The Future’s Green

7th October 2008 (Last Updated October 7th, 2008 18:30)

As concern for the environment grows, architects and designers are putting increasing emphasis on how new buildings interact with the world around them. EHMA President Johanna Fragano supports the latest efforts to think green.

The Future’s Green

One of the most exciting ideas I have had occasion to read about recently concerns a group of enlightened architects, McDonough & Partners, who are developing designs for buildings based on the functions of a tree – with the exception of the reproductive process, of course.

One exemplary project is a skyscraper that, like a cherry tree, will "take its energy from the Earth and the sun, create various microclimates around and within itself, and have an internal water system and a morphology that adapts to the surrounding environment".

The amazing building has a curved design like the trunk of a tree, its roof will be covered with greenery and the south face will be fitted with photovoltaic panels because that is where the sun will produce sufficient energy to light and heat the building. The cooling process will be provided by Mother Earth, as the structure's roots will be embedded in the geothermal system.

Many of the buildings designed by the company, including some at Porta Nuova, a big project in Milan, will have intelligent systems that use sunlight and rainwater; they will be decorated with materials devoid of toxic ingredients and furnished with sensors that will activate mechanisms only when needed, so as not to waste energy heating empty rooms.

The architects believe that future design can save the planet and that it must be kept simple. We need to embrace a new philosophy and construct in such a way that our creations can continuously regenerate themselves, as in nature.

Our planet does not need a nostalgic return to rural life, it needs new designers with great ideas that can be taught at school, especially in emerging industrial powers such as China and India, where the design of new buildings can incorporate the everyday needs of their inhabitants without endangering the future of the Earth.

These inspiring yet simple theories can be applied to hotels, factories and other workplaces, which should be planned around roads full of trees and illuminated by sunlight through large windows. Here too the materials used can be compatible with natural cycles: water-based paint, carpeting nailed down to avoid toxic glues, woodwork using species respectful of forests and marbles controlled to ensure they do not contain radon.

When asked why their buildings are always designed for maximum use of daylight arriving from above through skylights and windows, these inspired architects answered that their work is not simply about saving energy, which is only a part of the problem: the other reason is that man needs to see the sky, clouds, and passing birds. We need to regain contact with nature in order to develop a new lifestyle that values recreation over destruction.

How wonderful to know that there are men and women on our planet working towards such improvements, with the conviction that happy employees work better, and that the human body, just like a tree, can draw energy from air and light.