Architects and built environment professionals from around the world on COVID-19 and sustainability

The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction has surveyed leading professionals in the fields of architecture, planning, and construction, asking what effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the built environment.

Funded by LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest producer of cement and concrete, the Foundation for Sustainable Construction aims to raise awareness of the role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and construction can play in achieving a sustainable built future.

In a statement, the organization said that monitoring developments in the industry and anticipating future trends had been a core activity of the LafargeHolcim Foundation the since it was created in 2003.

“Over the years, the foundation has established a global network of experts who count among the world’s thought leaders in their fields,” reads the statement. “Together with the members of the board of the foundation, they are monitoring developments in the fields of architecture and construction arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Here is what some of the members of this global network said:

Rethinking cities

“I am very concerned that we may be moving not towards consolidation but dispersion. That would suck all the energy and vitality out of our cities.” – Enrique Norten, founder of TEN Arquitectos in Mexico and the USA.

“Architects and urban planners are going to have to carefully rethink the structure of our cities. Now that more people understand just how essential the basic needs really are, it should be easier to successfully implement sustainable projects of all sorts.” – American architect and urban planner Mitchell Joachim.

Using space more flexibly

“Built space we considered essential has become redundant overnight [but] we mustn’t rush to demolish old buildings just to replace them with something new. We have to completely rebalance the logistics and supply chains that keep our cities alive.” – Stuart Smith, managing director of Arup Germany

“How do we rebuild the sense of commonness in cities that are already fragmented and segregated?” – Brazilian architect Eduardo Pizarro.

Enabling interpersonal contact

“Humans need to be together. Although we can work productively despite being further apart, creativity, spontaneity and the resulting innovation require people to work together physically.” – Marilyne Andersen, professor of Sustainable Construction Technologies at EPFL in Switzerland.

“As architects, we need to stay flexible and think about how to deal with potential future scenarios. We have to further examine urban density and the role of public space.” – Florian Heinzelmann from SHAU architects in Indonesia.

Improving infrastructure

“My personal hope would be the improvement of health infrastructure. “Society must be viewed as a collective whole and not as a mass of individuals. [What India needs now] is the resolve of the government and bureaucracy to bring about lasting change, not as a reactive flurry of action plans, but rather in the form of long-term, persistent programs.” – Architect Brinda Somaya, founder of Somaya and Kalappa Consultants in India.

“The authorities must now give priority to the inclusion of informal settlements. It’s high time for investment and innovation, because in overpopulated slum communities, for example, social distancing simply doesn’t work.” – Indian architect Avneesh Tiwari.

Promoting resilience of the built environment

“If our cities were more sustainable, they would have shown more resilience to the consequences of the coronavirus. Developing cities, buildings, and infrastructure sustainably lends a certain immunity to future crises of all kinds in the long term. This means cities in all their facets must now undergo major transformation.” – Meisa Batayneh Maani, founder of Maisam Architects and Engineers in Jordan.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a historic moment to pause and reassess certain things that were once taken for granted. We need courage and creativity to achieve innovation and to work towards the transformation to a sustainable economy.” – Maria Atkinson, cofounder of the Green Building Council of Australia.

The foundation also announced that the winners of its US$2 million sustainable architecture competition, the LafargeHolcim Awards, will now be announced in 2021 (instead of later this year) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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