Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The building which led to the future in the skyscrapers

Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, widely considered to be the world’s first modern skyscraper is supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame. Constructed in 1884 in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the building was designed by American engineer William Le Baron Jenney. This was the first tall building to use structural steel in its frame. 

Jenney's lightweight steel frame relieved a structure of its heavy masonry shackles, enabling it to soar to new heights. Perplexed by this trade-in of solid brick for a spindly steel skeleton, Chicago inspectors paused the construction of the Home Insurance Building until they were certain it was structurally sound. 

The Home Insurance Building stood until 1931, when it was demolished to make way for another skyscraper, the Field Building (now known as the LaSalle Bank Building).

The sky is the limit for wooden buildings

Skyscraper and tall buildings have started to choke the atmosphere. In Britain alone, 47% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from buildings, while 10% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials. Architects and engineers are now seeking new ways of building taller and faster without having such a drastic impact on the environment. And they are now looking at  the most basic building material of them all: wood.

Wooden skyscrapers could be the future of flat-pack cities around the world, says Athlyn Cathcart-Keays in an article published The Guardian. The development of engineered timber could herald a new era of eco-friendly ‘plyscrapers’. Christchurch welcomed its first multistorey timber structure this year, there are plans for Vancouver, and the talk is China could follow.

Wood in its raw form can not compete with iron or steel, therefore, layers of low-grade softwood are glued together to create timber panels. The “engineered timber” offers the prospect of a new era of eco-friendly “plyscrapers”.

For Vancouver-based architect Michael Green, the sky is the limit for wooden buildings. While nearing completion of the University of Northern British Columbia’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, Green’s practice, MGA, has also drawn up plans for a 30-storey, sun-grown tower for downtown Vancouver.

If built, Green’s vision would be easily the world’s tallest wooden building, soaring past the current contenders - London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys, and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne. But that’s not the main motivation, according to MGA associate Carla Smith. “To be honest, it’s not like we really care about being the tallest,” she says. “We really do see a wooden future for cities, and our aim is to get others to jump on board too.” 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Impact of Architecture on Health and Wellbeing

Architecture is probably the last thing that comes to our mind when we discuss public health. But the influence it makes on us is very significant. Architecture helps shape the quality of our environments and therefore certainly contribute to health and wellbeing of the public.

Architects have a big role to play in shaping the qualities of our environment and this promote our mental and physical health and make us happy. They are able to do this because they work in close collaboration with people who will use the space designed by them and also understands their needs and ambitions. And when a architect designs something that honours the needs and wellbeing of those who will use it, he actually determines how well a community lives and thrives.

Similarly, good architecture can help to create spaces in homes and hospitals that have the provision of treatment or support for those suffering with illness or trauma and also for caregivers. Architects through their intelligent architecture designs can ensure a positive prognosis for the future of healthcare by creating buildings that are good for body (health) and mind. This can surely be achieved if architects ensure multifunctional use of space (in hospitals) that is not only efficient but also provide privacy for every patient. Not only the comforts be kept in mind but also storage and entertainment systems should be such that patients feel as if they are being treated at home.

The public, healthcare professionals and architects must collaborate to provide quality healthcare architecture offering long-term benefits for their users.