What are the houses of the 21st century like to modern architects?
Back to nature! Such a cry could be voiced by a typical architect of the second decade of the 21st century. Some French architects, guests of the recent Architecture and Construction Innovation Day, shared their opinions on the topic. There were lots of innovation and “barrels of honey” at the event, though there were also “spoonfuls of tar”. But first things first.
Architects remembered the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
If sustainable construction in the 20th century was mainly about energy efficient solutions, at the beginning of the 21st century there came a flood of 100% green projects. Gardens started blossoming everywhere – on terraces, balconies, roofs and even facades!
The standard project at the end of the 20th century was a high rise building, high-tech, panoramic windows with innovative transpierced membranes reducing wind pressure… and a modest use of horizontal gardens on facades. It was such a project that French architect Jean-Paul Viguier spoke about at the Innovation Day.
A project at the beginning of the 21st century is quite another concept. It is a split-level building filled with green plants. The project provides many green terraces hanging one over another — actually, half of the area is in the air, thus economizing with the city space. Almost a new Hanging Gardens of Babylon!
This is the project for the headquarters of one of the largest French companies, and the author is Jean-Paul Viguier.
Another project with a similar idea was presented by another French participant – Manuelle Gautrand. The building she constructed in France is half a natural vegetable garden.
“The small green box” – as the author calls her creation – is a house with 40% living space, two shops and a kitchen. There are also flowerbeds with potatoes and carrots, and each resident can have his own small plot.
The most wonderful aspect of the project is the “vegetative concrete”. It is a special composition: concrete with implanted greenery. The building having been constructed, the plants begin to grow on the wall.
…and a spoonful of tar:
It has turned out that there are norms and regulations in Russia which, putting it mildly, do not welcome greenery on facades and roofs.
The Russian landscape architect Ilya Mochalov, for example, complains that his bureau cannot manage to implement all its beautifying projects — because of legislative barriers.
Manuelle Gautrand also admitted that the French authorities support green architecture with words, and there is no state support for such projects.
Anyway, the architect advised us to by-pass the legislative barriers and stand up for the “green line”.
What is a social mix?
Russia, as well as Europe, cares about public spaces.
— The epoch of constructing a building, then another one, has passed. Today, an entire functionality should be created, Jean-Paul Viguier says.
For example, in Brussels, in the new district of Eisel, 400,000 square meters of housing and infrastructure combined in an ensemble will be built. In the center there will be an avenue with shops, hotels, cinemas, a speed tram, and all types of mobility facilitators. There will also be a lot of public spaces: a park with fountains, walking zones, and a lot of water.
A similar concept is being implemented in the project of the Champs Elysees reconstruction. At present, this landmark Parisian street is filled with cars, and soon the space for cars will become space for people.
… and a spoonful of tar:
— You have everything in Russia to construct people-friendly buildings on a European level. But we are yet again erecting nondescript 16-floor buildings. Why so? asks Yuly Borisov, Head of the recognised Russian architectural bureau UNK project, sadly.
Since the end of the 1980s the state has lost the monopoly on construction. But with market conditions lagging behind, the sphere of urban development has enhanced. According to Yuly Borisov, the thing is that the development process is an “abandoned” business. And abroad, connections between the developer, the contractor and society have never been interrupted.
Why do we like wood again?
What is to be expected on the construction materials market? Architects and constructors agree that a “long forgotten” wood will emerge as leader.
Project designers have started to include wooden structures in modern houses’ skeletons. Nobody is now surprised by projects of 100m multi-storey buildings made of wood.
Cross laminated timber (CLT) slabs may be used to do everything – it is the material which “starts and wins”.
20 cm-thick wooden slabs can carry the same load as a concrete structure. Besides, if traditional supports wear away, wood retains 80% of its load-bearing capacity. CLT slabs also provide for interesting architectural solutions.
Jean-Paul Viguier, for example, is a fan of such structures. A multi-storey wooden house which he designed in Bordeaux has now become a trademark of his bureau. Bordeaux is famous for its wines, and the house resembles a luxurious box for collecting bottles. The whole building is wooden, and only the foundation is made of concrete.
This work proves once again that modern urban construction may be based upon wooden structures.
… and a spoonful of tar:
The implementation of wooden projects is not always a success. Jean-Paul Viguier spoke of an unsuccessful project when a developer suddenly got frightened that there would be a lot of problems with the unusual (for multi-storey housing) concept, and changed wood for concrete. The project had to be designed anew.
The first BIM was invented by Leonardo da Vinci
Pennies from heaven… at Innovation Day, there were a lot of companies presenting their developments in the sphere of BIM technologies. One of the exhibition participants surmised that the first person to use BIM principles was the great Leonardo da Vinci.
— The state is eager for architects and constructors to use BIM, but it cannot force them to do it, Marina Korol, Director of the Institute of Informational Simulation in Construction at “Roscapstroy”, stated.
Meanwhile, according to her, much has been done for the promotion of the idea. A number of national ISO-based standards are being prepared at present, and four codes of practice are being developed. The work on the domestic BIM platform has started.
The KNAUF Company (the General Partner of Innovation Day) presented its developments on BIM within the forum’s business program. The company is famous for its products for “dry” construction. It has dealt with informational simulations in construction (BIM) for several years already.
According to Dirk Schtotzer, Head of Product Strategy and Market Research Department, a whole library of KNAUF-BIM solutions has been created. This available experience provides for the achievement of a high level of specification.
… and a spoonful of tar:
In spite of growing interest in BIM technologies, not all companies have chosen this new form of project designing.
Journalists at “Construction.ru” asked Dmitry Tsyurupa, product manager for marketing and sales at “KNAUF-Gypsum” LLC, what difficulties construction materials producers may come across at the initial stage of BIM application.
— There are no special difficulties on a technical level, he answered. — There are specialist consulting companies ready to help implement new solutions. The problem is in the incomplete engagement of the construction community in the industry’s updating.
And there should be some general platform for everybody to be able to get the necessary information, exchange experience and ask for advice.