As our understanding of climate change continues to evolve, the methods which we use to create sustainable design evolves with it. So here, we’ve gathered a set of eco-conscious projects, completed and in-development, that help set a new standard for construction through innovative architecture, thoughtful materials and more.
Fleshing out the remnants of a Marcel Breuer-designed Armstrong Rubber Company Building in New Haven, Hotel Marcel has been making headlines for its net-zero innovations. The structure has been designed to generate 100% of its own electricity, heat and hot water with onsite solar installation, and that’s just highlighting on aspect of its sustainable measures.
The 165-room hotel, slated to open this month, is designed to meet LEED Platinum standards and will be the U.S.’s first Passive House-certified hotel. “The design both honors this lineage, as well as writes a new chapter for the building,” says Dieter Cartwright, partner of Dutch East Design, which spearheaded the property’s branding and interior design. “It’s the soft, warm, and inviting underbelly to the hard concrete exoskeleton.”
The Suites-Chalets at the Whitepod eco-hotel are so beautifully incorporated into the landscape in Monthey, Switzerland that it feels as though the collection of structures have been there for decades. Channeling the image of a contemporary village in the Swiss Alps, the 21 accommodations mirror the design of neighboring chalets while using exclusively Swiss materials in the design.
Montalba Architects created to prefabricated structures to explore the ideas of ritual, wellness, and connectivity in an economical, eco-conscious fashion. A central bloc containing all services divides the volume of the chalet into an area for daytime activities that encompasses the entrance, dining room, and living room, and on the other side, a peaceful three-bedroom nighttime zone.
All of the units are self-sufficient, fueled by hydro turbines that convert water from surrounding springs into power, and are outfitted with radiant floor heating and thermal energy-saving, air-to-water heat pumps.
Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School
The arrival of the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School in Jaisalmer, India is a profound one. In a region where female literacy hovers at a mere 36 percent, New York-based Diana Kellogg Architects created a sanctuary for 400 girls, who live below the poverty level.
Here, the oval-shaped structure, a shape symbolizing both femininity and the planes of the area’s plentiful sand dunes, contributes to an environment that “will not only equip young women with the tools to further their education and independence, but will also raise awareness surrounding the issues faced by women in India on a global scale,” Kellogg explains.
The school’s design complements the empowering curriculum: Handcarved sandstone, rosewood furniture incorporating classic Charpai woven seating, and a parapet wall are all highlights, while solar canopies and jali stone screens help mitigate the oppressive heat. By using nearly 100 percent local materials and craftspeople, many of them the fathers of the girls, carbon emissions were greatly reduced. Additional sustainable features include the building’s elliptical form, which promotes a cooling panel of airflow, and cisterns that provide drinking and recycled brown water.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, an Aruba retreat since 1987, is the vision of owner Ewald Biemans, one of the island’s biggest champions of eco-conscious tourism. Long before sustainability was a buzzword, the Austrian native was hard at work establishing Aruba’s first environmental committee to help minimize the impact of global warming and formed the Bucuti Green Team back in 2007 to cultivate sound environmental practices in the property’s daily operations.
Since then, Bucuti & Tara has earned LEED Gold certification and a heap of accolades, including as the first hotel in the Caribbean to be certified carbon neutral and the world’s first hotel to receive a Climate Neutral Now honor from the UN Global Climate Action Awards. Echoing this philosophy is the biophilic design. For the refresh of the Bucuti Wing, for example, DADA, D’Amico Design Associates turned to colors, textures, and patterns inspired by Aruba’s indigenous Divi Divi trees, aloe vera plants, blue lizards, and sea turtles.
DADA’s update to the SandBar pool complex, now starring a dining deck along Eagle Beach, also reinterprets the swirl of gold, coral, and purple hues revealed during the island’s dramatic sunrises and sunsets.
Just off the coast of Helsinki, Finland, a cluster of islands strewn with thermal energy storage tanks and recreational wonders alike promises to fulfill the city’s goal for a carbon-neutral heating system by 2030. The artificial intelligence-operated Hot Heart, conceived by New York- and Turin, Italy-based Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with a team of consultants, was named a Helsinki Energy Challenge winning proposal.
“Our vision is that every citizen needs to be involved [in] fighting climate change. In this sense, the Hot Heart story is as much about technical infrastructure as it is about public space,” says founding partner and chairman Carlo Ratti, who also directs the MIT Senseable City Lab.
Hot Heart acts as “a huge battery, storing energy generated from renewable sources such as wind power and then releasing it” into Helsinki’s heat distribution channels as needed during the winter, Ratti says.
“Imagine taking a boat to a tropical archipelago in the middle of the Baltic Sea, heated and lit all year-round. It would exhibit the potential of technology and sustainability and address our inner biophilia.”
FX Mayr Wellness Eco Retreat
A mountain in China’s southeastern Zhejiang province is a fitting backdrop for the first FX Mayr Wellness Eco Retreat, scheduled to open in 2023.
“When we visited the site, we envisioned a small building that had a human scale and wasn’t too intrusive,” says Wendy Saunders, cofounder of Shanghai-based AIM Architecture.
But the scope of the retreat made that impossible. At nearly 270,000 square feet, the resulting structure was instead staggeringly invasive, prompting the design team to elevate it and cultivate varied landscaping underneath, simultaneously keeping disturbances to the environs to a minimum. Given the program’s demands for a connected circulation, orchestrating the layout was another challenge.
The client was “adamant about a certain tree and the energy focus of it, so we literally worked around that,” she explains. This culminated in three stories of timber shaped into an arresting loop.
“The sheer hugeness of the building, what we were initially somewhat afraid of, is also its highlight,” says Saunders. “We are excited about the prospect of it hovering high enough on the slope that whatever fauna and flora that come with it will be able to prosper once the building is built and nature settles down again.”
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is lending its sustainable design and urban planning know-how to a novel New York proposal. Scheduled for completion in the next five years, the River Ring development aims to transform a former fuel-oil storage site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn into a vibrant waterfront with two striking residential towers, also designed by BIG, which will house 1,000 rental apartments (about 250 units are slated as affordable housing).
The namesake “ring” is a circular boardwalk connecting visitors to the beach, planned nature trails, and viewpoints fashioned from old oil-storage infrastructure, while the public park and beach will serve as a sort of barrier to rising sea levels. The 3.5-acre project is developed by Two Trees Management with landscape architecture by James Corner Field Operations—the team that is also revitalizing the former Domino Sugar Refinery down the street—and could safeguard more than 500 inland properties from flooding during the next Hurricane Sandy-level storm.
“We’re changing something from an industrial past into a greener future,” says BIG partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann.
Another version of this article originally appeared on our sister site Hospitality Design.