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Thursday, 05 December 2013 09:44

Top Five Trends in Sustainable Architecture for 2014 S

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Prefabricated Architecture

When architects such as Jean Prouvé and Charles Eames began experimenting with buildings made using off-the-shelf components following the Second World War, little did they know that technology would one day allow buildings to be created from kits cut by a computer anywhere in the world. The basic premise behind prefabricated construction is the capability to manufacture the parts needed to craft a building offsite and then assemble them swiftly, reducing the amount of labour and time required. There are many different methods and materials that can be used to attain this aim and digital technologies and modern engineering have released new opportunities in this area.


Despite globalisation which homogenises everything in its path, the intrinsic connection with materials still prevails in architecture. Furthermore, the forces of nature and the structural power of exotic plastics, timber, hybrid fibers and concrete dictate a unique approach to architecture, where the continued experimentation with materials will start to determine what we build with and, inevitably, how we build.

Moments and Experience in Space: exercises in marking the landscape

Small works of architecture are appearing across the planet on the basis of new experimental architectural design practices and attitudes. These ‘moments of experience’ are set to become points within space where new architectural technologies and practices are introduced and demonstrated going forward.

Pop Up’s: temporary contemporary architecture

Contemplating this range, from temporary stadia to miniature transitory event spaces, pop-up architecture realises many roles and happens in many guises. In some cases the very latest technologies are used to engineer complex structures, while in others, a ready-made approach using scavenged materials is more appropriate. This trend in temporary architecture will set the stage for a new way of looking at, inhabiting and appropriating space within the urban and rural spaces.

Greening of the Urban Landscape

With the increased urban densification and congestion, the issues of climate change, energy efficiency and sustainability are pushing for the urban regeneration agenda. Looking towards pedestrian friendly and walk-able streets and cities, there is an escalating move towards considered, integrated green spaces in towns and cities worldwide, and thus the form which these green spaces are taking is changing.

Philippa Tumubweinee is a senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture, the University of the Free State and a juror on the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture. Entry forms and further details on the Award can be found at and the closing date is 16 March 2014.

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  • Source: AfriSam/SAIA
  • Name: Philippa Tumubweinee
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Read 27741 times Last modified on Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:58

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  • The winners of the 2014 AfriSam-SAIA Sustainability Awards

    The prestigious bi-annual AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture was first introduced in 2009 and recognises outstanding achievement in sustainable architecture as well as creating public awareness and debate on architectural issues. There are two entry categories - one for built work and the other for works of social importance, including research. Entries are evaluated against a range of criteria including people upliftment and planet rejuvenation.  

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    The Alexander Forbes Headquarters in Sandton, Johannesburg, designed by Paragon Architects and Paragon Interface, took top honours in the built work category at the 2014 AfriSam-South African Institute of Architects Award for Sustainable Architecture, announced on 9 October at Johannesburg City Library.

     “In acknowledging this building as the recipient of the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture for 2014 in the built category, it is hoped that the Alexander Forbes Headquarters will provide a beacon of inspiration, not only as a place to work, but also as a worthwhile contribution to the urban fabric of Johannesburg and human experience in the area,” said Stephan Olivier, AfriSam’s CEO.

    Commendations in this category went to a further four projects; UNISA Phase 2 in Parow, Cape Town, designed by Michele Sandilands Architects; the Seed Library in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, designed by Architects of Justice; Monaghan Farm near Lanseria, Gauteng, submitted by Claude Bailey Architecture & Design on behalf of Clewer Development Trust, and House Jones in Hurlingham, Johannesburg, designed by ERA Architects.

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    Vukuzakhe by Durban’s Koop Design, which took the AfriSam-SAIA Award in the research category, acknowledges the rapid urbanisation taking place in Durban, common to most cities in the developing world. The study also understands the need for harmonisation across a series of approaches to solve the challenges that are faced, including social interaction with communities, combined with infrastructure development by local authorities.

    “Vukuzakhe is a brave attempt to record, evaluate and propose systems for urban construction in South Africa. The litmus test remains for the document to be implemented and robustly challenged which, if successful, could offer realistic opportunities for urban development in South Africa,” said Olivier.

    In commending the UNISA Phase 2 building by Michele Sandilands Architects, the jurors particularly noted that, although the building is located in an industrial area, the architecture uplifts an otherwise dispirited part of Cape Town. The building reflects its workings - rainwater tanks and wind towers become powerful elements of the architecture and draw the visitor’s eye to their function, while intriguing attention to detail has been included around lecture room entrances and bathrooms.

    Commented Sindile Ngonyama, President of SAIA and chair of the adjudicators panel, “In celebrating this building, the awards programme hopes to draw attention to the powerful impact that educational buildings can have on our society. UNISA Phase 2 reveals a thoroughness by the architects and an indication that the joy of architecture need not be compromised in the pursuit of responsible design.”

    Architects of Justice confronted a different aspect of sustainable architecture – one beyond construction - when asked to design library facilities for a school in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Their solution, the Seed Library, is an intervention that addresses the wholesale recycling of buildings in society and offers a possible prototype using shipping containers. This commended project may also be adapted in other contexts across South Africa where similar conditions exist.

    “A facility for children, which by virtue of its function offers an opportunity for insouciance and colour, the Seed Library explores the balance between providing much needed facilities and investigating other avenues of architecture which recognise that, sometimes, not building more may be the best solution,” said Ngonyama.

    A lifestyle estate of about 500 hectares immediately north of Lanseria, Monaghan Farm, submitted by Claude Bailey Architecture & Design on behalf of Clewer Development Trust, is a gated community based on food security which is aligned to nature conservation rather than golf-estate principles. In contributing to the sustainability of the community, the approach is wide ranging, from exploring alternative architectural principles, building methods, house services and animal husbandry. The project offers a thorough and comprehensive investigation of alternatives that exist to the status quo of contemporary urban living. While it could be countered that the proposal is exclusive, there are many principles offered that can be considered for broader adaptation.

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    “The determination of the owner of this house to free his family from the vagaries of local authority energy and water supplies resulted in a building whose equipment may be unattainable to most, but offers empirical solutions, in part to all,” said Ngonyama. “House Jones should be lauded for standing up and being counted and the passage of time will evaluate its contribution to alternatives in this era of over-consumption.”

    Commended for his study of concrete recycling in the Western Cape, the jurors noted how Vernon Collis of Collis & Associates combines a passion for the subject of concrete recycling, a record of the dire sand shortage in the Western Cape, and possible solutions for this situation. His submission reveals the breadth and depth that needs to be explored in the subject of sustainable architecture, from testing a client brief, to accommodation schedules, architectural design and materials.

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    Joining Ngonyama on the adjudicators panel for this year’s awards were Gita Goven, one of South Africa’s foremost sustainability thinkers, Llewellyn van Wyk, principal researcher in the built environment at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Daniel K. Irurah, senior lecturer at Wits University, Philippa Tumubweinee, senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State, Vincent Blackbeard and AfriSam’s Mike McDonald.

    This year, for the first time, the AfriSam-SAIA Award has mounted an exhibition to showcase both the winning projects and finalists, which includes a curated educational programme. The exhibition, which runs from 10 – 30 October at the newly renovated Johannesburg City Library, is also free to the public during the library’s normal opening hours.

    Sponsored by AfriSam, Grade 6 and 7 learners from across Johannesburg have been invited to participate in an interactive session of exploration, designed to highlight the importance of sustainability and how it affects their personal lives. Sessions comprise a hands-on workshop with interactive activities and take-home crafts and include a walkabout of the exhibition to illustrate the concepts learnt in each workshop.

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    The two-hour educational sessions will be hosted twice per morning at Johannesburg City Library, from Monday 13 October to Thursday 30 October, at 9:00am and 11:30am respectively. Each session can accommodate 30 - 40 learners. For bookings, on a first-come, first-served basis, please contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    The exhibition is open to the public from Friday, 10 October to Thursday, 30 October during Johannesburg City Library’s normal opening hours, Monday – Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm.

    Films on all fifteen finalists in the 2014 Award can be seen at

    Filmed and produced by: www.Concrete.TV
    Edited by Adrienne Taylor
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    [The winners of the 2014 AfriSam-SAIA Sustainability Awards [architecture]]

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    Read more for greater insight from Daphna Tal, sustainable interiors consultant at Australian Living.

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