In 2020 South Africa, the sector that includes contemporary architecture, interior architecture and design will surely see progress in creativity, innovation and eco-awareness, albeit largely in the upper levels of the economy.

‘When I‘m asked what I believe in, I say that I believe in architecture. Architecture is the mother of the arts. I like to believe that architecture connects the present with the past and the tangible with the intangible.’ – architect Richard Meier.

Indeed, as construction evolves, recent R&D and technical advancements are shaping how we design. Such energies result from shared ideas and the convergence of building technologies that open up new possibilities for architecture. From the atomic scale of materials to prefabricated and pre-assembled homes, the advances in BuildTech are being noted across associated industries. It is key, and as a result, disciplines are learning from one another to reimagine how we build.

Architectural trends for 2020 indicate a common thread: the commitment to sustainable development. And populations globally are developing an environmental responsibility as a social manifestation. The use of recyclable materials – buildings that are self-sufficient and installations of all kinds that respect the planet – are becoming increasingly important issues.

So, what are the key factors of sustainable development and environmental responsibility, and does this cost more?

Adrian Maserow of Adrian Maserow Architects believes that: ‘Site and locality provide clues to the best options in respect of sustainability. But every project has the potential to use less energy, less water and provide well-being as the prime motivator of the architectural creation. In Africa, we respond well to nature, its pristine light, lush plants and fresh air, and to the natural textures of warm woods and soulful organic materials that shape the tactile nature of our architecture.

‘There is no longer a premium cost for sustainable design. Smart empirical lessons learnt become the language of a real feasibility for sustainability. Denser urban living residences (closer to work opportunities) are an essential strategy to ensure limiting carbon emissions. And the adaptive reuse of existing but outdated structures is reinforcing sustainability by reducing the need for new building construction.’

George Elphick of Elphick Proome Architects: ‘Sustainable development is an imperative and the total responsibility of built environment professionals. Its price tag should not really be a consideration because in the long term we have to maintain the planet. With sensible and intelligent design, one can practically produce sustainable buildings for the same cost as it would to develop conventional buildings.’

‘The recent climatic events in the world: bush fires, storms, droughts and heat waves are stark reminders for those who still doubt the need for humankind to review and change our way of life on this planet,’ says Kevin Lloyd of Kevin Lloyd Architects. ‘Especially in the way we live and shelter. As one of the major participants and leaders in development within the environment, architects should lead the way; but to date there has been a cost associated with more environmental and sustainable designs, and often this has been a captured market for a fortunate few. However, the less sophisticated solutions, using low tech or simple tech methods, are being approved by the authorities, and appreciated by clients as an acceptable solution offering similar results.

‘As it has become more rational, so the costs have started to decrease. Sustainability is not necessarily more expensive if one considers the basics of good design, such as orientation, material use, space planning and construction methods. The inter relationships of these and other design requirements can effect substantial benefits without extra cost.’

‘A growing trend globally is to be responsible for the future and long-term impact of present and current decisions made in design; and the result is that architects are designing with that in mind. This can be attributed to more local issues too, such as the supply of electricity and water, so we see more requests for solutions,’ says Renato Graca of G Squared Architecture and Interiors.

‘Design and material selection should focus on longevity. Materials which require little to no maintenance and can be left to age gracefully are key, as is the ongoing maintenance of buildings – heating / lighting / water and sanitation. The implementation of sustainable and low to zero cost installations – such as boreholes, water filtration and the smart placement of openings and lighting – all assist in reducing the cost of running a building, be it residential, corporate or commercial.’

Donovan Gottsmann of Gottsmann Architects is categorical: ‘Architects have the power to intervene and direct all developments and construction down a sustainable path; a possibility many don’t yet quite grasp. According to the UN Global Status Report, buildings, together with their construction, account for 36 percent of global energy use and produce about 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions during their lifespan. Through applied design, architects have the power to change such an extent and impact on the environment.

‘Low-energy consumption buildings involve considerations present from the genesis of design, mitigating a large portion of the cost and necessity for ‘clip-on’ or retro-fitted technologies. And yet we also have a responsibility to our clients to produce financially feasible and sustainable developments. With careful planning, these two aspects can
be achieved.’

Indeed, climate change is a real and vital challenge for human society and consequently for architecture. 2019 European guidelines mandate that all homes built in Europe after 2020 should consume almost zero energy. So, although architecture might have been late in joining the green bandwagon, the prerequisites for making it a sustainable part of society’s development are being put in place.


For the full article see Habitat #275 November / December 2019 | Habitat Online #6 February / March 2020


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