Alfredo Acosta: “Maybe nature is the big protagonist… and reconnecting with it?”
Some years ago, sustainable architecture started evolving from a set of never-fulfilled concepts and promises to a tangent reality. Social consensus on respect for the environment and the use we make of natural resources are changing pre-established paradigms in all areas, including architecture. The advancement of construction technology allows us to consider projects that were unrealistic not many years ago.
Today we talk about sustainable architecture with technical architect Alfredo Acosta, member of the Col·legi d’Aparelladors, Arquitectes Tècnics i Enginyers d’Edificació de Barcelona (CAATEEB), and who is developing an ECODISSENY project.
· Many economic environments have been in difficult times for over a year. 70% of architects are self-employed; one-third of them earn less than EUR 15,000 a year. How has Covid-19 affected a sector that was already in crisis prior to the pandemic?
Responding to your question, the profession has indeed known better times. I think that, in general, we are ‘trained’ to keep pace with the fluctuations in the volume of work.
· You’ve been working on architecture for thirty years. To what extent is sustainable architecture changing your working environment? Is it still a marginal issue, or are we talking about a trend that is becoming more and more important in your day-to-day life?
Sustainability is a concept that would be ideal if all of us were aware of its value. We are gradually understanding that we only have one planet, and that we have to “dialogue” with it, be consistent, and respect it.
I like to talk about “understanding the context”; then, you can “read” situations (general or private), see, hear, understand, and, very important, raise appropriate issues and reflect.
- Have we passed the “point of no return”?
- Do we really understand that the focus is not the individual interest, but the collective interest? Maybe nature is the big protagonist …and reconnecting with it?
- Is economic and social development possible and compatible with respect for the environment?
- Is there a need for a new perspective?
- We have technology and tools that ‘require’ millions of data every day. Can we manage this data properly and transform it into knowledge? Then, with institutional support, we can develop strategies aligned to “values”.
· Housing rehabilitation is a sector that continues to expand, partly because of the poor construction standards past decades, but to what extent is energy rehabilitation gaining ground in this area?
The lack of land for development in large cities makes rehabilitation an ideal option.
In recent years, concepts such as energy rehabilitation, healthy habitats, universal accessibility, waste and water management, green infrastructure (garden roofs), circular economy, renewable energies, emission reduction, etc. are within a conceptual framework with a common nexus, CONSISTENT “ECO SUSTAINABLE” GROWTH, which generates a paradigm shift.
In my opinion, the great challenge lies in ensuring that we are agile in applying the knowledge and experience we have gained. Let me explain myself. Methods, regulations, legal framework, solutions, and traditional construction processes evolve slowly (not at the same speed as the applicable knowledge).
Maybe it is not hurting us badly enough, so we don’t have a need to move faster. Can we see what’s obvious only, but ignore intangible things?
This world is very different from the world of the time when you finished your studies, and technology has progressed a lot in recent years.
· What training resources do architects from your generation, who were trained only in constructive or historical rehabilitation, have?
We have no choice but to be proactive and continually trained. Professional schools offer training courses, web resources (selecting the source of information) and the “eternal trainee” attitude, day after day, in the profession.
· In this sense, and since the digitalization of your sector, how do new architectural technologies and the introduction of new digital tools such as the BIM (Building Information Modelling) methodology help to project more sustainable housing and space?
Based on the concept of “if it is measurable, it is better”, one can conclude that we have, within our reach. the amount of tools and software that provide us with enough data to make tuned decisions for each need.
BIM is the natural evolution of early drawing programs. With BIM, we can design, “build in 3D”, financially assess, plan, and monitor the execution of a project. We can see problems and anticipate them.
· Anything else you want to emphasize?
To conclude, I would just like to raise a few points that I think are appropriate: I think it is important to understand cultural differences. The value of the community in decision-making (cohousing). New look at funding options. It is possible to transform the economy and to achieve a balance with the natural environment and biodiversity. Lean methodology. There are many environmental certifications for buildings, and I think that can lead to confusion for the end user.