Super green2: An architect’s journey into the world of material development and sustainable design

Elizabeth Gilligan, Ruth Morrow, Sreejith Nanukuttan, Rory Doherty

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Each year 8,736 billion tons of concrete is used globally, it is the second most used material in the world after water [1]. The material culture of concrete goes back millennia but maybe there is a different way to view concrete, such as a structure to grow life on rather than as a component of the stark urban environment [2]. Every 10 years an area the size of Britain disappears under concrete. In the next decade the urban environment is predicted to grow by 30 %[3]. With urban environments on the rise the importance of green spaces is critical.
The project is based on an architect (PhD Student) developing skills and insight into the technically rigorous nature of material development, with the support and expertise of a diverse-disciplinary supervisory team. As Morrow says; the architect/designer needs to become a driving force within material development. If building materials are ever to move past being designed to only meet technical requirements and the aesthetics being an afterthought, then the designer needs to be part of the team to push for a design-led material development. By developing a new methodology, materials can therefore be designed to meet a multifaceted cultural specification from the outset [4]. This fundamental rethink to material development echoes the words of Buckminster Fuller; “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”(Fuller, R. Buckminster, 1982, p. 84) [5].
The project sets itself up as a process of genuine enquiry – charting territory that architects rarely venture into. It begins by questioning the vision of facades that do more for people and the environment instead of only satisfying technical requirements. It then uses a process of questioning to find its research axis that makes this more of a journey rather than a planned A-B route. It starts with the question: Why can’t the modern building façade grow/absorb water or dirt?
This paper aims to examine the complicated issues surrounding the use of concrete and the production of waste. It explores the collaboration between a multi-discipline team and the specialties they can all bring to the project. It then goes on to look briefly at manufacturing problems, material weathering, why concrete has been chosen, and the methodological framework that has been designed to dissect these problems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
EventAdvanced Building Skins, Bern, Switzerland: 12th Conference on Advanced Building Skins - Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 02 Oct 201703 Oct 2017


ConferenceAdvanced Building Skins, Bern, Switzerland
Internet address


  • Material Development
  • Sustainable Design
  • Waste Stream
  • multidisciplinary teamwork
  • Design-led methodology


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