Every day we hear about negative implications of the climate change, as pollution levels continue rising and carbon footprint increases in size every year. According to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) #11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, as of today some of the problems we face are:
Due to the above mentioned, to combat levels of urban energy consumption and pollution, which are worrying, we might consider the option of investing in sustainable architecture as integrated design strategies and technologies (i.e. use of local and sustainable materials, climate and environmental conditions to achieve interior thermal comfort) improve buildings’ construction and reduce resource/energy consumption and carbon emissions.
José Luis González Alcántar
Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM)
The different techniques of sustainable architecture used by “Escala Arquitectura” are the following:
• Bioclimatic Architecture: It takes into account the climate and environmental conditions to achieve internal thermal comfort in buildings, without using mechanical systems. It takes advantage of the design and architectural elements, maximizing the opportunities that nature offers as movements of the sun, vegetation, wind, location. The company’s projects have been designed to reduce energy demand through design strategies such as: adequate orientation, study of prevailing winds, compact designs, use of different types of vegetation, design of adequate solar protections, increase natural light, improve natural ventilation, cooling effect of the roofing material.
• Bio Architecture: It focus in architectural structures built as nature would: more indicated forms of natural growth, support, materials, etc. Design strategies of the company consists of organic forms, natural geometries, animal bone structures, architecture buried and semi-buried.
• Bio Construction: Consists in build edifications with materials of low environmental impact, recycled, or extractable by simple and inexpensive processes, such as vegetal origin materials. Some company strategies have been less use of cement, petroleum, PVC and instead use land, bamboo, straw, wood, among others, and optimize natural resources (land, water).
With sustainable architecture, the company is helping to reach UN SDG’s #11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, and in certain ways #6 “Clean water and sanitation” and #7 “Affordable and clean energy”, as this type of architecture reduces negative environmental impacts of construction projects by: i) building sustainable and resilient buildings using local materials, ii) improving waste management, iii) reducing energy consumption, and also is ensuring access for more people to an affordable housing.
It all started when German Parma, the innovator, needed to go to school in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. He used to transit more than 30 minutes’ through tough roads, sometimes dangerous and not efficient in terms of mobility and infrastructure. This was because the investment needed to construct a road in a place where the population was too small or not too many people transit every day, was not of the interest of the government. That is why he started to wonder how can this type of journey be simpler, safer and with better infrastructure, never forgetting the connection with nature.
With his idea of developing roads with sustainable supplies, he attracted the attention of society and people in the government who helped giving a twist to the project becoming a sustainable construction company, focused in sustainable homes. First, it started with personal projects of people interested in what he was proposing in the roads, but very soon, society, and he found out the opportunity that existed in making sustainable roads, founding the architecture in a bioclimatic strategy.
After this, “Escala Arquitectura” was founded in 2013, located in Morelia. As of today it has 5 employees that grow up to 15 depending on projects. The company has helped to develop not only houses and a mobility plan in Ensenada, but also has projects of sustainable schools, restaurants, Visitors Center, and more. In German Parma's words: “Sustainable architecture is how we make a positive impact on the world, through our dedication to outcomes for people and the planet.”
After analyzing the construction industry, we realized buildings have traditionally hurt the environment due to the construction materials used, the several uses of energy, water, and gas emissions. Some of the effects of the sustainable architecture are the following:
Also it is important to mention that according to LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is the most widely used green building rating system in the world (BOSS. "How buildings impact the environment", from the BOSS website: https://bosscontrols.com/buildings-impact-environment/):
The innovation has given benefits to the business based on sustainable processes, techniques, and supplies, which help reduce the impact of energy consumption and waste in every project. As examples, we identified the following:
1. Increase in sales based mainly on more number of occupants. The more people know about the benefits of this type of buildings, it will result in i) an increase in the company’s market share and ii) customers will be willing to pay a higher sale price, as even when initial investment could be high, economic benefits for the clients will be seen in the long term.
2. Lower costs due to cheaper and local origin construction materials used (i.e. land, bamboo, straw, wood), vs PVC, steel, petroleum, which are materials that can be imported and be affected by FX variations.
3. A decrease in operative expenses (i.e personal and freight expenses) considering the company hires local personnel per project, which allows responding faster and delivering in less time to customers.
The above mentioned will represent an increase in the company’s earnings and margins.
Benefits to society:
1. Although initial investment in these types of buildings is high, at a long term it helps building’s occupants to reduce the amount of money destined to services payments such as electricity, air conditioner, water and different kinds of materials for maintenance.
2. Creation of new jobs in the communities where the buildings are developed, considering the company hires employees depending on each project. Although right now it is not a big company in regular personnel (5), we note it can grow its impact when working on projects.
3. Training for staff and raising awareness of society about the benefits of sustainable architecture. One social action of the company is they teach the communities how to make these types of constructions, making the people part of the process and explaining why it is beneficial for them and for the environment.
4. Better quality of life. The company provides better designs of constructions, so occupants feel more comfortable, as these offer good illumination, nature contact, buildings resistant to natural disasters, etc.
Benefits to the environment:
Sustainable buildings save energy, water, resources, generate less waste and support human health. This innovation benefits the environment in the following ways:
1. Less pollution because of the usage of ecological materials for construction.
2. Less energy consumption with the use of different techniques of bioclimatic architecture.
3. Make the most of natural resources (i.e reuse of earth for the construction of walls), avoiding waste.
4. Become a generator and regulator of natural resources.
5. Guarantee the balance of flora and fauna for current and future generations.
All these benefits help the business in the sense that it is making positive impacts on the most important pillars of sustainable development, helping to defend the project and boost it through an economic growth:
“One of the best feelings of satisfaction is what he saw on the faces of the people in the architectural workshops when people saw their earth wall finished. It never is as they imagine, strong and beautiful. This is something very special we found, this innovation helps society in contrast of any other construction with concrete or brick business, it really connects the people with their home, having in mind the environmental impact.”
German Parma, Escala Arquitectura founder.
German Parma, Architect, Company's Founder
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Morelia, Michoacan, MX
Business Website: https://arqescala.com/
Year Founded: 2013
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
“Escala Arquitectura” is a firm dedicated to construction and architecture design solutions, focused on building more efficiently by maximizing available resources to advance sustainability and minimize edification’s impacts over the environment and society. The company made sustainable architecture using different design eco techniques like Bioclimatic Architecture (characteristics of the climate), Bio Architecture (structures found in nature) and Bio Construction (materials used). They develop different type of projects such as housing, public mobility plans, restaurants, academic buildings, social centers, among others; and their clients are individuals, civil associations, architects.