Part of the European Green Deal is addressed with a simple phrase: “Renovation Wave”. It aims “to double the renovation rate of our buildings to make them fit for a climate neutral future.” (1) At first glance, it appears to be just another, albeit lavishly funded program for energy efficiency in the construction sector – complemented by the now common call for decarbonization. After all, roughly 75% of the EU building stock is still energy inefficient. (2) But that point of view does not go far enough.
Cover image: © Giorgio Galeotti
Just as Green Building Certificates have shifted their focus in recent years from their core topic of the efficiency of buildings to the other two pillars in the sustainability discussion – namely sufficiency and consistency – the topic of “renovation” is not just a matter of energy efficiency (and/or decarbonization). This alone shows the diversity of the terms: Renovation, redevelopment, conversion, change of use, repair, retrofitting, addition, revitalization, … and thus the requirements for specific tasks and jobs on a renovation project differ accordingly.
Throughout the years (Saint-Gobain just turned 355 years this year), we have had the opportunity to be part of several life cycle stages of some iconic projects, which means, we were trusted by clients (old and new) to take care of projects again and again. That is less pathetic than it might seem: We simply knew the job because we had done it before, giving planning and cost security to these clients.
In all these cases it was never as simple as replacing the glass.
The technology of ‘glass making’ itself has changed dramatically. From true manufacturing to industrial floats and magnetron coating processes, developments have been significant over the years. Consequently, it turned out that in some renovated projects we simply could not provide the “old quality” anymore; but, of course, a better one. Especially for listed buildings, there were unique and complicated challenges that needed to be addressed. Consequently, these “new” challenges led eventually to new products and processes.
The most prominent example to name is the Louvre Pyramid by I.M. Pei which formed part of the Grand Louvre Modernization. “The challenge was to modernize and expand the building and better integrate it with the city, all without compromising the integrity of the historic structure … The pyramid’s distinctly modern articulation complements the historic Louvre in a dialogue of harmonious contrast.” (3) In light of this initial design philosophy, the existing greenish float glass in our arsenal of products was not an option. Saint-Gobain went back to the drawing board and their laboratories and re-worked the glass matrix, finally developing a brilliantly shimmering, less greenish low iron-glass and named it accordingly: DIAMANT. Aesthetics and the reorganization of a building were drivers for product development…innovation responds to demand!
Similar stories can also be told with Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat and numerous other buildings of Modernism (Henri Sauvage, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Walter Gropius, Jean Prouve, Pier Luigi Nervi, Oscar Niemeyer to name a few) where we had the chance to contribute through knowledge, experience and product development. Modernity is part of the DNA of Saint-Gobain.
The refurbishment of another iconic project led to a different approach: Lloyd’s of London. In 2010, Lloyd’s decided that it required more daylight and improved views from the iconic Richard Roger’s designed building (originally completed in 1987). Some of the patterned glass panes by Saint-Gobain were replaced with clear flat glass and 123 tons of the original glass was removed from the building. These were sent to our float in Eggborough for remelting back to float glass. Additionally, some of the patterned glass was reused. The panels were cut into the required new size and installed back or stored for any replacements required in the future. Some of the “off cuts” were also used in furniture designs for the building, such as the tops for coffee tables. The work on Lloyd’s demonstrates re-use and recycling of glass at the highest standard and with minimum environmental impact. The entire project was followed up by Arup. (4) Again here, aesthetics and the reorganization of a building were the drivers for a ‘new thinking’ of glass usage as its processes.
But our European Green Deal is bigger. It is a systemic change. To achieve this, we need broad engagement, wide support and lots of innovation and creativity. This is why we, are today, launching the New European Bauhaus. The New European Bauhaus movement is intended to be a bridge between the world of science and technology and the world of art and culture.” (5)
Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Commission, just recently announced this enhanced approach.
A number of architects and projects have answered the call, educational “platforms” (as we like to call them today) adopting this concept and running with it. Mies’ and MoholyNagy’s “New Bauhaus” at the IIT in Chicago, Josef and Anni Albers’ “Black Mountain College” in North Carolina, the “Center for Advanced Visual Studies” by Gyorgy Kepes at MIT in Boston and hfg in Ulm, founded by Otl Aicher and Max Bill. The New European Bauhaus movement is exemplified by these trailblazing architects.
Embedded in western societies that shared the devastating demolition of World War II and Fascism was a desire, a want to design “a new society”. The 50’s and 60’s had an inspiring impulse of lightness that expanded the boundaries of what we thought possible – flying to the moon and diving deep into the oceans…while Dave Brubeck played “Take Five”.
So, what comes next? How do we want to create our future? What have we not yet imagined?
And at the same time – the flip side of the coin: Where do we come from? What can we rely on? Where are our roots, our foundations that we want to keep growing for this future?
We obviously need a new approach, as a society, to “bridge between” all disciplines of life. This is even more apparent in light of the COVID19 Pandemic. We should not wait for a “savior”. The vision is set. Now it’s up to all of us to contribute to it, step by step, from urban gardening to new mobility concepts, from shared spaces to participative neighborhoods, all resource efficient and sustainable for a new common wealth.
“Good design can improve lives.” (6)
Although it may seem premature, there are projects that are already moving in the right direction – especially when it comes to this new approach in the “renovation” sector.
Just recently, the French architectural teams Lacaton & Vassal architects, Frédéric Druot Architecture, and Christophe Hutin Architecture transformed social housings in Bordeaux and later on in Paris into something “unspectacularly new”. It was awarded with the Mies van der Rohe Award 2019 and can be seen right now in a touring exhibition in Cologne, Germany. (7) “The transformation gives to all dwellings new qualities of space and living, by inventorying very precisely the existing qualities that should be preserved, and what is missing that must be supplemented.” (8) It’s that “lightness” that is striking. We are proud that Saint-Gobain Glassolutions Coutras supplied the glass for the fully glazed external elevators and Glassolutions in Bordeaux delivered the glass for the balustrades and the isolations glass units.
Or take another example from Basel, Switzerland: The sports and events complex Sankt Jakobshalle was designed in the late 1960s, in the name of brutalism, and inaugurated in 1976. At the core of its design is a central, large hall with a curved concrete roof. Over the years, the house was renovated by the architects Degelo and Berrel Berrel Kräutler and rebuilt to today’s standards. The cantilevered awning combined the 2018 reopened complex of halls and annexes to form a whole. A double-storey, glass foyer with solar protection overlength glass CLIMAPLUS COOLLITE XTREME 50/22 II, produced by Glas Thiele, opens it to the outside and re-integrates the house into the urban planning context.
A last example shows the potential that a combined approach of science (engineering) and art (architecture) can have: The Heartspace St Georges Campus, University of Sheffield by Bond Bryan Architects. This parametric designed roof with its triangles, parallelograms, polygons and sharpening edges is spectacular proof of this mind set. Realised with solar control coatings COOL-LITE XTREME 50/22 II (roof) and XTREME 60/28 (façade) by Saint-Gobain and produced by Eckelt Glas and Glassolutions Radeburg, this project is overwhelming – and not only for the students. A true heart space!
(1) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_20_1902
(4) https://www.arup.com/perspectives/ publications/the-arup-journal/section/thearup-journal-2011-issue-2
(5) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_20_1902
(6) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_20_1902
(7) https://baukultur.nrw/artikel/coronapandemie-ausstellung-zum-mies-van-derrohe-award-im-lvr-landeshaus-koeln-ab-2.11- geschlossen/
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Winter 2020 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: Andreas Bittis Dipl.-Ing – International Marketing Manager at Saint-Gobain Glass, BU Facade
Educated as an architect and urban planner at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Andreas Bittis was editor for ARCH+ and a freelance journalist for various architectural magazines on and offline. Consequently he worked in several architectural practices; Rhinescheme (Beijing) ingenhoven architects, (Dusseldorf, Sydney, Singapore) and Eller + Eller Architekten (Dusseldorf, Berlin, Moscow) to name a few, as project manager in different domains.
With this background he joined Saint-Gobain Building Glass in 2012 as Architectural Specification Manager working not only on advising architects and façade consultants but also on topics like Sustainability and BIM. In 2015 he joined the German marketing team as Product Manager for all coated glass and Market Manager for the glass façade projects. Most recently, Andreas joined the Business Unit Façade as Market Manager in Paris.