Heimo Scheuch Podcast

Heimo Scheuch Podcast Episode #16: Sustainable Architecture with Tina Gregoric

August 25, 2022 Heimo Scheuch Episode 16
Heimo Scheuch Podcast
Heimo Scheuch Podcast Episode #16: Sustainable Architecture with Tina Gregoric
Show Notes Transcript

Densification of cities, urban heat islands and the lack of water – these are just a few of the challenges cities of the future are facing.  

In this episode, I had the pleasure to discuss those hot topics together with Tina Gregoric. She is international successful architect, professor at the TU in Vienna and an expert in the field of sustainable urban development.

Among others we talked about what sustainable solutions architecture can offer to meet the challenges posed by climate change, and what role policy plays in this context.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my Podcast! I'm Heimo Scheuch, the CEO of Wienerberger and today I have the pleasure to have with me here at the Wienerberg Tina Gregoric from the TU University in Vienna. I am glad to have you here Tina and we will discuss today the sustainable construction in the urban development. Tina you have been working at the University for quite a long time? Yes I have been, but what is really important, is that I come from practice and this knowledge from practice inspires and builds the base for working at the University. And by the way, you are coming from a different cultural background, not an Austrian one. Exactly! So our Architectural Studio is based in Ljubljana. It's a city which is very high powered in Architecture through Jože Plečnik, so being born there and kind of working in that city you somehow understand that Architecture is something that defines the city so powerfully on a statical ground, social ground, structural ground, material ground and you carry that with you wherever you work. Today we have a rather strange development; a lot of people are moving to cities for jobs, for education, for development, for culture, but on the other hand we have cities that suffer from the heat, especially now during the summer time, that suffer from over population, that suffer from a lack of access to affordable housing. So a lot of problems that we really face when we talk about the urban development. What about this? How do you think this development will take us further? Yes, different stories and narratives are in different cities, of course. So the story or the future of Vienna is going to be very different than the future of Paris, or the future of Shanghai even. There are different cities and different stages of, let's say their development, and let's say Vienna is one of the rare cities which is still growing compared to many European cities, which are actually shrinking, but as most of European cities, I think we really neglected the problem of urban heat and the scarcity of resources for far too long. So and now it's the moment, where urban design, but also architectural design in tight collaboration have to address this trough engineering, through smart engineering and through smart set of also political decisions, because it's a policy to take away..I don't know, 10% of parkings and replace them with trees. And this is now something to discuss, this has become a necessity and we need to somehow address it on so many different levels. I do agree with you and actually since more than 200 years, as you know, Wienerberger is working with institutions, with cities in order to develop sustainable housing and Vienna and Wienerberger are linked to each other for more than 200 years, but it's surprising actually that in the last 2 or 3 decades this aspect of sustainability has been suffering quite a little bit, especially when it comes to social housing, when it comes also to the aspect of cooling and heating houses and, as you correctly pointed out, the whole system of using and reusing materials - and can we do here something to improve this dialogue between decision makers one the one hand, you from Universities and planning and also the political decision makers? Yes of course there is a series of kind of immediate actions, and of course certain long lasting strategies that should have taken place already. One of them of course is what we know is circular design and really very carefully treating everything that is demolished and segregating then and of course reusing for instance metal, bricks, and the materials at place. But I think before that we would really need to carefully decide what is truly dismantled and what we truly take away, because it's such an amazing energy and effort has been incorporated in those buildings that already stand. And what is in relationship to the social housing, I think, what is important, that in the previous decades in architectural terms it was far more important to build fast and cheap, in order to somehow gain the political, you know, agendas backwards as soon as possible, but was not thought on a long term. So what kind of a construction of social housing would have been relevant for the next 100 years in terms of non artificial cooling, in terms of long lasting and in terms of the materials that would really sustain? Because a lot of materials which has been used in the previous decades to build social housing, no one knows, what is their future? Are they going completely dissolved in the next decades? And here actually I think we should really learn from the 200 years, and more of course, of buildings with bricks in urban environments, because actually those structures, which are more than 200 years old now, are far more sustainable and far more ready for this kind of climate change, overheating, than the new constructions. So I think we should be able to properly analyze buildings and learn from what they did before us. So, in some things we did advance, but in others we actually, we went back! Very interesting Tina, what you pointed out- the sustainability aspect and the material aspect. If I look at certain cities in Europe like Copenhagen or also in Dutch cities, this aspect, as you call it, facades, and the usage of, for example, our brick material in order to keep temperatures down, or even green facades, and more trees and paving, not asphalt and concrete, contributes actively to the positive climate in cities. To some extent I think a city like Vienna is lacking a little bit behind, I think, these days because it's very traditional, still, in certain aspects when you look at the infrastructure planning. I just give an example. In Austria or still in Vienna, you have to create a garage spot for a house, for a new apartment, whereas in Amsterdam or in Copenhagen nobody talks about a car anymore. It's about bicycle basically and it has nothing to do with cars. Yes, these are cultures which have decades of a bike tradition. I also come from a city which is closely to Copenhagen, a bike city, and of course we all learned how much more important and sustainable this is because you have this immediate sustainability which is actually the quality of the air, the residents are inhaling during their living and working in the city and of course long term sustainability. But this is education, this is culture. First you need to build infrastructure, so bike lanes and of course you need to somehow softly force the car out of the spot and not really to developers infuse the park to build the parking, because this also kind of very highly, the price for the apartment becomes far more expensive to be built if it's required to build a garage and a lot of people are already so aware, that they are finding ways how not to have the car, so I think we need to, we are further with regulations, we are one step behind from the mentality also of Austrians of Viennese residents, which are very much in tune with the bike culture, especially my assistants, let's say, no one of them have cars, they all bike to school, so I really see in this generation 30 and 40, they demand a change. They demand a change for their families. They understand that Vienna could very, like, swiftly turn into an extreme bike and extreme green city, just with the adoption of certain very strategic strategies. So, as you mentioned, on the material side with sort of long lasting and recyclable materials, you can also create a very positive image and a growing city with a better mobility concept and mobility strategy. When you talk about integration especially from, as in cities with a lot of migration, as you have mentioned, for example, with respect to Vienna, also public spaces play a very important role because they are spaces of integration, of communication, and I think creating those, where you have a better climate, like water, recycling of water, trees etc. would be very helpful, I think in urban development. Yes, certainly! Of all scales now, because we need to understand the city of a very small pockets of greenery to really large extensive places like, let's say Prater, but what kind of Vienna, at least from my understanding, lacks is the distribution of smaller pieces of greenery on a level of, kind of, two streets together, of micro communities or micro neighborhoods, which is a term, that is in the last decades very, very important because before we thought that we need to build big neighborhoods, they need to have big outdoor public spaces, but now it's important that actually you create certain degrees of familiarity and we need to somehow seek for those opportunities, even if they have 50 square meters or 100 square meters because on the agenda of the heating of the city every square meter counts. And of course we would need to immediately address the issue of the water. And this is quite, which means that we would need to predominantly change the material of flooring of the sidewalks, at least if not for the streets because the sidewalks should in the future slowly collect the water and actually allow the water to be kept in the system, not to be swooshed in five minutes after actually it came down and actually overload our infrastructural system. And again Tina, this passion, and one sees your passion about the future development of cities, but we as industry have provided for certain solutions. Solutions like collecting, as you say, for the water and not sealing completely the streets or the pavements as you call it, but bring the water down, then collect it, clean it and bring it then only to the public sewage systems and I think this is something where we have already a lot of innovation going on and it would be passionate to use it with colleagues like you in order to create a more, affordable and more modern and I would say also a city, that is worth living in. I think that would be a great future for all of us here in Europe, right? Yes, we look forward to these motions! So again, it was a pleasure to have you here Tina, for this conversation and you see, there is a lot to be done still in European cities to make them a better place for us to live in! Thank you very much! Thank you for the invitation! Thank you!