to keep water demand under control, Turkey insists on expanding its water supply through building more dams … Turkey has built hundreds of dams in the last two decades,” ?lhan said. “The warning signs have been there for decades but not much has been done in practice.” Other cities facing major water scarcity include Izmir and Bursa. In Izmir, the dams are about 36% full while Bursa dams are approximately 24% full. Further, farmers in wheat-growing areas are struggling to retain their crops. Experts warn that if it does not rain soon, they risk losing a year’s yield. Turkey is a water-stressed country, with just 1,346 cubic meters of water available per person each year. The country has had to battle with severe droughts since the 1980s, but the situation has been getting worse. Droughts have now become recurrent and more severe due to climate change , which has been accelerated by industrialization and urbanization. To make the problem worse, population growth over the years continues to put pressure on the country’s water resources. Ümit ?ahin, who teaches global climate change and environmental politics at Istanbul’s Sabanc? University, said that government policies have not prioritized the conservation of water resources despite the fact that the country is water-stressed. “Yet in Istanbul, for instance, the most vital water basins, the last forests and agricultural land, [have been opened] to urban development projects … the new airport, the new Bosphorus bridge, its connection roads and highways, and the Istanbul canal project,” ?ahin said. “These policies cannot solve Turkey’s drought problem.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Drought leaves Istanbul with just 45 days’ worth of water

The European bison population is no longer vulnerable

January 14, 2021 by  
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The European bison’s population has increased sufficiently for it to be removed from IUCN’s list of vulnerable species. Thanks to long-term conservation work, the population has increased to more than 6,200, up from a 2003 figure of only 1,800. Rather than vulnerable, the European bison is now classified as “almost threatened.” Romania is the place to be if you’re a bison — or somebody who wants to see them roaming free. The largest populations are in Vân?tori Neam? Natural Park, ?arcu Mountains and F?g?r? Mountains. The Tarcu herd of over 65 bison was developed by WWF Romania and Rewilding Europe. Related: Cow escapes pen to live wild with a herd of bison in Poland The 5-year LIFE Bison project started in 2016 and is set to end March 30, 2021. Its mission is to create a viable population of bison in Romania that would breed in the wild, promoting biodiversity . The project also aims to use bison as an ecotourism draw that will help local communities. The LIFE Bison project is co-funded by the LIFE Programme, the European Union’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action that was created in 1992. “The bison calves born in the wild and the support of local communities are good signs that bison belong to these ancestral lands, but let’s not forget that the species is still threatened by various challenges, from habitat loss to ambiguity in legislative processes,” said Marina Drug?, LIFE Bison project manager, WWF-Romania, in a press release. “That is why we believe that only by working together can we ensure the progress made in the last 70 years will not decline, but that we will witness a change for the better.” The European bison hit a low point early in the 20th century, when it only survived in captivity. The reintroduction of the bison into the wild began in the 1950s. So far, Russia, Poland and Belarus have the largest subpopulations. But the species will still rely on conservation measures for the foreseeable future. + LIFEBison Photography by Daniel Mîrlea/Rewilding Europe via WWF

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The European bison population is no longer vulnerable

Perkins Eastmans WELL Platinum Chicago office prioritizes employee health

January 11, 2021 by  
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Global architecture and design firm Perkins Eastman has earned WELL Platinum certification for its new Chicago studio, making it the first WELL Platinum-certified project in the state of Illinois and the fourth of its kind in the U.S. Awarded through the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) WELL v2 pilot, the workplace earned this prestigious distinction with its health-focused design based on 10 categories of building performance. Established in October 2014 and currently in its second iteration, the WELL program was created by the U.S. Green Building Council, the same organization behind the LEED certification program. Unlike LEED, which deals primarily on building performance, the WELL certification program focuses mainly on people by advancing health and wellness with criteria such as air quality and access to natural light. Related: New International WELL Building Institute HQ achieves Platinum In addition to achieving WELL Platinum certification, Perkins Eastman’s Chicago studio is located in the historic Rookery building that was recently awarded the WELL Health & Safety Rating, which was specifically created with post-pandemic workplaces in mind. Designed by the Chicago studio in collaboration with the Perkins Eastman workplace design team, the newly certified office meets WELL’s 10 categories of building performance: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. The office includes features such as air quality sensors that measure carbon dioxide, TVOC, humidity, temperature and particulate matter levels; acoustic felt wall and ceiling treatments; and full sit/stand stations for flexible working options. “WELL certification will be even more important for workspaces as restrictions lift following the COVID-19 crisis and people begin heading back to their offices,” said Jerry Walleck, AIA, managing principal of Perkins Eastman’s Chicago studio. “The care and attention that we paid to improving air quality, particularly in following the guidelines of the WELL Building Standard, helped us create an environment that is healthier and safer for our employees as they return to the office.” + Perkins Eastman Photography by Andrew Rugge via Perkins Eastman

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Tesla: the real environmental impact

January 11, 2021 by  
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Since the introduction of the initial Tesla electric vehicle (EV), consumers have sought accurate information regarding the total carbon footprint of EVs as they compare to traditional internal combustion engines (ICEs). We know Elon Musk’s Tesla vehicles create less pollution out of the tailpipe, but what about those batteries? The truth is, direct comparisons are difficult to make due to the endless variables to take into account. But as more information about batteries and manufacturing becomes available, it is important to consider all of the factors to make the most sustainable decision when it comes to car ownership. Tesla’s messaging Some of Tesla’s claims over the years have amounted to little more than hype. There’s even been a dose of greenwashing in the creatively crafted claims regarding sustainable corporate practices. Still, Tesla is the undeniable leader in the innovation, production and style now associated with energy-efficient cars. So, how green is Tesla, and is owning one really a thoughtful consideration for the environment? Related: Go off the grid with a Tesla-powered adventure vehicle by Ready.Set.Van. Manufacturing impact Running a factory is resource-intensive. Reports vary regarding the carbon footprint of the actual product though. While the parts are different, it’s generally accepted that Tesla vehicle production is equivalent or less-consumptive than standard vehicle builds. From the beginning, Musk has spouted claims about the efficiency of Tesla plants, with the use of high-tech robots for precision and LED lighting to save energy as well as reliance on local renewable energy. The company claims to have earned a zero-waste certification at the Fremont plant, although there have been reports showcasing the company’s waste at this plant. As new plants are constructed from the ground up, they are built to rely on renewable energy sources. In addition, the company’s water reduction efforts are seen across the sales, service and delivery facilities. It has even implemented waterless car washes in some areas. While the company goal is to lead the way in sustainable practices, it is still hovering around progress rather than perfection. By comparison to standard manufacturing practices, however, Tesla’s conservation methods are welcome environmentally. Materials sourcing The main hit to the environment in regards to Tesla EV production is in the materials needed for the batteries. There have been deep contradictions between Tesla’s stated objectives to source raw materials from suppliers who ensure environmentally friendly and ethical processes and reports of a questionable supply chain. Over the years, there have been accusations of poor treatment of the Indigenous population surrounding a lithium mine in Argentina, a dirty source of graphite from China and cobalt mined under harsh conditions. Tesla responded by saying the supply chains are complex and the company is continuing to find ways to clean them up. The company stated, “Reliably determining the origin [of these materials] is a difficult task, but the due diligence practices required of our suppliers adds transparency to help us and our suppliers adhere to the responsible sourcing principles of our Code.” You can read the Tesla Supplier Code of Conduct and the Human Rights and Conflict Minerals Policy to better understand these goals. Lifespan Electric cars don’t rely on the same parts as a combustion engine, and overall EV components last longer. With this in mind, comparisons shouldn’t be made on a one-to-one basis. ICE vehicles will need to be replaced more often, doubling the impact of material sourcing, manufacturing and scrap waste . In short, a product that lasts longer produces less waste. Charging stations  One of the prevalent arguments regarding EVs is the fact that they charge using electrical power. That power is most often sourced from the local power grid, which can be composed of a variety of sources including the very fossil fuels electric cars aim to eliminate. While Musk has repeatedly claimed that Tesla charging stations are 100% powered by renewable energy, this statement from a company spokesperson is likely closer to the truth. “We aim for carbon neutrality, and where the market allows via wholesale power purchase, we source renewable energy , even though it is slightly more expensive. In Europe, the power for all our Supercharger stations is sourced by renewable energy. Continuing to convert our superchargers to solar power will push us further down that road.” To some degree, it’s out of Tesla’s hands when it comes to public electricity, including what the consumer uses once they get their car home. It’s up to each Tesla owner to invest in solar panels or subscribe to renewable energy sources through their utility provider. It’s important to note the combination of energy sources varies widely across the country. For example, Iowa relies on wind for around 40% of its energy production while West Virginia sources nearly 100% of its energy from coal. Therefore, even an electric vehicle can be petroleum-consumptive in areas with a heavy reliance on fossil fuels . While Tesla may not be able to count on complete reliance on renewable energy, it does own a solar power production company. This adds up to a carbon offset, which is a good thing. However, it shouldn’t be considered when measuring the carbon footprint from Tesla cars as a whole. Battery disposal Battery disposal is another hot topic with concerns over massive, and potentially toxic, waste. However, the newest generation of batteries, especially Tesla batteries aimed at eliminating cobalt altogether, are highly recyclable. Not only can 90% of the battery be recycled , but even after its usable life in a Tesla, the battery can be used for energy storage for another 20 years or so. In addition, batteries can be refurbished by replacing bad cells or removing good cells to use in another battery. Tesla’s appeal and innovation The bottom line is Tesla has propelled EV production ahead by leaps and bounds with its innovation and dedication to sustainable practices. Perhaps even more powerful is the sleek, appealing designs that excite buyers and continue to grow a customer base willing to now own an electric vehicle. It has been, and continues to be, a driving force for continued improvements across the industry and a catalyst that sparks individuals to drive into the future of electric vehicles. Both are a win for the planet. Via The Drive , Clean Technica and Slate Images via Unsplash

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A French wine cellars updated facade doubles as housing for local bats

December 31, 2020 by  
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Bordeaux-based design studio MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes has recently crafted a new facade for a French wine cellar that doubles as shelter for local bats. Although contemporary in design, the new construction pays homage to its rural surroundings with its simple, gabled shape. Eleven bat nesting boxes have been discreetly integrated into one of the building’s timber-clad, gabled end walls. Simply titled the Bat Wine Cellar, the multifunctional project combines a low-maintenance yet beautiful facade with ecological purpose. The inhabitable facade of the contemporary wine cellar features 11 bat nesting boxes that run the width of the gabled end wall and are constructed of timber to camouflage them into the wooden exterior. To ensure a dark and safe environment for the bats, the architects created a small opening at the bottom of each box as well as ridges on the interior for the bats to hang upside down. Related: Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing “bat-friendly” streetlights “Useful in the vineyards to regulate insect and butterfly populations, the future inhabitants of this place will have all the necessary comfort: darkness, warmth and height to protect themselves from predators,” MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes explained in a project statement. In addition to eliminating unwanted pests from the vineyards, the bats can also serve important pollination roles. The dark timber cladding takes cues from the local agricultural vernacular, which includes wood-clad sheds as well as tobacco dryers finished with tar and used oil that dot the rural Bordeaux landscape. The architects used the traditional Japanese wood charring technique of shou sugi ban to treat the wood, which takes on a handsome appearance. Although the process can be time consuming, charring the wood offers benefits such as resistance against rot and pests. As a result, the preserved cladding requires little maintenance. The Bat Wine Cellar project was completed in 2016. + MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes Images via MOONWALKLOCAL

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A French wine cellars updated facade doubles as housing for local bats

A 1905 home reborn as greenery-filled office in Mexico City

December 24, 2020 by  
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Mexican architecture firm  Gabriel Beas Arquitectura  has transformed a 1905 building in the historic  Mexico City  neighborhood of Colonia San Rafael into Corporativo BNS, a contemporary office space surrounded by lush landscaping. Completed in phases over four years, the adaptive reuse project recovered much of the carved stonework, iron windows, carpentry and tiled floors original to the 1905 construction while introducing a new contemporary aesthetic that welcomes the outdoors in.  Oriented east to west on a long and linear site, the 1,095-square-meter Corporativo BNS consists of office spaces, meeting rooms, storage and other service spaces. In remodeling the structure, the architects learned that the building was converted into an  office  in the 1970s. After this, a series of added extensions covered up the original patios. To reconnect the new office with the outdoors, the architects restored the original patios and — taking advantage of the building’s walkable location in the city center — removed the sheltered parking areas. Those spaces were replaced with lushly planted  courtyards  that serve as waiting and meeting areas as well as the main circulation pathways through the various parts of the building. The open patio is also connected to the ground-floor kitchen and dining room for employees.  Related: Midcentury warehouse becomes a community-building asset in Mexico City The original structure has also been reinforced with two new steel-framed extensions sympathetic to the architectural design of the ground floor and fitted with partition walls and floor-to-ceiling glass. Vegetation introduced on the upper levels and along the parapets, roofs and terraces appears to immerse the  adaptive reuse  building in a jungle-like environment. “The result is a homogeneous group of buildings in which the different times of construction coexist with the vegetation, generating a space of calm between the chaos of the city,” the architects noted in a project statement.  + Gabriel Beas Arquitectura Photographrapy by Onnis Luque

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A 1905 home reborn as greenery-filled office in Mexico City

ZHAs sculptural "urban oasis" in Hong Kong to be LEED Platinum

October 13, 2020 by  
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At the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district, the 36-story Murray Road project designed by  Zaha Hadid Architects  has broken ground — and its energy-efficient design has already earned the building LEED Platinum and WELL Platinum pre-certification along with the highest 3-Star rating of China’s Green Building Rating Program. Inspired by the layered structure of a soon-to-blossom Bauhinia bud — the flower from the Bauhinia x blakeana orchid tree featured on Hong Kong’s flag — the glass skyscraper features a curved glass facade that will stand out from its more traditional boxy neighbors. The double-curved insulated glazing that wraps the building can withstand the region’s powerful summer typhoons while reducing the cooling load of the building.  Located at the core of the city’s financial district at the east-west and north-south junction of  Hong Kong’s  network of elevated pedestrian walkways, the 2 Murray Road office tower is strategically located for direct access to adjacent public gardens and parks. Supported by a high-tensile steel structure, the curved glass facade enhances indoor/outdoor connectivity between the interiors and lush cityscape. The building base has also been elevated above the ground to create new sheltered courtyards and gardens. Inside, the light-filled Grade A office spaces are column-free and feature five-meter floor-to-floor heights for maximum flexibility. Occupants will enjoy a contactless transition from the street to their workstation with a smart management system that uses a mobile phone, contactless smart card or biometric recognition for everything from passing security to calling the elevators. Occupant health also benefits from the building’s  air quality  monitoring system that automatically adjusts indoor air temperature, humidity and fresh air volume to meet demand. Related: Henning Larsen breaks ground on BEAM Platinum-targeted Shaw Auditorium in Hong Kong The smart air quality monitoring system is one of several smart systems designed to reduce electricity demand. Smart chiller plant optimization, high-efficiency HVAC equipment and daylight sensors, for instance, will achieve a 26% reduction in energy demand. Still under construction, 2 Murray Road will also use  recycled materials  to further minimize its carbon footprint.  + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Zaha Hadid Architects

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