Architecture and sustainability together to protect the environment. Today, the concept of sustainability is increasingly becoming part of the priorities of international governments and companies committed to creating eco-sustainable architectures to protect the environment and the planet that hosts us. Sustainable architecture has in fact introduced a new method in the construction of houses and buildings, aimed at minimizing the environmental impact both in the choice of materials and in the construction phase. For this reason, every year we witness the proliferation of architectural projects focused on respect for the environment, without neglecting classic objectives such as functionality and aesthetic value in the implementation phase.
An example? Expanded metal used in green architecture can be considered among the most environmentally friendly metal products on the market today. The metal coil is cut and stretched in one motion, so no scraps are produced in the cold process. In fact, the final product is the result of the raw material stretching according to a coefficient depending upon different factors. This is an example of a product at the service of sustainable architecture, because it allows you to save on materials, and at the same time, to reduce the impact of emissions, limiting environmental damage.
In other words, expanded metal improves the quality of life and makes it more sustainable, balancing the relationship between internal and external spaces, and proving to be a valid ally in the energy efficiency of buildings, because it helps in the control of heating, cooling and lighting. Let’s see together when we can talk about sustainable architecture and what are the main examples of eco-sustainable architecture projects in Italy and in the world.
Eco-sustainable architecture in Italy
From the Alps to the islands, sustainable architecture wears the tricolor. Among the most famous examples of eco-sustainable architecture in Italy, the Vertical Forest in Milan immediately springs to mind. The building was designed by Stefano Boeri and awarded in 2014 as the most innovative skyscraper in the world. These are two buildings located near the Porta Garibaldi railway station, respectively 26 and 18 floors, on whose facades are grafted:
- 900 trees
- 5,000 shrubs
- 11,000 perennial floral plants
This green is spread over irregularly organized balconies on the four sides of the two towers, for a concentration of vegetation that would cover two hectares of wood.
The project was created to allow the city to turn green: the vegetation system of the Vertical Forest contributes to the creation of a microclimate capable of producing humidity and oxygen, while absorbing pollution from fine dust and CO2.
In Cesena, in Emilia Romagna, we find the Fiorita Passive House, the first eco-architecture work in Italy to receive the eco-green certification of the Passive Hause Institute of Damstraat, an international reference point for eco-sustainable construction standards. It is a multi-residence consisting of eight apartments equipped only with mechanical ventilation and without connection to the gas network. The construction is made of wood and metal, and represents Italian excellence from the point of view of eco-sustainability in architecture.
Public spaces are also increasingly designed according to the principles of sustainability. In South Tyrol, in Terento, it is worth remembering a kindergarten, built by the architects of the Austrian studio Feld72. This is made using sustainable materials, shapes and colors that reflect the natural space in which the work is inserted, blending harmoniously with the Alpine skyline. Moving to Sicily, more precisely in Caltagirone, we find the comprehensive institute “Piero Gobetti”, a zero-consumption building, eco-sustainable from an architectural point of view, thanks to a geothermal system and photovoltaic panels that ensure energy self-sufficiency in any period of the year.
Eco-sustainable architecture in the rest of the world
In sustainable architecture, the most innovative solutions go through energy efficiency and technological development. In this regard, there has been much talk of Apple Park, Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, in the USA. The park has a ring shape, surmounted by a solar power plant, and is therefore 100% powered by renewable energy sources. The structure has more than 6 thousand trees and over 12 thousand employees.
Nine years after its conclusion and with millions of visitors every year, Renzo Piano’s California Academy of Sciences is the proof that it is possible – indeed it is necessary – to integrate nature into urban spaces. The construction is located inside the Golden Gate Park, in the city of San Francisco (USA), a structure that boasts an area of 4.5 square km with over 10 km of cycle paths and a million trees. Inside the park there are numerous green spaces, artificial lakes and sports fields. The structure was designed and built through an eco-sustainable architecture of materials, respecting the environment, thanks to the use of recyclable and renewable materials, in order to ensure the reduction of consumption and the creation of clean energy.
The undulating roof favors internal ventilation thanks to the system of skylights that can be opened automatically, based on the temperature inside the building. The floors are radiant while the lighting is controlled by photo sensors. The green roof of 60,000 square meters is able to absorb rainwater and condition the underlying environment, producing about 10% of the electricity needs of the complex.
In the list of the best green architectures in Europe there is The Edge in Amsterdam, the Dutch headquarters of Deloitte, a building with sustainable and smart architecture thanks to the use of invisible solar panels that cover the building and the geothermal heat pump. These advanced technologies allow the building to achieve energy savings of 70%, compared to a similar but unsustainable construction.
Eco-sustainable architecture materials: aluminum is the new frontier
Lightweight, resistant and even more sustainable, aluminum is the ideal answer for a building that wants to combine versatility and recyclability, without sacrificing quality and aesthetic taste. Thanks to the new carbon free production methods, aluminum is a 100% recyclable material, therefore very important in terms of architecture and sustainability, which maintains high standards of quality and efficiency. To date, its production accounts for 1% of total global carbon dioxide emissions. The new production methods in addition, through an inert anode process, help to further reduce CO2 emissions, and this translates into greater confidence for the future and the protection of the planet.
This is a sustainable possibility that ensures the total recycling of the aluminum object for an infinite number of times. Aluminum also has other characteristics that make it a valuable material, indispensable for eco-sustainable architecture projects because:
- it combines maximum ductility properties with high sustainability characteristics linked to its production and the fact that it is 100% recyclable
- with a weight of just 2.7 kg / cm3 it is the lightest of the metals normally used (weighs a third of steel)
- to be remelted it only needs a minimum amount of the energy needed to produce it, about 5%
- it is malleable and easy to work with, it adapts to various shapes and sizes and allows you to create customized profiles
Undoubtedly, aluminum is an ideal material for any need: efficient, ductile, 100% recyclable, in green architecture it is preferred for its ability to resist corrosion from wind and weather. Thanks to the new production methods and its unique characteristics such as lightness, durability, electrical and thermal conductivity, aluminum ranges from the most complex architectural structures to simple fixtures or furnishing elements that, thanks to its use, can be transformed into real works of art.
Expanded metal in eco-sustainable architecture
Expanded metal is one of the most environmentally sustainable products on the market. Whether they are industrial coatings or architectural coverings, their use is highly appreciated due to their low environmental impact. This aspect affects the entire production cycle of the product, from creation to its disposal. The same word says it: in fact, expanded metal is obtained from the stretching, therefore elongation, of raw materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, iron, copper, brass, bronze. Furthermore, the process of transforming the raw material into a finished product takes place cold.
The processing of expanded metal therefore does not produce waste, as there are no drilling operations, and it can be largely recycled so that it can be used again in the production process. Furthermore, its processing reduces the carbon footprint and limits environmental damage. This is why expanded metal is a green product that is increasingly in demand, especially in the architectural field, where it offers savings in terms of materials and costs. A few examples: thanks to the transparency, a sunscreen or a facade in expanded metal, with a decorative or aesthetic function as a second skin, considerably reduces the dispersion of heat while guaranteeing the right penetration of sunlight.
This translates into cost reduction and efficient heating management. The textures of the expanded metal provide a unique and creative means to filter the light, while offering a surprising visual rendering, through dimensionality and optical illusion. For this reason, they are widely used in the architectural and design fields of both interiors and exteriors, because they allow the creation of projects with aesthetic value, without sacrificing resistance and flexibility of use. These are all qualities that make expanded metal a solid, robust and time-tested evergreen product.