Sustainable Architecture: The Green Buildings of Nikken Sekkei

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The concept of sustainable architecture has a high profile at present, as we are become increasingly aware of our responsibilities towards the preservation of our planet. Nikken Sekkei is an architectural firm known for its consideration of the environmental consequences of its buildings, and this will be the first book to give a comprehensive coverage of this aspect of their work to date.

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The relationship between architecture and the environment has historically been and continues to be a complex interaction of site, technology, climate and other natural forces, building materials, and the human presence. In the new century this affinity is gradually assuming a powerful profile as architecture moves away from former design paradigms to a more defined alliance with nature.
The burgeoning Green movement in architecture has its origins in the activism of the sixties, the alternative societies of the seventies and an ever-increasing body of knowledge concerning global warming, the depletion of the earth’s resources, widespread pollution and other environmental hazards. Such environmental issues are now a mounting concern in most industrialized nations, and almost by necessity, have led to a major evolution in world architecture that embraces a whole new design ‘vocabulary’ — the language of sustainability.
The core concepts of "Sustainable Architecture"" are gradually taking root among architects of world-class stature everywhere and generating the next great movement in architectural design. Instead of regarding the built space as a vacuum in which to situate a building, architects around the globe are reinterpreting building design from a holistic perspective, with the emphasis on "sustainable design". This means assessing the impact of a building on the site’s environment; from the technology that makes a building operative down to the kinds of materials used in its construction. It also implies the thoughtful and well-considered use of natural energy systems to make buildings that are more conducive to human use and comfort, without generating pollutants or borrowing the earth’s resources from future generations. Such architecture views nature as being integral to the building’s fabric, and ensures that the built environment is not a detriment to human beings and other life forms.
As a practitioner of sustainable design, Nikken Sekkei is one of the most renowned Japanese architectural firms in its field, and is also one of the largest designers of corporate and industrial architecture in the world. Descended from a firm established in 1900, the company and its subsidiaries today employs a multidisciplinary staff of more than 1,700 planners, architects and civil engineers. The firm has completed over 14,000 projects, built in 40 countries worldwide. They range from high-tech factories to their particular specialty: corporate headquarter buildings. The quality of these structures has been recognized by numerous awards and prizes won in both national and international competitions.
In the year 2000 Nikken Sekkei celebrates one hundred years of architectural design in Japan. It has been a century of much accomplishment for generations of their architects and the array of projects built. The company defines itself as a consulting firm providing urban planning, architectural design and engineering, civil engineering and construction supervision services. It also pursues its own research in many aspects of sustainable design and maintains close ties with high level researchers, schools of architecture, universities and research institutions, as part of its continuing development of new building technologies for the future.
Arising from such a vigorous research program is an array of vital new technologies, which have been integrated into many of Nikken Sekkie’s built structures. This is especially true of a coterie of their ‘Green’ projects, both urban and rural, built specifically for the Japanese environment. A compendium of these ‘Green’ buildings is the subject of this book, Sustainable Architecture in Japan: The Green Buildings of Nikken Sekkei.
Japan is a country whose islands are vulnerable to common environmental stresses such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Heavy industrialization and a burgeoning urban population rapacious in its consumption of natural resources also impact on a fragile ecology. The general approach of this book is to look at particular building environments within Japan and the challenges of climate and site that required the architects of Nikken Sekkei to create certain design solutions across a spectrum of ten major building projects. The book also contains a section concerning the results of research into analytical methods and the technologies used in the design of sustainable buildings.
Environmental architecture and its attendant technologies from a rapidly expanding field. Often architectural innovations age overnight when superceded by yet another discovery to improve the built environment. However, since this line of architectural inquiry happens in a continuum, it is important to look at past and current solutions and how they contribute to and support the raft of future innovations.
The sustainable architecture described in this book exists as a valuable component within this continuum. It represents a body of viable, creative, and considered responses developed for specific buildings, each situated in a particular physical environment presenting a unique set of problems to be resolved.
This book was conceived as a celebratory emblem of Nikken Sekkei’s first centennial. Similar to the universal spirit that permeates sustainable design, the book’s creation extends far beyond the borders of its country of origin. It is the product of designers, engineers, architects, translators, academic researchers, scientific consultants and editors from Japan, England, Switzerland , and the USA. America’s most prominent sustainable architect, William McDonough, was invited to participate in the introduction. McDonough was born in Japan and affirms many of the architectural principles of Nikken Sekkei. Such values are reflected in the definitions found in his The Hanover Principles. "Designing for sustainability requires awareness of the full short and long term consequences of any transformation of the environment. Sustainable design is the conception and realization of ecologically, economically and ethically responsible expression as a part of the evolving matrix of nature.""

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