Igniting Ideas from Other Insights

Commentary / 2nd Quarter 2022

Igniting Ideas from Other Insights

by Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle

June 15, 2022

We by ourselves cannot know everything and that is why cross pollination or the exchange of ideas is vital in developing innovation. This article investigates how architectural concepts brewing in other parts of the world could be applied to buildings elsewhere so that collectively, the built environment can become a solution to the current state of affairs in the climate crisis.

The United Nations COP26 conference in Glasgow saw world leaders gathering to set ambitious new targets for reducing carbon emissions as the climate crisis escalates. While many of the conversations centred on finding alternatives to burning fossil fuels, insufficient attention was paid to architecture and the built environment. In light of rampant population growth and urbanisation, and the fact that the building sector currently generates 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, emerging sustainable architectural innovations should not be ignored, especially since studies have estimated that another 230 billion square metres of new buildings will be required by 2060.

So, how can buildings and cities be part of the answer to the climate challenge?

Three architectural firms—Behnisch Architekten, SOM and SPACE10—are proposing ideas and systems that could give insight to addressing this question, while exploring the possibility of applying them in any part of the world.


RELATED: Project | Harvard University Science and Engineering Complex

Modern buildings, especially in Asia, often have to contend with the equation of cancelling solar heat gain and glare without dimming the illumination quotient nor adding to the cooling loads.

German firm Behnisch Architekten completed three projects in the US and Europe that feature a new external fixed sunshade system, all based on the same principle but using different materials, dimensions and geometry.

RELATED: Project | Adidas World of Sports Arena

The façade system not only shields interiors from solar heat gain during warmer months, but also lets in beneficial sun during the winter, significantly shrinking cooling and heating loads. At the same time, the screen bounces daylight deep into the interior, while maintaining large apertures with views to the outside. It is unconventional to use a complex façade grid to both protect a building against solar impact while improving natural daylight into the interiors through the redirection of cooler, stray light in summer. Additionally, the inclusion of different types of screen modules in keeping with solar orientation creates a pattern that softens the scale of a building, breaking up the surface of large volumes, and gives each a distinctive appearance.

RELATED: Project | Agora Cancer Research Pole


The built environment is spewing more carbon than nature can absorb, which has led to problems that include, but are not limited to, global warming and sea level rise.

In terms of innovation of sustainable high-rise models within the architectural, engineering and construction industry, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) presented a key idea that was unveiled in November 2021—Urban Sequoia, a conceptual skyscraper that aims to absorb more carbon emissions than it emits.

The structure would be built using precast, modular construction that incorporates carbon-storing materials such as bio-brick, hempcrete, timber and bio-crete, which would reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent compared to regular concrete and steel, with the goal of eventually eliminating 95 per cent of construction emissions. In the manner of rooftop gardens, the building’s façade and ‘grey’ surfaces can be covered with biomass and algae, which would breathe in up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon annually, the equivalent of 48,500 trees. After 50 years, the prototype could absorb over 400 per cent of the amount of carbon emitted by a typical building. The integrated biomass and algae façades can be converted into biofuel to power heating systems, vehicles and airplanes and used to produce biomaterials for roads, pavements and pipes, effectively creating a carbon-removal economy. These by-products could be fed back into a city-wide network where these new resources could be shared and exchanged between buildings and industries.

RELATED: Project | Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters


In FuturArc’s recent Q1 2022 issue on housing in Asia, it is clear that there is no panacea for the widening chasm that is the housing crisis, exacerbated by the global health situation. There are workable solutions, but the body (industry) needs to catch up with the brain (ideas).

The Urban Village Project, a concept for how to design, build and share our future homes, neighbourhoods and cities by Danish research and design lab SPACE10, Copenhagen-based Effekt Architects and IKEA, will allow for cheaper homes to enter the market, making it easier to live sustainably and ensure cross-generational living with shared services and facilities like day care, urban farming, communal dining, fitness and shared transportation to counter the lack of affordable housing and climate change. Homes will be made out of cross-laminated timber (CLT)—easy to manufacture with precision, customisation, flat-pack and transport—which outperforms steel and concrete on multiple levels and has benefits in terms of sustainability, seismic performance, fire security and well-being.

RELATED: Pop-up Satellite in New Delhi

[This is an excerpt. Subscribe to the digital edition or hardcopy to read the complete article.]

Having lived on three different continents, Y-Jean is no stranger to change. A peripatetic lifestyle allows her to move easily among cultures, and she quickly adapts and adjusts to new environments, rising to meet the challenges and opportunities that necessarily emerge from the school of life. She finds joy and solace in writing and has been contributing to various regional and international titles, shining a spotlight in particular on art, design and horology. When she is not writing, you’ll find her dancing, practising yoga or dreaming up scenarios for a murder-mystery novel she hopes to write in the future.

Read more stories from FuturArc 2Q 2022: New & Re-Emerging Architecture!

To read the complete article, get your hardcopy at our online shop/newsstands/major bookstores; subscribe to FuturArc or download the FuturArc App to read the issues.