At HafenCity University Hamburg, Professor Antje Stokman combines architecture, ecology, technology and urban planning.You are currently collaborating with 35 international cities and institutions on a five-year EU project with the name “CLEVER Cities”. What is it that makes a city and its buildings clever?
Antje Stokman: In this case, it means utilizing the materials and mechanisms of nature and working with nature instead of against it with concrete and technology. Real estate and cities can be planned from the ground up in such a way that they will provide ecosystem-services; in other words, they will not only use their environment but that they will also be of service to it. A façade, for example, can be constructed so that plants will be able to contribute significantly to the shading and cooling of the building without consuming energy or warming ambient air, as is commonly the case with air conditioners.
How strongly is this approach taken into consideration?
Over the past few years, the topic has gathered momentum, impacting the classic professions. Truly sustainable building is an interdisciplinary endeavor of architects, construction engineers, materials scientists, technicians and urban planners. At the same time, more participation is essential. The top-down approach – something is planned from above without involving the local people, their ideas and their knowledge – will not lead to the best outcome.
It sounds as though sustainable building will definitely incur increased costs?
It depends on how you make up the balance. Initial investments may be higher. If, however, you consider the costs of the entire life cycle which, in the case of buildings, encompasses the long term, sustainable models are more cost-effective. Green roofs for example, which protect buildings and retain rainwater, recover their cost after approximately 20 to 40 years while generating additional value appreciation through their livable green environment.