As architects continue to envision the utopian cities of the future, one thing is certain: innovation means sustainability.
In the midst of a global ecological crisis, architects and designers are relentlessly pursuing design strategies that manage to mitigate the toxic byproducts of our consumption habits, while maximizing our use of sustainable energy sources. Meeting these challenges means more deeply integrating green technologies like wind and solar power, natural climate controls and space-age materials in to the building processes.
The results can be pretty mind-blowing.
In the spirit of eco-optimism, HuffPost has teamed with Dasani to curate a selection of some of the most disruptive designs in the green building space, with an eye for both sustainability and aesthetic innovation. Click through below for photos and renderings of the most innovative projects around the world.
Zira Island Masterplan (Baku, Azerbaijan)
Commissioned by Avrosti Holding, the Zira Island Masterplan is a zero-energy resort situated within the Caspian Sea near Azerbaijan's Seven Peaks. Designed to be a model for sustainable development, the resort utilizes wind, water and solar energy systems -- including naturally powered desalination and water treatment plants. <strong><em><a href="http://www.big.dk/" target="_hplink">Source: © BIG</a></em></strong>
PS 62 Net Zero School
P.S.62 Richmond will be the first net-zero energy school in New York City and in the Northeast United States. When completed, the cutting-edge building will harvest as much energy from renewable on-site sources as it uses on an annual basis. Using a photovoltaic array, SOM's design will offer an energy-use reduction of 50% over a SCA standard public school. Sustainable and low-energy features incorporated in the design include an ultra-tight high-performance building envelope, daylit offset corridors, energy efficient lighting fixtures, low-energy kitchen equipment, a greenhouse and vegetable garden, a geo-exchange system, energy recovery ventilators and demand-control ventilation, and a solar thermal system for hot water Source: <em><a href="http://www.SOM.com" target="_hplink">NYCSCA © SOM</a></em>
Grontmij Spacescape (Stockholm)
Conceived by architectural upstart BIG for Stockholm's Swedish Transport Administration, the Grontmij Spacescape's hyper-futuristic structures transform Stockholm's E18 and E4 highways in to a "pie chart park." The 30 percent of the sphere that faces the sun is covered in photovoltaic film, which produces enough energy to keep the sphere afloat -- in addition to supplying 235 houses with electricity. <strong><em><a href="http://www.big.dk/" target="_hplink">Source: © BIG</a></em></strong>
KAFD Conference Center (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
The KAFD Conference Center employs several profoundly innovative sustainability strategies, including an enclosure which locates areas of glazing where they are least susceptible to the harsh desert sun, a ventilation system incorporating a "solar chimney" that uses solar heat to move air through the main atrium spaces, and a roof which contains indigenous desert grasses to minimize irrigation requirements. <em>Source: <a href="http://www.som.com/" target="_hplink">© SOM</a></em>
Shenzhen Energy Mansion (Shenzhen, China)
Another design from BIG, the Shenzhen Energy Mansion is a massive skyscraper that leverages natural climate conditions to regulate internal temperatures. The facade's folds shade the building from the sun, avoiding the overheating problems caused by traditional facades. The result is an energy-lean structure with minimal reliance on air-conditioning. <strong><em><a href="http://www.big.dk/" target="_hplink">Source: © BIG</a></em></strong>
Passive House: On R-House (Syracuse, New York)
This residential building from ARO meets the rigorous German Passive House standard, which uses approximately 75% less energy than conventional American construction. Through airtight construction, mechanically circulation ventilation, and solar optimization, a Passive House maintains a consistent internal temperature, requiring only minimal heating and cooling. Windows and skylights open the interior to views and are optimized to receive southern light. The roof and walls are sheathed with corrugated aluminum. The silver color, muted reflectivity and fine texture of this cladding contribute to a sense of vibrancy that counters the gray winter months. <strong><em>Source: <a href="http://www.som.com" target="_hplink"> © ARO</a></em></strong>
Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China)
The 2.3-million square-foot Pearl River Tower redefines what is possible in sustainable design by incorporating the latest green technology and engineering advancements. The 309-meter tower's sculpted body directs wind to a pair of openings at its mechanical floors, where traveling winds push turbines which generate energy for the building. <strong>Completion Year: 2012</strong> <strong><em>Source: <a href="http://www.som.com" target="_hplink"> © SOM / Crystal CG</a></em></strong>
Beach Road, Singapore, Singapore
Occupying an entire city block between the Marina Center and the Civic District, the scheme will create a 150,000 square meter eco-quarter in downtown Singapore that continues the Singaporean ideal of the 'city in a garden' with its lush planting and sky gardens. <strong><em><a href="http://www.fosterandpartners.com/Practice/Default.aspx" target="_hplink">Source: © Foster + Partners</a></em></strong>
Amagerforbraending (AMF) (Copenhagen, Denmark)
We love BIG's conceptual transformation of Copenhagen's aging Amagerforbraending waste factory in to a combination renewable energy plant and ski resort. BIG's choice to build a sustainable, multifunctional structure around a decaying factory is a powerful symbolic gesture that brings renewal (and fun!) to the otherwise flat, un-ski-friendly terrain of Copenhagen. <strong><em>Source: Glessner + <a href="http://www.big.dk/" target="_hplink">© BIG</a></em></strong>
Predator BLDG (Los Angeles, California)
Developed by <a href="http://www.form-ula.com/" target="_hplink">Form-ula</a> in an effort to create a Zero-Environmental Footprint for the 300 North LA -- the Predator BLDG aims to minimize the distance between the occupant and the outside world. The building addresses the lack of day-lighting and natural-ventilation to eliminate the large mechanical dependencies usually employed to keep the space properly lit and cooled, a trend that can be found in many buildings from that era. The building also features a system for harvesting water for occupant use and building functions -- inducing the condensation of moisture and by filtering grey/black water via <a href="http://www.livingmachines.com/" target="_hplink">Living Machine</a>. <strong><em><a href="http://www.form-ula.com/" target="_hplink">Source: Form-ula</a></em></strong>
HELIOTRACE Facade System
A kinetic curtain wall system, Heliotrace can literally trace the path of the sun over the course of a day and over the course of a year. in conjunction with other system components, this will significantly increase daylighting while reducing solar heat gain effects for building occupants. The kinetic, solar-responsive curtain wall system can reduce solar gains on buildings by up to 81% <em>Source: Permasteelisa + ABI + <a href="http://www.SOM.com" target="_hplink">© SOM</a></em>
Hualien Beach Resort (Hualien, TW)
Located between two river deltas in Taiwan, the Hualien Beach Resort used to be the site of an industrial factory region. Low-angle, high-glare morning and evening sun is blocked by the striped design while favorable north-south light is let in to the unit. Green roofs further mitigate heat gain, creating a low energy masterplan. <strong><em>Source: Glessner + <a href="http://www.big.dk/" target="_hplink">© BIG</a></em></strong>
Sculpture Building and Gallery, Yale University (New Haven, CT)
This gallery and studio art building extends Yale University's extraordinary arts district one block west of Paul Rudolph's Art and Architecture Building and Louis Kahn's Art Gallery and Mellon Center for British Art. During its first year, the new structure will house the Yale School of Architecture while its own building is renovated and added to by the firm Gwathmey Siegel. Following completion of renovations to the Art and Architecture Building, the new structure will become the permanent home for Yale's world renowned Sculpture Department. <strong><em>Source: <a href="http://kierantimberlake.com/home/index.html" target="_hplink"> © Kieran + Timberlake</a></em></strong>
Atwater Commons Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont)
The Atwater Project pays careful attention to site strategy, water runoff and material selection. The residence halls are naturally ventilated, incorporating through-floor suite plans, transom windows and ceiling fans in all rooms. Ventilation is supplemented by attic fans, which exhaust through rooftop "chimneys." The dining hall incorporates a planted roof, providing excellent insulation, protection of the roofing membrane, and, most significantly, reduction of impervious surfaces on campus. The green roof allows the college landscape to extend literally through and across the dining hall structure. <strong><em>Source: <a href="http://kierantimberlake.com/home/index.html" target="_hplink"> © Kieran +Timberlake</a></em></strong>