Now into its fifth year, the WAN Sustainable Buildings Award promotes and rewards buildings that use environmentally conscious techniques throughout the design process to create buildings that are resource-efficient and ecologically sound. This category is aimed at recognising buildings that have a commitment to creating building solutions that are affordable, practical and which responds to the needs of its inhabitants. 

A longlist of 20 projects were recently assessed by a panel of experts. Each submission was assessed on whether it had achieved a high level of accreditation in the relevant country, utilised a sustainable approach within the stages of the development and demonstrated the materials used had been subject to an in-house sustainability review e.g. locally sourced materials, renewable materials. 

This year’s esteemed judging panel were: Chris Castle, Managing Director at EPR Architects, Jon Eaglesham, Director at Barr Gazetas, Nille Juul-Sorensen, Director at Arup, Jason Martin, Partner at HawkinsBrown and Jason Speechly-Dick, Design Director at Atkins.

After much discussion, the jury agreed on a shortlist of six, listed below in no particular order.

GateWay Community College Integrated Education Building in Phoenix, United States by SmithGroupJJR

The GateWay Community College is located centrally in the metropolitan Phoenix area and has created a new ‘all-in-one’ 122,000 sf facility to their urban campus. Creating a new mall and over 30,000 sf of shaded student terrace space, the project aims to create not only a liveable learning community inside the building but builds a hierarchy of outdoor educational spaces that are created for different functions. 

Situated in an environment that is cooling dominated, one of the first lines of defence is the envelope. Large roof overhangs and shading scrims along the north, east and south elevations coupled with a high performance glazing and an increased thermal barrier were utilised to knock out as much of the solar heat gain as possible. Since the building consisted of classrooms and laboratories which required large amounts of outside air, strategies to reduce that load included energy recovery on lab exhaust and environmental relief air transfer from the office to the laboratory. This reduced the energy associated with outside air by 60%. 

Chris acknowledged how the design responded to its environment, “This sort of workspace in every other community Arizona college would be an indoor air conditioned space. I think they have made a good effort.” Jon agreed saying, “I quite like the idea that they are trying to create some outdoor space with just some ventilation and shading which is much better than having it indoor and air conditioned.” 

NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, United States by Gould Evans

NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center is a new marine science research building for a federal government agency that manages and conserves living marine resources. The building replaces a nearby facility threatened by coastal erosion, and the design team were challenged to replicate its beloved “courtyard culture” while advancing its vital research. The building needed to accommodate seven unique user groups and a complex program on a tight, sloping coastal site in La Jolla. The 124,000 sf building was strategically inserted into the steep contour of a site overlooking La Jolla Cove. The five-story building is broken down into smaller structures which are clustered in “villages” no more than two stories in height. For a building dedicated to marine ecosystem health, sustainable design was critical. Features within the project contribute to a highly energy-efficient design reflected in the achievement of a LEED Gold rating. 

Jason S. spoke positively of this design saying, “I like it, I think that driving a building down into the existing terrain on a programmatic functional content brief, which has obviously a lot of cellular rooms is quite a clever thing to do. I think it’s a good diagram. Doing skinny buildings which have a simple span within a courtyard is a really great piece of design. The root planning principals of a skinny building with access to daylight and a thin floor plate makes it inherently something that leads to a sustainable environment, as opposed to a big box.” Jason M. added, “I like the way this building is embedded into the landscape. I like the way it conceals the car park and how it’s broken down into smaller elements so that it doesn’t dominate the urban fabric.”

Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center, Basalt, United States by ZGF Architects

Located on the north shore of the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, Colorado, the new LEED Platinum certified Innovation Center for the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) combines unobstructed views, natural light, and a palette of stone, wood and zinc to reflect its textured landscape. The two-story, 15,600 sf, net-zero energy building integrates sustainable thinking with responsive design to provide office and collaboration space for RMI research as well as the White Styer Impact Studio for convening seminars and conferences. The Innovation Center is expected to be the most energy efficient building in the coldest climate zone in North America. An 83-kW roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system generates more energy than the building is designed to use and contributes to achieving net-zero energy. The building is anticipated to use less water than the precipitation that falls on the site. Separate plumbing lines were installed so the Center can be one of the first commercial buildings in Colorado to use greywater when state regulatory requirements are finalized.

After viewing this project, Jason M. highlighted “It looks like they have started with sustainability in mind and it’s run throughout the entire process. I think some of the internal spaces look very pleasant. Can you imagine those views?” Jon agreed with Jason by revealing, “This one is performing really well, it’s designed to be sustainable isn’t it, part of sustainability is about the environment and wellbeing and that is a very nice environment. It has a very calm and natural internal environment which promotes wellbeing and I’d like to be in that space. There’s good lighting and lovely contrast.”

Kamikatz Public House, Tokushima, Japan by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP

Kamikatsu in Tokushima prefecture is committed to zero waste, aiming to become a sustainable recycling society. The town has already attained an 80% recycling rate by sorting its waste into 34 categories. On the premise that a paradigm shift for production and sales processes is essential in achieving zero waste, a private-sector business sympathized with the principles of this town launched this project with the concept of integrating a shop that sells household sundries, food, and beer by weight, brewery, and a pub. 

The architecture is not only conserving energy and resources, it is reducing harmful emissions though reuse, reduce, and recycle, and starting to enhance a circulation of the regional economy as well as tourism.

Nille enjoyed the simplicity of this project saying, “What I like about it is that they just have one material, one colour and that’s it. What you see then is all these character windows, you don’t see the kink here and the dog leg there. That kind of beauty is intriguing as it’s not perfect and you see something new every time. It’s a great diagram, it’s simple, easy to understand, what I also like about it, is it’s a small project that you could learn a lot from.” Jason M. continued on to praise the project, “I think this is lovely, I think this is delightful! I love the entrance as well, you just come into the middle and then see the brewery on one side and the shop on the other. They’ve had such fun doing this haven’t they which is another reason why I like it.”

Institute of Mathematics, University of Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany by ingenhoven architects

The Centre of Mathematics at the University of Karlsruhe was built in 1964 and needed to be refurbished both architecturally and energetically. Located close to the historic centre and due to its location on the edge of the university campus the building works as a “showcase” of the university, to the city. In cooperation with Meyer architects, ingenhoven architects refurbished the building architecturally with a focus on optimizing energy consumption. It sets new standards in energy efficiency reducing all energy consumption by half, whilst simultaneously almost doubling the amount of floor space. The house received a new facade with significantly improved thermal insulation and energy efficient building services. The use of daylight was improved and the building is passively air-conditioned. To expand the usable area to 2.200 m², a recessed mezzanine was topped. 

Attracting the judges attention to this particular project was the strength of the architecture and the stunning re-use. Jason S. applauded this scheme expressing, “Well for me it’s the first project we’ve seen so far that is a re-use, so it gets a lot of points. It has a really cool response in terms of the architecture, I’d be proud of that. It’s just a really thoughtful, calm response isn’t it? They’ve reused an old building that is light efficient. They’ve recreated what they have in a really elegant way. It’s a really simple, elegant response, they’re not trying too hard.” Nille simply added, “It’s a fantastic example of stripping an old building, getting it up to normal standards and creating a lot of daylight. At the same time, it is in total control in the aesthetics. I think that is fantastic, you can see that this is working, that it’s a nice environment to be in.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Brock Environmental Center, Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States by SmithGroupJJR

Located on Pleasure House Point, the centre preserves the last undeveloped 122-acre parcel in Virginia Beach. The facility includes staff offices, an 80-seat conference room, meeting rooms, exhibit areas and an outdoor classroom built to host thousands of K-12 students each year. The LEED Platinum-certified centre is a model for sustainable design, having achieved net-zero energy, water, and waste after one year of operation, and is on track to earn Living Building Challenge certification. The design expresses the spirit of the unique site while simultaneously showcasing technologies that contribute to the net-zero goals. The curved façade of the building responds to the nearby shoreline, maximizes daylight, and embraces passive solar principles. The metal roof captures rainwater, filling cisterns sized to withstand a 6 week drought. Composting toilets treat all waste on-site, while leachate is stored and sent to a local struvite reactor and converted into commercially available fertilizer.

Chris was immediately engaged with the project, “There are hardly any buildings in the world that are zero carbon, zero waste, zero water, I mean, that is exceptional, that has to be acknowledged. It is a fine tuned building.” Simply stated Jon declared, “The credentials are amazing aren’t they?” 

WAN AWARDS would like to thank the jury and congratulate all six finalists in the WAN Sustainable Award 2016. The final winner of this award will be announced on 5 July 2016.

Christina Ingram

Awards Co-ordinator

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