In June 2013 I had the opportunity to visit the new headquarters for the global organization Greenpeace in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I already knew that the building was energy efficient, and “green” in every sense of the word. However, it wasn't as promoted or publicized like other examples of supposed sustainable architecture in the country, and you can blame that on the scale of the building as well at the organization that it houses, Greenpeace Argentina, who have had some difficult moments in the past.
But sometimes, the best things are hidden to the general public, and this is true of this building that completely overwhelms when get inside and watch it work. The headquarters were designed by the Argentine-American firm ABBS Point Design, under the direction of architect Leo Lotopolsky -one of the principals of the studio and a LEED Associate Professional - and there isn't a corner or detail of the building that isn't well thought out from a sustainability viewpoint:
- All wood used in the building is FSC certified, guaranteeing that it follows certain standards of social and environmental sustainability;
- All paint is non-toxic (free of heavy metals), and extensive use of white paint helps maximize natural light;
- Floor, cables and plumbing do not contain PVC at all and even the glue used is considered to be natural;
- Grey water collection provides for all the non-drinkable water of the building; and
- A special design in the auditorium ceiling improves acoustics and avoids the use of electric energy for communication.
These and many other innovations could easily make this building the most sustainable and energy-efficient of its kind in the Southern Cone, so why isn't it recognized as such?
Argentina is a country that has recently been struggling with the concept of sustainability; there has been a lack of interest towards this issue, obviously causing the country to be left behind in many areas.
It is a shame for a country with such immense natural and energetic resources - the Saudi Arabia of Eolic energy as some have declared - to not be able to rise to the challenge of being sustainable. A good first step would be to recognize the importance of this kind of building and promote its adoption on a wider scale.
What can be done to actively promote sustainable ventures in a hostile environment?
Credits: Images by Luis Lozano-Paredes. Data linked to sources.