Green Building Envelope
Towards a cleaner, greener, and healthier human ecosystem
Over time, the human population has become increasingly urban, with city centres becoming more and more densely populated. In these dense city spaces, there is little room for ‘green infrastructure’ – parks, trees and other green spaces. The impact of this depletion is underestimated, as urbanisation and climate change continue to jeopardise our way of life.
Cities Alive: Green Building Envelope, shows how a collaborative team of Arup specialists from across the world, set out to tackle these issues head on. The report explores the application of green infrastructure to the surfaces of both new and existing inner-city buildings in five major global cities – Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Hong Kong - to create a positive future for inhabitants.
Understanding the strains that modern urbanisation places on our cities and their inhabitants is crucial, and our report looks to explore potential solutions to the wider problem.
‘We – as humans – are inherently tied to nature and, more specifically, to vegetation; utilising land for crops, trees for shade and oxygen to breathe.’
There are a number of challenges faced by cities here, and crucial areas to consider include air pollution, urban heat, and acoustics.
Reducing urban stress
As our ever-expanding cities become more densely compacted, ‘grey’ structures are a source of untapped potential, where ‘green’ spaces can make cities more attractive and resilient, as vegetation filters fine particles from the air. The effective introduction of green building envelopes can result in local reduction in pollution of around 10-20%.
Capturing renewable energy using wind turbines and bio-reactive façades such as SolarLeaf in Hamburg, can drive sustainability in built-up environments. While, harnessing urban agriculture initiatives like vertical farming, beehives and wildlife corridors, can deliver better air quality. We explore how these initiatives must work in tandem towards this ultimate greener and cleaner goal.
Creating cooler cities
Metropolitan hardscapes, such as concrete and glass, have a huge impact on the ambient temperature of the environment, as solid surfaces radiate rather than absorb heat. This increased heat takes a toll on urban spaces, and can affect water quality, cause heat-related illnesses and cause an increase in mortality rates.
Our report reveals that the quantity and quality of vegetation within a city can reduce temperatures and the Urban Heat Island effect. Retrofitting cityscapes with green infrastructure, such as moss walls and tree façades improves aesthetics, well-being, and the cooling potential of buildings. CapitaGreen in Singapore demonstrates how green building envelopes can reduce solar heat gain and lower surface temperatures.
Forming quieter surroundings
Noise also poses a significant risk to health and well-being in urban societies. The World Health Organization cites noise as a leading environmental nuisance that reduces work productivity, disturbs sleep, impairs cognitive functioning, and can contribute to mental illness.
Residential developments are already showing how green facades can mitigate urban noise. While street canyons are typically made up of dense materials that reflect sound, green façades can absorb sound, reducing noise. In fact, our research finds that green building envelopes can reduce sound levels from emergent and traffic noise sources significantly.
Our team of experts
Rudi Scheuermann - Fellow
Rudi is Arup's Global Building Envelope Design Leader. With a focus on façade and architectural engineering projects, Rudi has a broad spectrum of different abilities which help to successfully manage multidisciplinary project designs.
Tom Armour - Director of Landscape Architecture
Tom brings a wealth of experience and rigorous approach to landscape design and green infrastructure from concept to delivery, on a range of international projects. He believes in an integrated green infrastructure design approach to deliver healthy, resilient environments and better places for people that address today’s complex global challenges.
Alistair Law - Associate
Alistair has a background in facade and structural design and specialises in the latest research and innovations in façade technology. Responsible for research and development in the UK façades group, he is always looking to promote the latest thinking and push the boundaries of what is possible.
Martin Pauli - Senior Architect
Martin’s background is design and architecture. He works at the interface between Materials Consulting and Arup`s Foresight practice. Martin is an expert in the development and application of new materials and technologies for buildings, their systems and components.
Cristina San Juan - Building Physics Specialist
Cristina has a background as a researcher in energy and building physics. She is currently working as a senior specialist with the sustainability and energy consulting team in Arup Spain. Her work combines engineering and advanced technology skills in the fields of building and environmental physics.
Chris Jofeh – Buildings Retrofit
Chris is Arup’s global buildings retrofit leader. A civil and structural engineer, he has been responsible for leading multidisciplinary design teams on a wide range of projects. He has been particularly involved in helping optimise building retrofits to enhance value, reduce GHG emissions, and minimise risk.
Raj Patel - Acoustics
Raj Patel is a Principal of Arup and Leader of Arup Acoustics. He is a specialist in acoustics, electro-acoustics, audio, video and visual systems design and a co-creator of the Arup SoundLab.
Michael Bull – Environment
Michael Bull leads the Environmental Consulting Business in London and is responsible for managing environmental assessment, air quality and industrial permitting projects undertaken by Arup Environmental.