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Building a better future with local solutions

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Silver prize winner, Fatima-azzahra Bendahmane, Morocco (left); Gold prize winners, Yasaman Esmaili and Mariam Kamara, USA; and Bronze prize winners, Joana Dabaj, Riccardo Conti, Luca Astorri and Joana Dabaj, Lebanon/United Kingdom, at the LafargeHolcim Awards 2017 for Africa Middle East, in Nairobi, Kenya.

With urbanisation, there has been a constant expansion of infrastructure, the endless proliferation of dwellings, factories and public facilities. However, the sustainability of such projects and designs is put to test when the impact is measured on the sidelines of the socio-economic benefits it offers to the people. Cement manufacturer, LafargeHolcim, using five “target issues” of sustainability promoted works that offered local solutions to improve quality of life. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.

Beyond innovations in materials which may serve as eco-friendly alternatives, cement manufacturers using sustainability measures, are looking at how structures can be designed and constructed in a manner that is people-centric and one that has huge potential to change behaviour for a better future.

With cities across Africa already struggling to accommodate the continent’s fast-growing urban population, some are turning to innovative architecture for solutions.

To experts in the built industry, sustainability in building developments is a vast and complex subject that must be considered from the very earliest stages as the potential environmental impacts are very significant.

This however informed the move by LafargeHolcim through its Foundation for Sustainable Construction, to seek designs that go beyond current standards and deliver new, surprising, or truly visionary solutions to the way we build.

With $2 million at stake in a competition that challenges stakeholders in the global construction industry on sustainability issues identified by LafargeHolcim, the need to be innovative in their approach to sustainable construction remains an emphasis.

According to a report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, 22 million people are being added to African cities every year.

As a result, planners and architects will play a key role in building cities – which account for the bulk of emissions and energy use globally – that avoid the pitfalls of slum expansion, decrepit infrastructure and climate-altering pollution.

New narratives as driver of sustainable construction
To address these issues, Joe Osae-Addo, a member of the Awards jury for Middle East Africa explained that the Foundation and its partner universities reached a consensus on identified five “target issues” that aim to clarify principles for sustaining the human habitat for future generations.

These “target issues” which serve as criteria for projects submitted for the LafargeHolcim Awards and as a road map for other related activities of the Foundation include, innovation and transferability; ethical standards and social inclusion; resource and environmental performance; economic viability and compatibility; and contextual and aesthetic impact.

For the fifth cycle of the competition, the foundation received 5,085 entries from authors in 121 countries, with only 1,836 projects passing the formal and quality checks before being assessed by five independent regional juries, hosted by partner universities of the Foundation.

While the main Awards category was designed for professionals to showcase sustainable responses to technological, environmental, socioeconomic and cultural issues affecting contemporary building and construction, the Next Generation category for students and professionals up to 30 years of age became more popular, as authors showcased visionary projects and bold ideas that challenged the status quo.

According to Saâd Sebbar, a Member of the Executive Committee of LafargeHolcim Ltd responsible for the region, the awards was designed as a platform for the implementation of sustainable agenda by the cement manufacturer.

According to him, the global competition requests leading projects of professionals as well as bold ideas from the next generation that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence.

He explained that the feasibility of a project was a key requirement of the awards because the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, was looking for innovative solutions.

Designing for a future beyond the numbers
While the 75 entries from Nigeria did not qualify for the global Awards competition scheduled for 2018, the entries were acknowledged at the regional competition.

On ways to prevent a repeat of such incident at the next cycle of the awards, a member of the jury for the regional awards, Kunle Adeyemi, said there is a lot of work to be done in orientating a lot of young architects and designers on the true values that are important in development today.

Kunle who is also the Founder and Principal of NLÉ based in Lagos, Nigeria and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said: “construction goes beyond the fanciful, high profile and exotic looking designs of today but the issues affecting people and the environment. The use of materials that are local needs to be considered, as well as techniques of building that improve human and capital resources that we have.

“We need to understand these values. We are happy to encourage them and look forward to more entries from the young ones. LafargeHolcim gives an incredible opportunity to be recognised and rewarded for such kinds of work”.

To ensure that Nigeria takes the centre stage at the next edition of the awards, a Professor of Housing and Urban Regeneration at the University of Lagos, Gbenga Nubi noted that efforts are underway to build a strategic partnership with other stakeholders in the construction industry to foster professional exchange and ensure that next entries meet the criteria for sustainable construction.


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