The breathtaking ecotecture designs of Vo Trong Nghia

August 20, 2014

Vo Trong Nghia architects of Vietnam have unveiled a newly constructed eco house project that aims to address Ho Chi Minh City’s treeless urbanism. According the the designers, “only 0.25% area of the entire city is covered by greenery. Over-abundance of motorbikes causes daily traffic congestion as well as serious air pollution. As a result, new generations in urban areas are losing their connections with nature.”

The project perfectly encompasses several core ecocity principles.

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

The compound is a single family home constructed of several blocks arranged around a central courtyard. Most remarkably, each of the five blocks are crowned by banyan trees. The trees were chosen for their above ground root structure. The trees are planted in 1.5 meters of soil and the roofs are designed to collect rainwater. Reinforced walls allow the structures to accommodate the weight of water and the growing trees.

Copright Vo Trong Nghia, 2013

Copright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

The compound provides an engaging irregular angled entrance to a courtyard paved in permeable tiles and grass. Each room opens to views of greenery and the building blocks are connected by shaded sky walks on the second floor. The rooms are oriented towards the communal spaces on the cool lower floors, including the courtyard, and blend the inside and outside environments.

The architects used local and natural materials where possible to reduce the project’s carbon footprint and costs. The exterior walls are composed of  in-situ concrete poured between bamboo lattice. The interior walls are constructed from locally sourced brick. “House for Trees” was built with a budget of only 155,000 USD. If multiplied across the city, these tree-houses have the potential to reduce flooding, pollution, and ambient urban temperatures significantly.

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013


Active Design Awards: 7 projects keeping people (and the environment) healthy

April 22, 2014

Partially reblogged from http://centerforactivedesign.org/2014awardwinners

Center for Active Design: Excellence

Recognizing design that can make people healthier and happier is the goal of a recent awards by The Center for Active Design, an organization launched in New York City in 2013 by the Bloomberg Administration’s Obesity Task Force. This week the Center announced the first every winners of the Excellence in Active Design award competition. The competition intends to publicize and recognize the role of design in addressing preventable disease by encouraging physical activity through the design of buildings and public space.

A jury of design and health professionals selected four winning projects and two honorable mentions for the Center for Active Design Excellence award according to the checklists found in the Active Design Guidelines, published in 2010. Preference was given to projects with research studies of proven impact. The jury also acknowledged the extent to which cross-sector and community collaboration were required in order to realize the results achieved. The Leadership in Active Design Excellence award recognizes an early adopter of Active Design with an established track record of Active Design implementation. All winning projects exemplify innovation in the implementation of Active Design, the press release states.

The Center was pleased to see projects submitted for review came from regions well beyond its hometown of New York City, spanning the US from New Mexico to Washington, Virginia to Texas, and countries from Argentina to Denmark. This strong showing is evidence that Active Design is growing nationally and internationally as designers are more knowledgeable of the health affects of their work.

Award recipients will be recognized at “Celebrate Active Design”, to be held in New York City on May 19, 2014. The fundraising event is open to the public from 7pm – 9pm. For more information on purchasing tickets, please click here.

Read on to find out more about these projects! Read the rest of this entry »


Floating cities becoming a reality

April 16, 2013

Building on water eliminates flood risk and enables expansion

For thousands of years, human settlements have clustered around flood planes, from the banks of the Amazon River to lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia, to the marshes of the Netherlands. These settlements are designed to account for the seasonal ebb and flow of sea and fresh water, often by constructing buildings on raised platforms and/or building dykes, dams and canals. Yet as global climate change leads to increasing sea levels, almost every coastal city will face the challenge of encroaching waters.

Presenters at the Global Town Hall for infrastructure solutions held last week in Germany introduced innovative solutions for cities on the brink. “13 out of the world’s 21 megacities are harbor cities, of which Shanghai is most vulnerable to flood and related hazards,” said Professor Markus Quante at the town hall.

Instead of holding back the flood, several presenters suggested ways to completely re-imagine a city on the water. Rutger de Graaf from DeltaSync, a design firm that specializes in sustainable flood-proof urban development in delta areas, says cities can float on water and yet stay dry and resilient. Floating structures on water eliminate the threat of flood damage and can be a viable option for city expansion. In addition, city waste such as carbon dioxide and biowaste can be used to farm algae and in turn raise fish in urban areas.

“Urbanization in delta areas has caused increasingly severe flood. It has also added pressure on space, food, energy and other resources,” said de Graaf, adding that by 2025 the world will run short of at least 22 million km2 of land – an area equivalent to the North American continent.

Rijnhaven Pavijlioner. Images from DeltaSync

The city of Rotterdam is already experimenting with floating urbanization, building its first floating pavilion at the Rijnhaven harbor. Designed by DeltaSync, the three domed structures cover the area of four tennis courts and are not only self-sufficient, relocatable structures that purify their own waste water, but also rise automatically according to rising water levels. The city plans to add many more floating buildings, including a park, as part of the Rijnhaven harbor redevelopment master plan.

Another 1,200 floating structures are planned to open in 2040 in Stadhavens – an area designated for sustainable housing development, floating communities, recreation, and research on energy generation such as tidal energy and cooling and heating from river water.

The city of Semarang, the capital of Central Java, and other coastal cities are working with the Dutch to implement their water management expertise in their own districts. Semarang has already lost 98.2 hectares of land between 1991 and 2009 due to land erosion accelerated by climate change.

Find out more about DeltaSync’s project at their website.


Good ideas: Three ways to rethink parking

February 25, 2013

Like it or not, cars have, are and will be an integral part of our urban experience for years yet. Making them more energy efficient and moving them more sustainably are important issues in urban design. At the same time, this is only half the story. Well, actually, only 5% of the story. UCLA professor Donald Shoup has calculated that our cars are in motion only 5% of the day, meaning they are parked 95% of the time.

Here are three ways in which parking is being transformed from the concrete wasteland of yesterday to functional, sustainable and more user-friendly spaces. Read the rest of this entry »


High tech to low, world’s green technology are many

July 2, 2008

This article in CNN Technology speaks about low and high tech solutions for reducing reliance on fossil fuels from using simple building materials such as straw and clay to installing solar panels on roofs. 

Sieben Linden, the village in eastern Germany, mixes high- and low-tech approaches. Some of its roughly 100 residents live in homes built with little more than clay, wood and straw.  Straw bales coated with clay are put inside the homes’ walls. The insulation reduces the need for powered heating and cooling, making the houses much more energy efficient than homes made with standard building materials, according to village resident Martin Schlegel.

“The energy you save by [using straw] is sufficient to heat this house 12 years, compared to a house built with normal modern materials,” he said.  Those who worry about the straw easily catching fire should think again, Schlegel said. He said that because the bales are tightly packed, they don’t ignite quickly.

“[Burning] a sheet of paper — it is very easy. But try to light a telephone book,” he said, comparing the bales to the book.  Straw-bale construction was used in Nebraska in the 19th century. The villagers of Sieben Linden take a more technological approach, fitting their homes with solar panels.