Is it worth it to educate buildings?


Many of us strive to live healthier. We dedicate increasingly more attention to health and the environment, and we want to live together in harmony with nature and teach our children about it. However, did you ever think that not only people, but also buildings can be educated in the spirit of ecology? After all, it is very important how we feel at home, at work or in town! New terms and requirements for sustainable designs are penetrating the Lithuanian world of construction and architecture. We discussed this with prominent construction project developers, architects and engineers developing the trade and services centre in Balsiai, and about how can they change the environment of our houses and cities, based on the new sustainable design philosophy.

“Do you know about all these healthy lifestyle trends? They come and go, for example, some nutritionists advise people to drink lots of fruit juices, while others advise avoiding them because of the excessive sugar. The world of construction and architecture is also full of eco-trends, but it is not so easy for a non-professional to navigate in it, just like in a healthy diet”, said Audrius Masionis, project manager of the Baltisches Haus real estate development company.

According to him, the principles of sustainable design are best reflected by BREEAM methodology for assessment of the environmental friendliness of buildings, which is gaining popularity in Lithuania. Its essence is that the building project or the existing building is assessed according to 130 criteria – from energy consumption, the impact on the environment, to human harmony with the landscape. Building assessment in accordance with this methodology can be compared with grades from different disciplines – environmental impact, energy efficiency, and others.

“Buildings with high BREEAM ratings live happily ever after, they decorate the surroundings, protect the environment and are convenient to work or live in, therefore, they are favoured by people”, said A. Masionis.

Meanwhile, architect Algirdas Kaušpėdas has his own views on sustainability in architecture, and in all areas of life. For a beautiful idea not to get lost in a jungle of thoughts, he uses the example of the sustainability of a tree. According to him, knowledge, ideas, aspirations and the tree of sustainability are in its roots, reflecting its integrity. The tree trunk symbolizes sustainability, therefore, it has to be both durable and flexible, to withstand powerful winds or snowstorms. Meanwhile, the beautiful tree crown, which can only grow with healthy roots and a strong trunk, is a symbol of harmony, offering tasty and useful fruit.

A. Masionis says that after deciding to create a conceptual shopping centre, the development of its ideological roots, in particular, started with the local Vilnius Balsiai settlement community. Addressing important questions together, specific ideas emerged on how the new building infrastructure can help solve the problem of the uncomfortable and accident-prone entrance to Balsiai. The community provided advice on how to better adapt the future spaces around the building for the needs of the local population, and many other issues.

“Sustainable design ideas create an atmosphere preventing the treatment of a new construction nearby as a suspicious foreign body. In cooperation, we can better understand the expectations of people and all together listen to the sensitive landscape of the regional park”, said the Baltisches Haus project manager.

According to him, fantastic ideas have appeared in preparation for BREEAM certification and working together with the Balsiai population and business partners. The building is designed in a way that does not stand out from the overall landscape, its roof and part of the facade will be planted with grass, and a new transport roundabout will be designed. There will be various innovations, such as bicycle racks with repair tool kits, and looking further ahead, there should be separate electric bicycle and electric charging stations. Balsiai residents also wanted to give advice about the kinds of shops to be hosted in the new shopping centre.

Darius Kvedaras, General manager of the Baltic Engineers engineering design company, one of the first BREEAM certified assessors in Lithuania, said he noticed that a number of real estate units developed by advanced developers are seeking a high BREEAM assessment, as it is indeed the highest rating of a building for prospective customers, visitors or residents.

There are a number of such buildings in Lithuania: among them, Green Hall – an office complex near the Neris River in Vilnius, an enormous Quadrum office city at Konstitucijos Avenue, or the Žalgiris arena in Kaunas. D. Kvedaras said that over its 26 years of existence, BREEAM has issued over 425,000 certificates for environmentally friendly buildings worldwide, and about 2 million buildings are registered and waiting in a queue for their BREEAM assessment. “It is gratifying that an increasing number of Louvain projects can be found among them, and the practice of sustainable design has started yielding fruit”, he added.

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