The Holcim Foundation, the charitable arm of one of the largest cement and aggregate suppliers in the world, hosted its annual North American awards ceremony last September, an event to honor the most cutting-edge ideas in sustainable construction on the continent. The awards’ $300,000 in prize money was split between 13 projects selected for their practical solutions to global environmental challenges, as well as an “embrace [of] architectural excellence and enhanced quality of life,” according to the program. We break down the innovations behind the top top three ideas.
by the Water Pore Partnership
Amy Mielke and Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor, alumni of the Yale School of Architecture, won the top prize this year for their highly original approach to stormwater management, a construction technique called Poreform. Unlike many existing pervious concrete products out there, Poreform is a material designed with fabric forms that allow it to be sculpted into extensive topographic structures capable of intercepting runoff.
Goal To convert impervious city surfaces into sieves, collecting and storing water on a large scale for municipal use
Main Authors Amy Mielke and Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor
Site Las Vegas
Planned Start Date 2016
Primary Materials Cement, flexible fiber forms
Applications Civil engineering, urban design, stormwater management
Proposed as a solution to Las Vegas’s dual flood-control and water-scarcity issues, Poreform is intended to be used for paving in the densest parts of the city, creating a sieve-like infrastructure over the urban landscape with open-ended architectural potential. Unlike the impervious surfaces that cover the majority of Las Vegas today, the highly textured surface of Poreform will absorb rainfall in the tiny rivulets of its textured surface, channeling it just below grade to larger “pores,” i.e. infiltration points, without sacrificing water to the evaporative effects of the hot desert sun.
The diffuse network of smaller infiltration areas is part of an integrated collection system that ultimately channels all stormwater to a single underground chamber. The massive collection tank is an architectural element itself, intended to be publicly accessible in dry weather and proposed as an underground performing arts venue.
Rebuilding By Design
by Bjarke Ingels Group
Goal To buffer New York City from future storms and sea-level rise with civic- minded green infrastructure
Main Authors Consortium led by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Site Lower Manhattan
Planned Start Date 2015 Primary Materials Earthen berms, floodwalls, dissipation structures
Applications Climate change infrastructure, resiliency planning,
In addition to winning the Silver award, the team at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has gotten loads of well-deserved applause for its flood-protection-infrastructure proposal for lower Manhattan, one of many dense urban areas at risk as sea levels rise. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, BIG answered the call for an environmentally sound solution to protect the existing urban fabric of the most flood-prone parts of New York with a plan that not only serves as insurance on $1.9 billion dollars of real estate and infrastructure, but also creates a new belt of green space for the city with extensive recreational and economic opportunities.
The 13-mile sequence of flood-protection landforms consists of numerous berms and storm-surge diffusion features but is vitally linked to each of the existing neighborhoods—rather than appearing as a single, austere, and imposing engineered structure. In some areas, this will take the form of open park areas and public boardwalks, while in others it will be integrated with new public spaces that have been proposed for the historically unappealing realm beneath the city’s many elevated highways. Each of these “Resilient Community Districts” are intended to manage their own stormwater, as well as other critical sustainability metrics, and are seen as the living building blocks of a livable, stormproof New York.
Hy-Fi Compostable Bricks
by The Living
The Bronze went to David Benjamin, a New York City-based architect and Columbia University professor, who designed a structure for the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1 satellite site in Brooklyn using compostable bricks. Hy-Fi is a reference to hyphae, essentially the root structure of fungal organisms, also known as mycelium.
Goal To build with lightweight, biodegradable bricks made from waste materials using natural processes
Main Authors David Benjamin
Site Brooklyn, New York
Primary Materials Fungal mycelium, corn stalk residue, 3M reflective microfilm
Applications Construction industry
Benjamin borrowed the process for manufacturing structurally sound bricks from Ecovative, a company that has recently introduced mushroom-based packaging products. The bricks are made, basically, by pouring a slurry of chopped cornstalk waste into a brick mold and inoculating it with mycelium. The mixture expands, hardens, and has excellent insulative value when used as a construction material. It effectively eliminates the need for environmentally unfriendly fiberglass or foam-based insulation by integrating this property with the building material.
The bricks are extremely lightweight, which is a trait Benjamin used to his advantage in designing the curvilinear and seemingly top-heavy towers for the PS1 courtyard event space. Modeled on the concept of cooling towers, the structures draw cool air from the base and expel warm air from the open top, creating a continual breeze inside. The topmost portions of the structure are wrapped in an ultra-thin reflective microfilm designed by 3M, which transmits sunlight into the structure from above without using any exterior glazing.