Constructing Around Nature – how to Combine Natural Elements into your Projects

“Facts About Building with Nature” describes an approach to planning and designing infrastructure that respects nature and uses natural forces proactively.
Building with Nature solutions focus on sustainable development and aimed to create designs in which project development and nature are fully integrated from the start. Traditionally an infrastructure project with economic and social advantages, like port development or flood defences, would be planned to have the least negative effects as possible and allow for compensation for any negatives. Building with Nature starts with the premise of the natural environment, of the services intrinsic to the ecosystem and how a project can utilise nature and these services to design the infrastructure project. Building with Nature comprises two main principles; use natural forces as part of the engineering solution; and provide extra opportunities for the further development of nature as part of the solution.

To accomplish this, engineers must understand the ecosystem, its services and value. To begin with, realistic alternative solutions that use these ecosystem services need to be identified. These alternatives need to be evaluated in terms of cost-benefit and feasibility, followed by the practical fine-tuning of the ideas. And finally, the implementation stage is reached where funding and risk analysis take place. The ongoing need for maritime infrastructure development is evident, be it for port expansion, waterfront development and/or remediation and flood control. Yet large-scale infrastructure projects are often met with scepticism resulting in uncertainties and delays, a keen awareness of environmental effects and extensive demands on environmental management and monitoring plans. By taking knowledge of both the ecological and societal systems as a starting point, Building with Nature creates an interdependent relationship between economic advancement and environmental preservation. It can offer clients, contractors and stakeholders a common ground for consultation and collaboration. The Building with Nature approach allows clients, stakeholders and the public to see and evaluate the pros and cons of a project in terms of economic improvements and environmental gains.

“Facts About Building with Nature” answers essential questions such as:

What is Building with Nature (BwN)?
Why does Building with Nature offer a significant alternative and what are the advantages?
What are the origins of the concept and name Building with Nature?
How widespread is the Building with Nature concept?
What are the principles of Building with Nature?
How to apply Building with Nature principles?
When can the principles of Building with Nature be applied?
Is the Building with Nature approach applicable in all situations?
How can the principles of building with Nature be applied to coastal zone management?
How does the Building with Nature approach help with stakeholder involvement?
How is the Building with Nature approach further being developed?

The Future of Architecture. Where Do We Go From Here?

“Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

Those are the words of one undeniably great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose visions of harmonious design and innovating urban planning amounted to his own brand of organic architecture. We’d argue that Wright wasn’t just an interpreter of his time — he was able to foresee the needs and desires of ages ahead of him. The architect is — necessarily — a visionary capable of seeing into the future.

1. Hypnotic Bridges

Why craft boring suspension bridges or arched overpasses when humanity is capable of building massive architectural feats like this to cross a river? The impressive, undulating design, destined to function as a pedestrian footbridge over the Dragon King Harbour River in China, is the product of NEXT Architects. The bridge design involves three individual, swirling lanes hovering over the picturesque landscape of Changsha.

The rendering won an international competition associated with a new public park in the area last year, and the project is currently under construction. “The construction with the intersecting connections is based on the principal of the Möbius ring,” states Michel Schreinemachers on the NEXT website. “On the other hand it refers to a Chinese knot that comes from an ancient decorative Chinese folk art,” John van de Water adds.

2. Rotating Skyscrapers

This image of an 80-story skyscraper, imagined by Dynamic Architecture’s David Fisher back in 2008, is a far-fetched rendering fit for Dubai’s future rich and famous. Why? Because it rotates.

The enormous, towering building would have floors that move ever so slightly, completing a 360 degree rotation every 90 minutes. Forget about fighting for an east-facing apartment, the suites in Dynamic Architecture’s creation would have all four cardinal directions covered. And it get’s better. The building would be equipped with several giant wind turbines that generate electricity for tenants, and penthouse residents would be able to park their car at their apartments thanks to nifty lifts.

While we’re not sure this design will ever actually come to fruition (it was scheduled to be up and running in 2010), it’s certainly a visual feast worth ogling.

3. Indoor Parks

In November of 2013, the Strelka Institute announced the winner of a two-stage international competition to design Zaryadye Park, Moscow’s first new public park in over 50 years. The winner was Diller Scofidio + Renfro (in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers), who proposed this particularly stunning design based on a theory of “Wild Urbanism,” or the concept of a “hybrid landscape where the natural and the built cohabit to create a new public space.”

The park will feature four landscape typologies — tundra, steppe, forest and wetland, integrating augmented micro-climates that will enable the park to function as a public space throughout Russia’s extreme winters. Essentially, the quasi-indoor environments will involve regulated temperatures, controlled wind and simulated daylight that encourage 24/7, year-round park pleasure. As Diller Scofidio +Renfro aptly put it, “Zaryadye Park will embody the past and the future simultaneously.”

4. Invisible Architecture

Invisible architecture is the calling card of science fiction design, and we’re happy to report that architects of today are on the case. Of course, there’s South Korea’s in-the-works, LED-clad Infinity Tower. CNN reported in 2013 that “the invisibility illusion will be achieved with a high-tech LED facade system that uses a series of cameras that will send real-time images onto the building’s reflective surface.”

But there’s also the shorter, less flashy structure (pictured above) designed by New York-based architecture firm stpmj. The parallelogram-shaped barn would be made of wood and sheeted with mirror film, at a cost of $5,000. The idea is to “blur the perceptual boundary” between object and setting, according to a statement sent by the architects to The Huffington Post earlier this year. We have to say we’re impressed with architects’ ability to push the boundaries of what invisible really means.

5. Natural Disaster-Proof Forts

For his series “Dauphin Island,” artist Dionisio González designed dreamlike, futuristic forts made from iron and concrete, fusing the role of artist with that of architect, engineer and urban planner. The peculiar edifices — the hybrid of a beach house, a bunker and a space ship — were designed with the residents of Dauphin Island in mind. Located off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico, the tiny landmass is known for experiencing perpetual and catastrophic hurricanes. When a storm hits the small island of around 1,200 people, it often washes away much of the coastline, leaving residents to rebuild their homes again and again.

González created hypothetical blueprints for his forts, illustrating how his bulbous, concrete structures would better suit the fraught island’s populous. You can learn more about the project on his website. Keep in mind, these structures are not yet slated for reality, but they certainly paint an interesting picture of what futuristic island homes could look like.

6. Sweaters for Skyscrapers

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is widely known as the world’s tallest building, measuring in at a whopping 2,716.5 feet and 160 stories. The structure itself is mesmerizing, but what’s even more intriguing is a think tank’s bizarre proposal to cover the towering skyscraper in a giant fabric casing made of reflective material.

We learned about the project, dubbed EXO-BURJ, in 2014. The strange, sock-like covering would wrap around the entire building, from spire to ground level, in a “super-lightweight, reflective and semi-transparent fabric material,” according to a description by the Dubai-based think tank, OP-EN. The temporary “sweater” would reflect the expansive urban scenes around it, turning the Burj Khalifa into a massive mirror in the vein of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

7. Green Power Plants

What is there to do with an outdated, eyesore of a power plant in the future? Why not give the sprawling facilities a green makeover, one that would serve two functions: to beautify the structure and provide a new way of dealing with CO2 emissions.

Here’s how it would work: The architecture firm AZPA (Alejandro Zaera-Polo Arquitectura) plans to turn the existing Wedel Vattenfall power plant in Germany into a new industrial complex, one that would be built up from the previous facilities and wrapped with a corrugated skin of creeper plants. This strategically-placed skin would not only soften the exterior aesthetic of the plant, but it would create a sheath of creepers to absorb CO2 emissions. AZPA describes the endeavor, imagined in 2013, as “an attempt to resolve the conflict between the natural ecology and the manmade environment.”

8. Compostable Towers

Earlier this year, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 selected The Living’s “circular tower of organic and reflective bricks” — called “Hy-Fi” — as the winner of the Young Architects Program’s (YAP) 15th edition. The temporary structure will be built using a new method of bio-design incorporating entirely organic material.

As Arch Daily reported back in February, the tower will involve “the unique stacking of two new materials: Ecovative-manufactured organic bricks, made from corn stalks and specially-developed living root structures; and reflective bricks, designed by 3M, that were used as growing trays for the organic bricks before being implemented into the structure.”

Bonus: According to MoMA’s site, Hy-Fi will is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and represents a 100% compostable design. “Recurring to the latest developments in biotech, it reinvents the most basic component of architecture — the brick — as both a material of the future and a classic trigger for open-ended design possibilities.”

9. 3D-Printed Interiors

Forget interior decorators, the future of indoor design will be run by 3D printers. We have architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger to thank for introducing us to this concept. The two pulled off a three-dimensional printing feat to rival them all just last year. As part of the project “Digital Grotesque,” the duo 3D printed an entire room, creating a 16-square-meter cube adorned with unbelievable ornamentation that looks like it belongs in a futuristic cathedral.

“We aim to create an architecture that defies classification and reductionism,” states the group’s website. “Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.”

10. Floating Pools

It’s hard not to love this New York design project from Family and PlayLab, which plans to bring a giant filtration system to the murky waters between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The project would take the shape of a 164-foot long floating pool set to take shape in 2016 — if all funding efforts go as planned. If there are swimming pools in our future, let them look like this.

In a statement released at the end of 2013, pool masterminds Archie Lee Coates IV, Dong-Ping Wong and Jeff Franklin announced they are beginning construction on Float Lab, an experimental version of the planned 164-foot +POOL. They raised the funds for the smaller pool (35 feet by 35 feet, to be exact) through their last Kickstarter endeavor. With a launch date planned for this summer, the mini pool will put the team’s filtration membranes to the test in real-river conditions.

3 Reasons Housing Construction Is Ripe For Disruption In The Fall Of 2019

Building materials, labor, land, and capital—all essential resources for new residential development and construction–are now altogether straining builders’ ability to develop homes affordably.  Each is separately undergoing volatility amid global trade disputes, capacity constraint, local land use conflicts, and the negative consequences, in some of housing’s more pricey markets, of tax reform. Matching home, apartment, and community offerings households’ pocketbooks has been a game of backsliding and pushback.

So, here are the half-dozen key reasons homes construction is ripe for disruptive innovation right now:

  1. Money talks. Investment capital in need of yield is pouring into construction tech and home builder operations at a rate of 60% increase, year-on-year through the first three quarters of 2018, to over $5 billion. Investors range from Softbank and Foxconn to Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B +0% to Japan-based conglomerates like Sekisui House and Sumitomo to endemic channel players like LP Building Products.
  2. Labor Capacity Constraint. Job openings in construction have trended upward, immigration laws are getting tighter, and the current skilled labor force among building trades “ain’t getting no younger,” with workers aging out faster than they’re coming in. Builders are delaying and even declining projects, losing money, because they can’t count on a predictable pipeline of workers. What’s more expectations of a return to plentiful cheap labor are gone. Something’s got to give.
  3. A Millennial make-over: As young adult buyers come into their own in their careers, and shed college debt, they’re not bringing with them pre-conceptions that new houses should be large in terms of square footage. Connectivity—to neighborhoods, outdoors, food, health, and social networks—is the new square footage.