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Hadid: 'Sustainability is a defining challenge of our generation'

Zaha Hadid
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Zaha Hadid tells the AJ that architects and others must act as politicians scramble to clinch a climate change deal at the COP21 summit in Paris

Ecological sustainability is a defining challenge of our generation – and architecture offers solutions.

Processes can be established that embed sustainability into the design, procurement, construction and operation of a project, adopting a hierarchical approach: initially limiting the need to consume resources; minimising consumption of any resources that are required; and finally offsetting any consumption of resources through the harvesting of renewable systems.

Architecture on Trial - climate change

Architecture on Trial - climate change

Architecture can assist in the design of a building that will, throughout its life cycle, enable all of its users to contribute to a much more ecologically sustainable society. We can now create buildings that optimise their environment to meet their users’ specific requirements, as well as changing weather patterns, at any given moment. We also continue the research into materials, design techniques and construction methods that bring significant environmental benefits.

As the further developments of these active and passive approaches come together, we are beginning to find significant solutions to the urgent ecological challenges we face today.

Converting waste from being a consumptive byproduct of society to something that can be core to society’s future will be critical.

Ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS), a waste byproduct of the steel industry, substituted up to 70 per cent the cement used in the concrete of the London Aquatics Centre. Additionally, more than 80 per cent of aggregates used in the building were from a recycled source, contributing to more than 4,000 tonnes of embodied CO2 savings. Sustainable transport processes eliminated more than 20,000 vehicle movements during the centre’s construction.

Converting waste from a byproduct to something that can be core to society’s future will be critical

Client/contractor/design team relationships must be wholly integrated; maximising opportunities to improve systems that prioritise environmental issues, yet also deliver cost-effective sustainability. Through stakeholder engagement, specific sustainability targets throughout the supply chain can be established at the start of procurement, with sustainability included in all subsequent tender activity. The collaborative approach to material selection and its supply chain can significantly influence the ecological sustainability of any construction.

By simplifying the sustainability agenda with understandable action plans, it becomes accessible to every member of the team, encouraging ownership and accountability – which inspires everyone involved to participate and contribute. All individuals in the office, throughout the supply chain and on site, need the skills, understanding and motivation to find solutions.

This collaborative relationship between the client, operator, design team and contractor, together with the development of an overall understanding of the sustainability agenda across the whole project team, is critical to delivering the sustainable construction and management of a building throughout its lifetime. We must continue this progress, marrying the advancement of effective design and operational systems with the incredible advances in ecologically sound materials and construction practices. We must not look only at the disparate parts, but understand them as a whole to deliver solutions to this defining challenge of our era.



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