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Constructing Ecosystems

Title: Constructing Ecosystems –the Tectonics of the European (Bio)Renovation Wave
Tutor: Jan Wurm
Semester: Semester 3&4, Academic Year 2021/22
Language: English
Campus Brussels

Image left: The Flat House, Courtesy of Practice Architecture (Image Credit: Oskar Proctor)

Introduction: Constructing Ecosystems

How can we build a circular bioeconomy by renovating our buildings?

With construction entering an ecological age, the material palette is shifting from carbon intense materials to natural and bio-based materials. Use of bio-based materials have a two-fold effect: they reduce the embodied footprint of the building and their value chains can contribute to the regeneration of our natural ecosystems and shared habitats. Currently new design approaches based on bio-based materials are limited in scale and impact. With this master dissertation project we want to explore current bio-economies across Europe and their future potential to provide building materials, develop design strategies and demonstrate the qualities of bio-based tectonics through a case-study project.

This assignment offers to apply a speculative, yet strategic, and integrated approach to sustainable design focused on future value chains of bio-based materials. We want to explore a design strategy and resulting architectural tectonics rooted in the emerging circular bioeconomy of Belgium and Europe. You will apply and demonstrate your design strategy on the renovation/renewal of the Paul Henri-Spaak Building of the European Parliament Building in Brussels, to be completed by 2035.

During this assignment you will switch between 3 perspectives and work in 3 scales.

The 3 Perspectives & Scales

  • Foresight: Look ahead into the year of 2035 to understand future needs and opportunities for renovation and opportunities of the local, national, or European bioeconomy
  • Panorama view: Adopt a holistic perspective to develop an integrated design strategy embedded in the eco-systematic context
  • Focus on Detail: Design a modular, scalable bio-based façade cladding system for the EU ‘renovation wave’ to shape a healthy ecosystem.

The 3 Scales

Your design interventions need to address and integrate three scales to create positive, economic, ecologic and social outcomes:

  • Ecosystem Scale

Circular Bio-economy with related land-use and natural and industrial ecosystems as the base to develop new value chains for construction

  • Building Scale

To re-program the exiting building, renew and renovate its layers to meet future demand and increase inclusiveness, resilience, and community value

  • Component and Detail Scale

A façade construction system as a scalable solution to create demand for new regenerative value chains processing bio-based (waste) materials to building systems.

Theme: the (Bio) Renovation Wave

Over the last years, the building and construction sector – being a major contributor to total carbon emissions, resource consumption and waste generation – has moved into the focus of EU policy makers and their agenda of the “Green Deal”. With 85-95% of the building stock of 2050 being already built the “Renovation Wave” is crucial to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. This initiative focuses on decarbonizing buildings through increasing energy efficiency for cooling and heating during their operation.

However with the urgency of climate change the focus of the initiative needs to shift from operational to embodied carbon. How do we construct building interventions? Natural, bio-based materials must be used for buildings to contribute positively to the shift from “sustainable design” to “regenerative design”.  Instead of emitting anthropogenic carbon—we will work with natural carbon cycles and local regenerative materials, investigate agricultural and industrial waste streams within circular bioeconomy to inform a new mutually beneficial paradigm for renovating buildings with nature.

The Renewal of the Paul Henri-Spaak Building was subject to a highly ambitious and controversial international design competition based on regenerative design principles. You will develop a material and value-chain based design strategy and modular construction approach for its renovation. Through Bio-Renovation, you will design new value chains to benefit the regeneration of local/national/European ecosystems.

Materials Palette

All materials used should be non-toxic and healthy with following hierarchy

  • Living materials
  • Reclaimed bio-based
  • Bio-based from agricultural/industrial waste
  • Bio-based from fast-growing plants
  • Bio-based
  • Reclaimed/Re-used/recycled

Read more in the full studio description here (pdf)