There’s a fundamental problem with blinging out a building in green tech: By the time your low-VOC paint has dried, the building is already dated. Someone has gone and invented lower-VOC paint. Solar-panel efficiency has improved. Your triple-glazed windows now come in a quadruple glaze. The crawling pace of construction can’t keep up with the mad clip of technological progress.
One way around it is to simply never complete your building–to instead turn it into a laboratory in which to continually test whatever new sustainable materials come along. That’s how the Copenhagen-based architecture studio 3XN plans to approach the Green Solution House, a environmentally minded hotel and conference center on the Danish island of Bornholm.
When built next year, the $11.5-million, 48,000-square-foot structure will reflect the day’s “highest level of sustainable development”: It’ll adhere to the principles of Cradle 2 Cradle, it’ll feature on-site greenhouses that grow organic fruits and vegetables for the hotel restaurant; and it’ll be done up in the latest solar panels, composting systems, and water reclamation technology.
But as soon as something better comes along, it’ll be incorporated into the structure; out with the old, in with the new. “A part of the building will always showcase the latest green technology,” Kasper Guldager Jørgensen, the head of 3XN’s Innovation Unit, tells Co.Design. “The most effective solar cell, new insulation types, and so on.” The trick is to make parts of the building dead-simple to disassemble, Jørgensen says. That way you can introduce new elements, without tearing the whole thing down.
Obviously, the Green Solution House is more of an experiment than a model for the rest of us to follow. It doesn’t make economic sense for a regular Joe to toss each solar panel on the roof of his house that’s an iota less efficient than the one before it. But the larger point here–that architecture should be able to adapt to fresh technology–abides. “If we start building houses that are dynamic, we do not have to tear them down once they do not fit our needs,” Jørgensen says. “We can simply modify them. That creates a lot less waste.”