Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

 Considering the Whole Life Cycle Workshop, Shanghai 2014
See more on the Life Cycle Assessment Research Project
September 16, 2014
Philip Oldfield, Lecturer, Department of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Nottingham

SHANGHAI - Across the built environment, architects, engineers and developers are being asked to consider building environmental performance beyond operations, thinking about the energy used, and carbon emitted through material usage, construction, renovation and demolition. This session brought these issues to the forefront in tall building design, a field that has been criticized in the past for its resource-heavy construction.

Session Chair:
Ron Klemencic, Chairman and CEO, Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA)

Presentation Speakers:
Don Davies, Senior Principal, Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA)
Mark Sarkisian, Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Dario Trabucco, Research Manager, CTBUH / Iuav University of Venice
Mic Patterson, Vice President, Enclos
Maurice Hermens, Consulting Engineer, Royal Haskoning DHV 
Speakers answer delegates questions at the end of the technical workshop.

Life Cycle Analysis: Are We There Yet?

Ron Klemencic of Magnusson Klemencic Associates opened the session, introducing the first speaker, his colleague Don Davies.  Davies started by noting the real motivation and power behind life cycle analysis, highlighting that “what gets measured gets targeted for improvement”, before going on to discuss the architectural benefits as well – “by reducing materials, we can come up with new designs, and make them beautiful.” Davies went on to question how successful our current sustainability credentials are: “Are we just greenwashing?” Considering the whole life cycle of our buildings, he said, provides us with an answer, as life cycle analysis provides a comprehensive metric to measure tall building performance and thus reassure the public and our peers. “That trust and credibility argument is where LCA comes in - it's a method for defining this trust and a metric for proving what works,” Davies said. “The tobacco industry is an example for what happens when trust is lost. We cannot lose this trust in the built environment!”

Ron Klemencic, Chairman and CEO, Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) introduces the speakers. Don Davies, Senior Principal, Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) presents in the Life Cycle workshop.
Embodied Carbon in Our Future Cities

The next speaker was Mark Sarkisian of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, who changed scale somewhat, talking about the whole life cycle of cities, not just buildings. Sarkisian presented the SOM Environmental Analysis Tool, which considers environmental impact at three levels; materials, construction and most interestingly, damage. It is the latter that Sarkisian dwelled on, noting the importance of restricting damage to tall buildings in areas of seismicity, and presenting a case study where structural optimization was able to reduce probabilistic damage, and as such, reduce the impact on the environment. 
Mark Sarkisian, Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP expanded the discussion to a city scale. Dario Trabucco, CTBUH / Iuav University of Venice speaks about the progress on the CTBUH LCA research project.
CTBUH Research Project: A Whole LCA of the Sustainable Aspects of Structural Systems in Tall Buildings – Interim Report

Dario Trabucco of CTBUH / IUAV Venice presented an ongoing CTBUH research project, “A Whole Life Cycle Assessment of the Sustainable Aspects of Structural Systems in Tall Buildings.” Dario asked the challenging question “How do we calculate embodied energy and what should we include?” The answer, it seems, is not straightforward - "LCA is a very new methodology…it is the new kid in town in the scientific community.” Dario went on to explain why the energy required for demolition is excluded from such calculations, and the short-sightedness of this. "The demolition of tall buildings is something new. Demolishing tall buildings takes longer than the time it takes to construct them, especially in dense urban environments. We need to consider the carbon impact of this!”
A delegate asks a question during the Q & A session.
Curtainwall Lifecycles: Evaluating Durability and Embodied Energy

Following a short coffee break, Mic Patterson of Enclos took the stage and the discussion shifted from structure to facade and adaptive reuse. Patterson asked the questions how long should a building last? And, how long should a facade system last? "It's very rare that the service life of a building gets properly thought about...even with LEED buildings there's often not a service life considered.” Patterson talked about the need to make façade systems adaptable, such that they can be improved later, when technologies advance - "Every building we're constructing right now needs to be adaptable, such that it can be made to be net-zero in the future, if we're going to meet the challenges of 2050."
Mic Patterson, Vice President, Enclos talked about adaptive reuse in buildings. Maurice Hermens, Consulting Engineer, Royal Haskoning DHV focused on lightweight structure & vertical expansion.

Ultra Light Weight Solutions for Sustainable Urban Densification

The final speaker was Maurice Hermens, Consulting Engineer, Royal Haskoning DHV, whose presentation focused on lightweight structures and vertical extensions centred on the “lightest residential tower in the world” – the De Karel Doorman. This project, consisting of a new 16-story skyscraper sat atop a 50-year-old shopping mall in Rotterdam, adds greater density to the city, while also providing a high level of sustainability through ultra-low material use, and thus embodied energy – “Its total structural weight is 250 kilograms per square meter, which is roughly one-fifth that of a typical concrete apartment building in Holland.”

An interesting Q&A session concluded the debate, with questions from the audience focusing on ideas as diverse as the opportunities for timber to reduce tall building embodied carbon to the optimal lifespan of a skyscraper.