“Urbanism and sustainability”, a conference by Nico Larco, a lecturer from the University of Oregon
On 7th May, we had the opportunity to receive a lecture on urbanism and sustainability from the architect Nico Larco, lecturer at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts of the University of Oregon (USA).
Nico Larco has years of experience working in the field of sustainable urban development. He is co-founder and co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI), a multidisciplinary organisation that specialises in sustainable development and has received several international prizes for his work. In spring, he was a visiting lecturer at the ETSAB, with his stay being funded by a Fulbright scholarship.
Since 2012, over half of the world’s population has been living in urban areas. With the effects of climatic change, which is now becoming increasingly evident, and the continuous degradation of the natural environment, sustainability has become a critical and indeed fundamental theme within urban planning. Starting from this premise, Larco gave us a presentation based on a scheme for evaluating the different aspects of sustainable urban design, ranging from the macro to the micro scale. This approach did not only help us to understand what the most important subjects to consider should be when analysing an urban project, from the planning stage through to the constructions themselves, but also helped us to understand the relations and interactions between all of the different elements involved.
Last February, a group of students on the 2012-2013 course visited the Media-TIC building designed by the architect Enric-Ruiz Geli (Cloud-9) in the 22@ district of Barcelona.
This is a building whose function is to house new technology and digital information companies. It is cubic in form and was constructed using great iron support beams within a facade covered with a plastic coating of inflatable bubbles, which makes it possible to observe the fluorescent structure of the building. It has an innovative façade in terms of both its lighting and thermal control.
The structure of the building absorbs sunlight and is then able to illuminate itself at night. It also has intelligent membranes that dilate and contract according to the intensity of the sun in order to control the amount of incoming heat. This is due to an innovative translucent coating of ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene), which has recently been accredited as a construction material in what constitutes an important innovation for Spanish buildings. It acts as an external coating and also as a mobile solar screen, which facilitates the penetration of light and offers savings in thermal energy.
The ETFE skin is activated by pneumatic mechanisms thanks to its luxometer sensors which, according to the level of solar radiation, are automatically and activated and then autonomously activate the devices that inflate and/or deflate the chambers. These luxometers are energetically independent.
All of the facades of Media-TIC are different, being designed according to their orientation. On the outside, parts of their interior spaces become translucent and give a variable plasticity, while from the inside, they offer interesting views.