Spotlight Brazil: Building for the Future by Combining Efficiency with Design

National Congress Building Oscar Niemeyer

Preparation for the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016 is estimated to bring in around 407 billion USD of capital investments to infrastructure projects in Brazil. We take a look at how sustainable architecture has already made its mark through ongoing projects in the ma

Author RESET , 05.26.14

Preparation for the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016 is estimated to bring in around 407 billion USD of capital investments to infrastructure projects in Brazil. We take a look at how sustainable architecture has already made its mark through ongoing projects in the major cities and what green building design means for infrastructure and the life of the country’s 198.2 million inhabitants. 

Brasilia – Setor Noroeste

This controversial residential community in the Brazilian capital has been billed by the government as Brazil’s first eco-district but has courted criticism for its high housing price tags, the eviction of indigenous people who were living on the land and for veering away from celebrated urban developer Lucio Costa’s original intentions for the area.

Clearly, being ‘the laboratory for sustainable development‘ has come at a price. So how does it stack up environmentally? The homes are solar powered with electrical back up supplied by reserves of natural gas on cloudy days. Rainwater collection is another vital component. However what really justifies title? Surely the vacuum assisted waste disposal units. Yes. The bins will be connected to tubes that would essentially suck the garbage directly to waste management facilities. With such efforts, Brasilia is on the right road to becoming a sustainable metropolis. Nevertheless, the destination is still far off as well as full of obstacles and with housing in this area only available to the wealthy, it’s hard to argue that Setor Noroeste should be the prototype for sustainable living.

Rio De Janeiro – Triptyque’s Rio Branco 12 Project and The Leaf House

Using several different technologies to ensure the most efficient use of resources, the RB12 project is the first of its kind in the city. Triptyque is an architecture collective that, together with construction firm Natekko, is planning a major ‘green-refurbishment’ of a commercial building as part of the project. The remodelling will include using solar panels and fuel cells for energy while a bioclimactic facade will fragment natural light. Other sustainable criteria that RB12 will fulfil include; thermal comfort, water consumption management, natural light optimisation and of course the clean energy production through photovoltaic panels and hydrogen cells.

Another project of note is The Leaf House, a private home designed by Mateines and Patalano. Inspired by the Indian architecture, the building design emphasises the social areas of the home. The leaf-shaped roof protects the interior from the sun and serves as a highly efficient ventilation system. The duo have designed and partaken in over a dozen projects across the country.

Sao Paulo – Smart Space Apartment 1211

Small space living takes all forms, and can be a huge pillar in sustainable architecture. The micro home Apartment 1211 was designed by Ala Chu and he rose to the challenge with only 25 sqm to work with. The space boasts a heap of natural light, with the kitchen and living room downstairs and a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom and a bathroom. The effective utilisation of such a small space clearly shows that it can be done well, and can help with the widespread housing crisis. It is also of importance to convince the masses that indeed small space living is also better for wellbeing as it decreases energy consumption, as well as supporting sustainable living criteria and values.

A country’s history and development is very apparent when one takes a look at its architecture. As the fifth largest country, both by landmass and population, Brazil has to make an extraordinary contribution to sustainable development especially with the combined overall economic growth (which has however seen a slight decrease of late). Brazil, the only country in South America with Portuguese influence, differs greatly from the other countries on the continent. It has a very well-defined essence of modernism, and functionality especially after WW2.The Brazillian architect  Oscar Niemeyer has had the most influence, with landmark buildings across the country. Brazil has an interesting development history and it is clear that its commitment to sustainability is strong, with dramatic decreases in extreme poverty figures from 10 percent in 2004, to 2.2 percent in 2009, and also significant improvements regarding deforestation. Lets hope the events serve as a catalyst for deeper sustainable development initiatives and social change.

With all eyes turned towards Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re going beyond the stadium and putting the spotlight on local people, organisations and movements that incorporate and implement smart approaches to sustainability and social justice. Find other articles in the series here.

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