When visiting Ecobuild last week I was particularly keen to get a sense of the industry’s current issues and the dialogue between AEC professionals and government. I attended conferences and seminars and listened to 6 and a half hours worth of talks. For the next few days I’ll be posting articles about the presentations I saw and the key learnings I took away.

Topics include:

  • What really counts – green design ratings or measured building performance
  • Better homes for less – Can custom build, crowd funding and mutual home ownership solve the housing crisis?
  • What is the value of good design?
  • Mitigating overheating in dwellings

And here is today’s post: “How can we successfully integrate design teams to create compelling sustainable design?”

Speakers  zoomed in on the construction and design process, describing the sustainability benefits to be had when the entire design team, i.e architects, engineers, consultants and contractors  work in an integrated and collaborative way. For me, the standout project was Gardens by the Bay — a great example of multidisciplinary collaboration between landscape architects Grant Associates who led the project, Sefaira customer Wilkinson Eyre Architects, structural engineers Atelier One, and environmental designers Atelier Ten.

From the onset, the project had very big aspirations and clear sustainability goals. It was to house one of the most amazing tropical gardens in the world within 54 hectares, showcasing environmental technology and the way we manage resources in the contemporary world. The design was aptly described as a “fusion of nature and technology.”

All the design solutions seemed to have successfully resolved all the varied demands of architecture, horticulture, engineering and sustainability.

Gardens by the Bay South

The interior of the domed conservatories  mimic mediterranean and tropical climates respectively. Their glazed envelope is designed to maximise daylight for the wide range of plants from every continent in the world (except Antarctica), whilst also importantly controlling heat gains.

Gardens by the Bay Conservatories

Wilkinson Eyre specified double glazing with a low-e coating that allowed 65% light penetration but only 35% heat transfer. In addition to this bespoke shading devices, termed “sails,” were designed into the main structure. These are hidden from sight and deployed when needed by automatic sensors.

Gardens by the Bay: Conservatory Fins

Other solutions include shiny sculptural pieces that double as air supply units within the enclosed spaces, and one of the project’s focal points, the “Super Trees.”  Eighteen of these 25 – 50m tall vertical gardens provide daytime shade within the outdoor spaces and house over 163,000 plants.

Gardens by the Bay: Super Trees

Some combine a range of other functions including rainwater and solar power collection, hot air vents and exhaust flume venting for the Energy Centre and Cooled Conservatories. Each super tree is a mix of art, engineering, horticulture, energy and water harvesting, and their success is a testament to the power of collaboration between different disciplines.

Super Trees: Sustainability MeasuresThe success of the project required all of the different disciplines to work closely together. Although the working methodology was not explicitly described, one can imagine that the latest BIM, energy and water analysis software tools were in use. These would have provided clear data trails from concept to construction drawings. It is not difficult to imagine that a lot of physical modelling, climate tests, prototype creation and presentations took place. Post occupancy evaluations are in progress but the health of the plants is already a strong indication of the project success. According to Andrew Grant of Grant Associates, about 90% of them are living happily within their recreated climates, and the other 10% are being looked after to ensure they also flourish.

The project also won numerous awards, including World Building of the Year, WAF Awards 2012, the Display Award, BCA Green Mark Platinum 2012, BCA Design and Engineering Excellence 2012, Structural Steel Awards (Singapore) 2012 to mention a few.

This project shows again that for complex and even small projects, collaboration between disciplines from the earliest stages leads to integrated and refined sustainability solutions.