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ZHA picked to design ‘greenest building in Shanghai’


Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has been chosen to design an office complex in Shanghai, yet its claims this will be the ‘greenest’ building in the city have sparked questions from a fellow signatory of Architects Declare

ZHA is working on the new headquarters for the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP), a ¥23 billion (£2.6 billion) state-owned corporation, after winning an international design competition.

A 218,000m² mixed-use campus will be formed of three office towers alongside shopping, design and leisure facilities, linked together by a park. It will be located on the Huangpu River by the Yangpu Bridge, to the north-east of Shanghai’s city centre.

CECEP funds initiatives, including construction projects, with a focus on renewable energy technology or environmental conservation.

The state investor asked ZHA to produce ‘the greenest building in the city, with sustainability embedded into every aspect of its design and construction,’ according to the architect.

The proposals will harvest rainwater to irrigate ‘expansive green spaces and landscaping in a biophilic design’ while energy consumption will be reduced by 25 per cent using solar panels and an internal ‘micro grid’.

It will be built from locally-produced prefabricated components as well as recycled materials to reduce the project’s embodied carbon. 

However, the scale of the new build project and scant details about its whole-life carbon performance have raised serious questions over ZHA’s bold sustainability claims and in particular its promises as a founding member of Architects Declare.

The 11 Architects Declare pledges include a commitment to producing ’life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation’ as part of practices’ basic scope of work’, adapting existing buildings for extended use ’as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice’ and adopting the principles of regenerative design.

Steve Tompkins, co-founder of Haworth Tompkins - itself a founding member of Architects Declare - challenged ZHA to provide further information to justify its claims.

’Every AD practice has made a public commitment to regenerative design principles and to open source sharing of research, so we’d be keen to hear more quantifiable detail from ZHA on why this scheme can claim to be a “green” exemplar in terms of whole life carbon,’ he said.

Simon Sturgis of consultant Tageting Zero and former chair of the RIBA sustainability group said ZHA’s new project ’failed significantly in response to the climate crisis’.

He said: ’It is located just outside the tropics yet has essentially all glass facades. This is a 70 year old typology that is fighting the climate crisis.

’All glass facades are either very costly in operational emissions or if triple glazed or shaded are very high in embodied emissions.

These 20th Century flaws are failing to address the issues of 21st Century climate change

’Either way such facades need replacing every 40-50 years which means ongoing embodied costs. In this particular scheme these costs are exaggerated by complex curved shapes.

’The scheme does have some useful “green” attributes, but these will not counterbalance the fact that these 20th Century flaws are failing to address the issues of 21st Century climate change.’

ZHA says its new scheme will also include a building management system which will react ‘in real time’ to changes in occupancy numbers, temperature, air quality and daylight. The system will also collate data for predictive purposes.

The latest job-win continues ZHA’s success in the China region, where the architect earned more than 60 per cent of its revenue in its 2018-19 financial year.

In September, ZHA’s £8.8 billion Beijing Daxing International Airport was hailed as an architectural marvel by Chinese premier Xi Jinping.


Readers' comments (3)

  • The greenest building in Shanghai is not going to be three huge towers, consuming vast amounts of steel and concrete.

    Can't the AJ interrogate these press releases a bit more? In what way will it be 'green'? The word green in itself is meaningless.

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  • Indeed, at the age of 69, and been through the mill with the best in NY City, Edward Barnes, Philip Johnson and Steven Holl just to mention the important ones, and spent the last 25 years to try to do as green as possible, only succeeding in residential scale building with near Passive with fantastic results.
    But these towers probably are CODE meeting buildings, with few extra touches like special coating on glass that makes a bit of difference - or alike. I see that here in USA all the time - gilding the LILY - and won't see meaningful change before I die.
    We need a true method rating all buildings in EVERY COUNTRY for publication. Like cars so that when we view the product, there is factual association right there next to headline like in CARS.
    Lately I have seen South American buildings getting a lot of press in USA , done with ZERO green as they don't have energy code. Looking cool, but the result is confusing for young inexperienced architects who do not get the fact that this 'not real' for this day and age.

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  • Just using the hackneyed term "greenest building" says it all...... it's the same old story.... the Modern Project's last hurrah more like. Putting greenery inside this building won't make it green. Let's see how they present the embodied carbon and in-use carbon figures... the whole life carbon figures even.... It is big and shiny though

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