‘A’A’ Presents LafargeHolcim Awards Prize Winners | Next Generation

54-55 TESTIMONY OF A FORMER LAUREATE TÉMOIGNAGE D’UNE ANCIENNE LAURÉATE How did the LafargeHolcim Awards impact your debut as a professional architect and urban planner? The LafargeHolcim Awards has shifted my entire worldview of architecture and my career trajectory as an architectural researcher, practitioner, and lecturer towards more sustainable and ecologically-conscious architecture. My work focuses on urban ecologies, biotecture design, systemic thinking, waste and water — green principles that have been instilled through my research and exposure within the Foundation’s many inspiring conferences, talks and global network of like-minded practitioners. As a researcher at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, I am continuing work and research trajectories initiated through the Foundation, and focus my teaching on renewable resources, carbon-negative materiality and systemic design principles in an effort to transfer my knowledge of sustainable construction to the next generation of practitioners. I try to consistently design spaces and map systems that improve social-ecological relationships between people, planet and place, with a strong focus on regenerative design. According to you, what could be the main action levers, in the industrial field, for a more sustainable and conscious construction? Construction is one of the most resource and pollution-heavy industries on earth and as designers, we have the ability — and responsibility — to change the way we build. Three critical factors to consider in shifting construction towards a more sustainable future include: firstly, carbon-negative, renewable building materials like timber should be specified wherever possible to mitigate climate change. Secondly, circular economic principles such as designing for disassembly, specifying recycled materials and reclaiming resources from demolished buildings and other ‘waste’ streams are critical shifts necessary to mitigate the large amounts of waste and pollution generated by the construction industry. Thirdly, there is an urgent need to address the impact of construction and urban growth on biodiversity loss. As cities grow, natural habitats are shrinking — and with them, life- supporting ecological systems are in decline. The construction industry will therefore bear a direct responsibility for biodiversity collapse. We need to start designing buildings and cities as ecological havens — spaces where both human and non-human life can thrive. Regenerative design (design that extends beyond conventional definitions of ‘sustainable construction’ to establish mutually beneficial socio-ecological relationships), rewilding and biotecture principles will be fundamentally important factors in establishing a more sustainable urban future. Could you tell us about your current research topics and projects? It’s still in early stages of development, but building on my research with the LafargeHolcim Research in Practice Grant (which partly focused on biodiversity loss related to urban expansion, particularly in informal settlements and urban fringes), I’m currently investigating methods of mitigating biodiversity loss through ‘Constructed Ecotopes’, specifically looking at biodiversity hotspots such as the Cape Floristic Region (Cape Town, South Africa). The multidisciplinary research will investigate ways in which buildings and urban environments can act as endemic natural habitats, to support diverse ecologies over, under or around buildings and provide life-supporting biodiversity systems within cities — creating true urban jungles. I’m calling it Ecotopia. FOR A REGENERATIVE DESIGN — Heidi Boulanger Architect, writer and researcher, Cape Town, South Africa. LafargeHolcim Awards Next Generation prize winner 2017 Middle East Africa Recipient of a LafargeHolcim Research in Practice Grant