Armstrong Ceiling Solutions explores how the passive environmental technologies behind the forthcoming Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai can be applied to ceiling design
Twelve years. That’s how long a 2018 report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gives us to limit ecological catastrophe – and the clock is ticking. But ‘greening’ buildings is not a modern phenomenon. Using elements of their design to conserve energy and reduce environmental impact is a practice that goes back to prehistoric times, when cavemen intuitively recognised the value of thermal mass in creating comfortable indoor environments.
If we are to minimise the impact of global warming – drought, flooding and more – every industry needs to play its part. Construction has long been doing so, but there’s always more that can be done. So, how might we go beyond the requirements of building codes, such as like LEED and BREEAM, in creating projects that actively combat climate change?
A beacon of hope
Next year sees the curtain rise on Expo 2020 in Dubai. At the centre of this world-shaping show will be the Sustainability Pavilion. If architects and interior designers are looking at more active ways to curb climate change, this could be the ideal place to start. The green principles built into the self-sufficient pavilion will show what can be achieved when we build beyond construction codes. The envelope, for example, will comprise living, vegetation-clad roofs and garden walls, creating a standout aesthetic while also blending in with the natural world.
Internally, a combination of shaped and sloping ceilings, wooden beams and glass walls will provide an unpowered, passive balance of heat and cool for thermal comfort in the Dubai heat. The building will also be flooded with natural light.
Crucially, the materials used will be recyclable. So even when it comes to tear down, long after 2020, nothing will be wasted. We’ll be seeing much more of this in the coming years, with many practices experimenting with renewable materials, such as bamboo. Our buildings it seems, will get closer to nature while minimising their impact on it.
Above all however, the Sustainability Pavilion raises an important point that we need to remember when building greener: sustainability can be an aesthetic in itself. The pavilion’s ‘energy trees’, cultivated greenery and natural structure will combine both looks and performance – a critical lesson for developers who dare to experiment beyond box ticking and uniform design.
Smart sustainability in the ceiling space
It’s easy to be cynical about the practical applications of the Sustainability Pavilion in the regulation-driven confines of everyday life. But its principles of passive sustainability can easily be applied to interior spaces. For instance, ceiling systems can passively absorb heat in the day, then release it at night, creating a constant, comfortable temperature around the clock. This can delay the requirement for air conditioning by up to eight hours, minimise high-usage peaks, and reduce energy usage by up to 70 per cent.
Similarly, high-reflectance, bright white ceiling systems can play their part in distributing daylight, reducing reliance on artificial lighting. Ceilings with 87 per cent light reflectance can help achieve 16 per cent cost savings compared with indirect lighting.
Finally, with regards to recycling, Cradle to Cradle Certified™ systems ensure that all materials used in a ceiling can be reused over multiple lifetimes. This status differs from other sustainable certifications in that the process begins even before a product is manufactured. They are developed specifically for closed loop systems in which every ingredient is not only safe but beneficial, capable of either biodegrading naturally and restoring the soil or to be fully recycled into high-quality materials for subsequent product generations, again and again. Products are assessed on five criteria: material health, material re-utilisation, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social responsibility.
At the same time as products are being designed and specified, construction teams are increasingly working hard to reduce waste sent to landfill, as well as cutting the carbon cost of transporting lightweight systems to sites. But once again, there’s always more that can be done. On the way to 2020 and beyond we should expect more:
• More natural and recyclable materials used.
• More smart systems that passively reduce energy consumption and increase self-sufficiency.
• More thinking about how sustainability can permeate into every aspect of the build, and in fact, every aspect of our lives.
If we are to avoid climatic catastrophe within our own lifetimes, we need to get active on climate change right now.
More information is available via the Armstrong Ceiling Solutions website.