Concrete goes green in China
A set of twisted concrete blinds actually allows a new Chinese clothing facility to save 40% of its energy
If you thought China was only about shiny, wow-factor creations or bland, me-too edifices, it's time to think again. A new building has gone up in the coastal city of Shantou, that takes into account local culture and skills, has remarkably good eco credentials, and also features our favourite building material: concrete. It's the world headquarters for the women's wear company Lafayette 148, a high-profile fashion label which, despite its distinctly New York name, was founded by a Chinese-American family with close links to Shantou.
Their new building - which houses both factory facilities and offices - is the work of Mehrdad Hadighi at Studio for Architecture, and Tsz Yan Ng's practice, both based in the US. To configure an effective workflow, the architects put each department on a different floor. They then strengthened each floor with post-tensioned concrete beams, allowing them to do away with interior supporting pillars, to create huge, open-plan spaces.
The region is renowned for its concrete production, so using this versatile mix of cement, water and aggregate actually proved both ecologically sound, as well as a great way to employ local labour. The stuff not only forms the factory floor, it also weaves around the exterior of the building.
From a distance, the facility appears to be covered in narrow horizontal blinds. These are in fact concrete ribbons, which appear to turn and twist much the same way as fabric. These louvre-style ribbons are made of poured-in-place concrete, a technique that has turned out to be less expensive than prefabricating concrete in panels; they were made by local builders, on site. What's more, these louvres help shade and ventilate the headquarters, meaning it's 40% more energy efficient than neighbouring production facilities.
It's an admirable design, which not only serves 21st century needs, but also reflects local traditions; the architects say these concrete ribbons are in part a visual tribute to the head dresses worn by local Miao women. For further inspirational gray matter, try our great Concrete book, and if you're keen on ecological design, consider the wonderful Vitamin Green.