Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chilean Green

Green design and construction truly has become a global phenomenon. While the American press has focused almost exclusively on design and construction trends within our own borders, we have been slow to admire the progress that has been made in other parts of the world. I was keenly aware of this fact on a recent trip to Santiago, Chile where evidence of green design in recent construction was hard to miss. Keeping tabs on green trends in the international construction industry will allow good ideas to flow more quickly as the need to combat climate change grows more urgent by the day.

As is my tradition, I spent the first day on the ground in Santiago walking. And walking. And walking. Getting the “lay of the land” is a good way to scope out spots for potential deeper exploration as well as a good excuse to shed the jet-lag. In so doing I stumbled upon several good examples of good planning and was smacked in the face with some totally unexpected green building. In this city more known for its wine and smog, I was so pleasantly surprised with this observation I decided to report on it here.

Exhibit A – Urban Planning
Good urban planning is an absolute necessity when confronting the challenge of sustainable development. Considering that more than 50% (and growing) of the world’s population now live in cities, figuring out the most efficient way feed, house, employ, and entertain these people is paramount. It takes a lot of resources, and efficiency is essential. Fortunately, Santiago has made some commendable steps to this end. This city of over 6 million people has proved immensely walkable, even in the winter, and has integrated a serious of pedestrian malls and urban parks into a network of public space that serves multiple functions. Couple this with a cheap, quick, and easily accessible public transportation and Santiago quickly overtakes many American cities in terms of its ability to move people – emissions free!

Castenara Norte Center
Vegetated Pedestrian Corridor
Public Exercise Equipment

Exhibit B – Green Building Standards
I have heard about the USGBC’s offshoot, the World Green Building Council, but had honestly assumed that it was more of an exercise in hubris than an effective way to promote green building abroad. That point was quickly overturned as I stumbled into a new building going up around the corner from my hotel with the tell-tale USGBC leaf hanging from the construction fence. Couple this with a recent ENR article on the subject of international green building and you’ve got a recipe to change my opinion. There, I said it.

LEED Construction in Providencia
Article C – Beautiful, Prominent Green Architecture
The difference between architecture and design is that architecture gets built, while design is just a set of plans, drawings, models, whatever. Architecture brings design to fruition and serves as evidence of the commitment to a certain design philosophy. In this case, it is green design. I witnessed it in multiple places around the city, and was blown away at the aggressiveness of some of the ideas.

Green Wall in Financial District

Green Wall in El Golf District

Green Architecture at Univ. de Chile

Historic Preservation

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