Designing Virtuous Buildings: 6 Projects that Combine Sustainability and Performance

Nomadic peoples of the desert (Bedouins Berbers, Tuareg among others) wear dark, long, heavy clothes. Contrary to common wisdom, which recommends light, pale, and short clothes in hot climates, heavy, loose clothing encourages air convection. This creates a constant flow and thermal comfort in dry climates. The analogy also applies to buildings. We will talk about the envelope of a project when we discuss energy efficiency and project performance. One solution that is successful in one area may not be the best in another.

We have published a series articles about sustainability and wellness in the construction industry over the past 2 years. How can projects be made efficient and productive, based on their context and requirements?

The Curve / Chartier Dalix Architectes

The Curve / Chartier Dalix Architectes. Image Cortesia de Saint-Gobain

The Curve, a Paris-based commercial building, was completed in 2020. It has a 40% lower energy use than the French thermal regulation of new buildings (RT 2021). It also meets high environmental standards: it meets the French HQE Standard Excellent for commercial buildings, and is BREEAM, Effinergie+ and BREEAM certified. This is due to both the natural insulation properties of the wood structure and the performance of the openings that are made with COOL-LITE(r), XTREME solar control glasses. It has a real selectivity of greater than 2, which is more than twice the amount of natural light in relation to the solar energy transmitted to the interior, and an Ug value down to 0.9W/m2K. The lower Ug means that it provides better thermal insulation.

Szervita Building / Antal Fekete and Laszlo Gellar

Szervita Square Building / Antal Fekete, DVM Group and László Gellár. Image Cortesia de Saint-Gobain, ©Sz. Nagy Judit

The entire structure of this mixed-use building, known as the Szervita Square Building in Budapest, was designed by architects. The glass chosen, COOL-LITE(r), XTREME SIVER II, is reflective of the historic buildings around it, creating a vibrant collage of old and modern. High solar control and reflective properties combine to block much of the sun’s radiation, ensuring high comfort for users and low energy consumption. This is why the building was able meet the requirements and be the first LEED Platinum mixed use development in the EU.

Muxikebarri Center of Performing Arts and Music School / LMU Arkitektura

Muxikebarri Center of Performing Arts and Music School / LMU Arkitektura. Image © Pedro Pegenaute

LMU Arkitektura’s architects created a landmark at the Muxikebarri Center of Performing Arts and Music School. It combines the functions of a cultural centre with environmental concerns and thermal and acoustic comforts for its occupants. The project team stated that the glazed facade planes are a double-layered system, which inserts its buttresses into it. These elements are fixed with galvanized components. They serve as ventilation devices to regulate heat and as compensation instruments in the north. A system of wooden slats, standard profile 40 cm x 20 cm and optimized in two pieces when cut diagonally, creates the environment. This heat sink extends to the entire project.

Casa GZ / Studio Caceres Lazo

Casa GZ / Studio Cáceres Lazo. Image © Pablo Casals Aguirre

With all the new technologies available, a large glass facade does not necessarily mean energy losses or gains. Casa GZ by Studio Caceres Lazo’s east facade features a large pane made of thermal glass. It is high-performing due to its low energy emissivity (glass’s ability to heat transfer from interior to exterior via thermal conduction).

WMS Boathouse in Clark Park / Studio Gang

WMS Boathouse at Clark Park / Studio Gang. Image © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
WMS Boathouse at Clark Park / Studio Gang. Image © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
WMS Boathouse at Clark Park / Studio Gang. Image © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
WMS Boathouse at Clark Park / Studio Gang. Image © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

Studio Gang Architects used solar control glass for the WMS WMS boathouse at Clark Park. Due to a special coating applied to the glass’ surface during manufacturing, these products react differently to sunlight than ordinary glass. This allows the glass to absorb most of the heat and not emit it into the building’s interior. They reflect more heat outside, which is why they are often used as reflective windows. The choice of glass was crucial in this instance, as the responsible team stated in the project description: “The glazing allows for the structure’s floor heating in winter and ventilation in summer to reduce energy consumption throughout the year.” “

Tour Saint-Gobain / Valode & Pistre

A company’s opportunity to build its headquarters is a way to express its values to the world. Saint-Gobain is a French manufacturer that produces a range of building materials. The architecture had to reflect sustainability and the pursuit for performance that the brand strives to achieve with all its products. The Saint-Gobain Tower, Paris, designed and built by Valode & Pistre, can be compared with a collection of three crystals, which capture and diffuse light in a game that is both reflection and transparency. The building’s aura is enhanced by large greenhouses. All floors have access to gardens. The tower is transparent and has a dynamic silhouette, unlike other glass office buildings. This purpose was to emphasize the aesthetic qualities of glass and the properties light transmission, thermal insulation, and solar control. Glass is still a major part of the company’s tradition.

Tour Saint-Gobain / Valode & Pistre. Image © Sergio Grazia

While there are many factors that influence the energy efficiency and performance of a building’s performance, the facade plays a crucial role as it is the first barrier against wind, heat, and bad weather. Openings like doors and windows are often identified as weak points or places that make it difficult to control heat loss or gain. This article aims to demonstrate that glass can be used to create a sustainable, high-performance building.