The Economy of Sustainable Construction: Proceedings of the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction 2013

280 281 Is “the economy of sustainable construction” a question or a statement? Should we respond to the question of how to deal with the costs associated with sustainable construction, or should we give examples demonstrating that there is an underlying economy to building sustainably? Question or statement, there is no doubt that there is value in sustainability: social value in better living conditions, physical value in a healthier and less polluted environment, long-term monetary value in reduced maintenance costs, and, above all, ethical value in fairness to future generations. The way things are today, however, requires all of us to pay a high price for achieving that value. So how do we convince decision makers in finance and politics that we need to fund the creation of this value? We at Elemental believe that, for those with money and power to agree to pursue that higher value, even if that requires more expense, we will need two things: in this generation, an army of psychiatrists, and in the next generation, more breastfeeding. How did we come to these conclusions? It may have started on February 27, 2010, at 3:34 in the morning, when an 8.8 Richter scale magnitude earthquake hit Chile. We’re used to earthquakes in Chile; in 1960 we experienced the biggest earthquake ever recorded, a 9.5 on the Richter scale. What differed this time was that the earthquake was followed by a tsunami, which destroyed many cities in the southern part of the country. After the natural catastrophe, we were asked by the forestry company Arauco to work in a city called Constitución, which is located 400 kilometers south of Santiago, right by the Pacific Ocean. Constitución was hit by the tsunami and was almost completely destroyed. The tsunami first hit at the northernmost point of the city, with twelve-meter waves, then kept moving through the river and hit the rest of the city with six-meter waves. Arauco thought that they could contribute to the recovery by donating the professional knowledge required to design a sustainable master plan for the reconstruction of the city, improving the local technical capacity and saving precious time, given that a private company can hire consultants directly instead of going through the conventional process of public bids required by the state. We were given one hundred days to redesign Constitución. A hundred days is a very short period of time to design a city, but it’s an eternity to people living on the streets. A sense of urgency is crucial if we want to bring about major changes to the way our cities are organized. As part of that project, we came up with a design and plan for almost every possible building in the city. In addition, we had to think about how to mitigate and protect the city against future threats. Given the unusual scale of the operation, the design process had to be participatory. We learned the importance of including residents and their opinions while working on social housing projects; this time, working with Tironi and Associates, a strategic communications company, we applied the process at the entire city level. For us, participatory design is not exactly codesigning; here, it meant that we needed people to precisely define their needs and focus on Sustainability as the Rigorous Use of Common Sense Alejandro Aravena

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