Holcim Foundation : Competition for Sustainable Construction Projects

Edward Schwarz , Holcim Foundation,
Collaboration spéciale


The winners of the second North American Holcim Awards competition for Sustainable Construction projects were announced at a ceremony in Montreal. Total prize money of USD 270,000 was presented to nine projects from Canada and the United States that showcase the latest approaches to address critical topics including housing affordability, employment, renewable energy, and water efficiency.

The competition is run in parallel in five regions of the world by the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. Almost 5000 projects from 90 countries entered the competition which aims to promote sustainable responses from the building and construction industry to technological, environmental, socioeconomic and cultural issues.

Gold Award to New York City's first carbon-neutral building
The Solar 2 Green Energy, Arts and Education Center will be the first building in New York to produce all the energy the building needs from sustainable sources. The project received the top prize of USD 100,000 and the Holcim Awards Gold 2008 trophy for North America. Praised as a symbol of the city's commitment to energy independence and environmental sustainability, the project led by Christopher J Collins will be constructed on a "brownfield" waterfront site in downtown Manhattan.

Head of Jury and Dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) School of Architecture and Planning, Adèle Naudé Santos, commented that the project will feature innovations that can be applied in homes and other buildings, and motivate visitors to consider how they can personally contribute to the solution of today's energy and climate challenges. "This project brings the eco-building vision into reality and shows how 'green' design and sustainable construction can achieve massive energy and environmental savings without forgetting the importance of architecture and aesthetics," she said.

Silver Award for a self-contained day labor station in San Francisco
The Holcim Awards Silver 2008 was awarded to a project that establishes informal stations where day laborers can meet and await work. The innovative project is designed by Liz Obgu of San Francisco-based nonprofit organization Public Architecture. The flexible structures offer shelter, benches, washrooms and a facility to prepare and provide food - creating a sensitive environment for people living on the periphery of society. At the same time, the project addresses health and safety needs and contributes to solving a source of community conflict. Green and recycled materials are used to minimize the environmental footprint and economic cost of each facility.

Freshwater lake restoration and research facility in Ontario wins Bronze Award
The Living with Lakes Center in northeastern Ontario will be self-sufficient for electricity and heating needs. The project overseen by Laurentian University scientist John Gunn will also house a research center to investigate the restoration of the city of Sudbury's ecosystem with an emphasis on guaranteeing drinking water quality for future generations. The Bronze award-winning project will be built to LEED platinum standards with instrumentation fitted to monitor the effectiveness of an array of technical features and their impact on lake water quality.

Acknowledgement prizes for projects in Toronto, Vancouver and Detroit
Three submissions received Acknowledgement prizes for their innovative approaches to sustainable construction. An urban sustainability education center on the site of an old brickworks by Canadian charity Evergreen led by urban planner David Stonehouse was applauded for its thorough approach to revitalization. The center in Toronto will promote environmental and community health, "brownfield" redevelopment, heritage conservation, sustainable design and public-private partnerships.

The comprehensive planning of a minimal-impact North Vancouver Outdoor School by local firm Larry McFarland Architects was recognized for its performance in terms of zero net energy and carbon emissions performance. The center uses elevated buildings to avoid potential damage from flooding and take advantage of the views of the beautiful surrounding landscape.

A strategy to augment honeybee populations in Detroit by architect Stéphane Orsolini and engineer Erika Mayr of Berlin, Germany was praised for transforming open urban spaces into green parks that provide buffer zones between industrial and residential precincts. The integration of beehives creates employment and also pollination services for the important Michigan fruit and vegetable production sector.

"Next Generation" prizes for project visions
For the first time, the Holcim Awards competition included a category for the visions of young architects and designers. MIT architect Neri Oxman and University of Michigan engineer John Hart were awarded the "Next Generation" 1st prize for their visionary building skin research using carbon nanotubes to develop materials that can be assigned specific structural, functional and environmental properties.

"Next Generation" 2nd prize was awarded to an urban residential densification project in Toronto, designed by architects Chenlong Wang and Lingchen Liu of Beijing, China. The proposal creates a series of unusual housing designs that perfectly utilize small gaps in the urban fabric.

The 3rd prize was awarded to Harvard Graduate School of Design student Andrew Lantz for his proposal for an urban fitness, cultural and housing center that collects energy from kinetics, such as running on a treadmill, to power the structure.

Independent jury of international experts in architecture and sustainability
Competition submissions for projects in region North America were evaluated by an independent jury hosted by MIT: Adèle Naudé Santos (Head of Jury, USA), Philippe Arto (Canada), Ray Cole, (Canada), Sarah Graham (USA), Reed Kroloff (USA), Mohsen Mostafavi (USA), Hans-Rudolf Schalcher (Switzerland), Marion Weiss (USA) and Mark West (Canada) used the "target issues" for sustainable construction developed by the Holcim Foundation to evaluate submissions. The "target issues" address the triple bottom line of economic, environmental, and social factors together with architectural quality and the potential to apply the innovation in other locations.

International series of five ceremonies
The prizes for region North America were conferred at the awards ceremony held at the Montreal Hilton Bonaventure attended by more than 300 representatives of government, business, architecture and related disciplines. Mayor of Saint-Laurent, Alan DeSousa, member of the National Assembly, Russel Copeman, on behalf of the Premier of Quebec, and Chairman of Holcim and of the Advisory Board of the Holcim Foundation, Rolf Soiron welcomed guests. Founding chairman of the World Green Building Council, Kevin Hydes, provided a keynote speech highlighting the pivotal role of the built environment in reducing carbon emissions and redressing other environmental impacts.

The Montreal event was the second of five ceremonies to be held. The results for Europe were celebrated in Madrid, and the results for Latin America, Africa Middle East and Asia Pacific will be announced in the forthcoming weeks. Gold, silver and bronze prize winners from each region automatically qualify for the global Holcim Awards competition. The projects will be further evaluated by a global jury and the winners proclaimed in Switzerland in May 2009.

The Holcim Awards is an international competition of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. The competition seeks innovative, future-oriented and tangible sustainable construction projects; offers prize money of USD 2 million per three-year competition cycle; and are run in cooperation with renowned partner universities: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland; Tongji University, China; Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico; and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

The Holcim Foundation is supported by Holcim Ltd and its Group companies in more than 70 countries, but is independent of its commercial interests. Holcim is one of the world's leading producers of cement and aggregates, and was recently named "Leader of the Industry" in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the fourth year in succession.

Holcim is represented in North America by Aggregate Industries, Holcim US and St. Lawrence Cement.


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