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The Sustainability Architect – Mario Cucinella

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Mario Cucinella, one of the worlds foremost sustainable architects discusses his design philosophy, the importance of sustainability and his latest project: One Airport Square – Ghana’s first green building.

You are referred to as a ‘sustainability architect’, why do you think sustainability is such an important issue in architecture?

I strongly believe in sustainability. Today we need 1.5 equivalent planets to satisfy the demand for resources in a sustainable manner. The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy can lead to a sustainable future.
My belief in this led to the establishment of “S.O.S. – School of Sustainability”, a school open to creative young people , researchers, professionals and companies in our sector to develop innovative projects with a positive impact on society, the economy and the environment through research and experimentation.

How can architecture respond to the growing need for sustainable design solutions, particularly in Africa?

Architectural planning needs to go back to being a practical tool for building sustainable and resilient lives. It’s more than just green buildings, structures should be in harmony with the ecosystem and utilize local resources. To do that, we need to turn the approac h towards sustainable architecture upside down, we need to start by analyzing the needs of the people and observing socio-economic trends.

Please tell us about the construction and design of One Airport square, Ghana’s first ‘green building’.

One Airport Square is a multi-functional building constituted by a ten-floor office block plus a ground floor designed for commercial activities, for a total of about 17,000 square meters.
The project was designed based on a detailed analysis of the site, the topographical and optimal orientation to become a point of reference and example for the new generation of office buildings in West Africa.
At this latitude, the sun’s path makes it particularly exposed to solar radiation fronts east and west. This, combined with medium to high temperatures present during the entire course of the year, made it necessary to adopt strategies to reduce the need to cool the building.

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The plant is based on a principle of distribution of the fresh air conveyed in the floating floor which reaches in a uniform manner throughout the plane. To reduce consumption of drinking water there are technologies that limit the amount of outflow, the duration and the time of delivery, while it is expected the reuse of gray water and rainwater for the toilet.
The sum of all these elements in One Airport Square was determined by a work of integrated design that balances architectural and engineering considerations in order to reduce energy consumption of the building and optimize the use of natural light.
The most advanced technologies are balanced with the local tradition, using the most efficient design. All of this is brings to a new idea of beauty: the ecological beauty.

What makes it unique?

The building envelope is the key element that demonstrates the integration between form, structure and environmental strategies. The building, which is compact in form, contains within it a large hall the function of which is to provide lighting and to facilitate natural ventilation of the interiors.
Variation of depth of the shafts determines the configuration of three office types: maxi, midi and mini. A defining element of the building is the movement generated by the projecting terraces, which gradually recede as they rise, floor by floor. These section variations enable increased flexibility in configuring the environments in accordance with the varying requirements of prospective tenants.
A further defining element consists in the reinforced concrete structure, the inclined piers of which confer greater rigidity upon the building and the overhangs, while also featuring as a decorative motif for the front.One Airport Square is the first building in Ghana to have been awarded 4-Stars (Design Stage) by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

“My philosophy in developing new projects aims for the respect of the environment I work in…”

The Sustainability Architect - Mario Cucinella
One Airport Square
The Sustainability Architect - Mario Cucinella
Office Exterior Credit: FERNANDO GUERRA

What was the inspiration behind it?

One Airport Square was designed with the ambition to give a significant contribution to the surrounding landscape and an example in terms of sustainability.
Aesthetic elements and architectural design are inspired by the traditional local art and by the bark of the palm trees typical of that area, closely linked to environmental strategies to provide a viable solution to climate problems. The integrated design process is the key of this innovative building that wants to bring renewal and promote a sustainable culture in Ghana at the same time.

What is your design philosophy?

My philosophy in developing new projects aims for the respect of the environment I work in, I do this by building in a sustainable manner. I use both past and modern techniques to take advantage of all available resources.
In this way I believe we can provide a better future for our children and grandchildren.

The Sustainability Architect - Mario Cucinella
One Airport Square Exterior – CREDIT: FERNANDO GUERRA

 

The Sustainability Architect - Mario Cucinella
ATRIUM – CREDIT: FERNANDO GUERRA

LOCATION: ACCRA, GHANA
YEAR: 2010 – 2015 BUILT PROJECT
CLIENT: ACTIS LONDON
SURFACE AREA: 17,000 SQM
ARCHITECTURE AND STRUCTURAL GEOMETRY:
MARIO CUCCINELLA ARCHITECTS

OFFICE EXTERIOR (NIGHT VIEW) CREDIT: FERNANDO GUERRA

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