For a look at groundbreaking concrete research presented during Solid States and links to more photos and information on the projects highlighted here, click here

“Architecture must invent buildings that help the earth to remain beautiful for future generations,” Jacques Ferrier told his attentive audience recently.

The architect was joined by others in his profession, in addition to engineers and researchers at Columbia University's Solid States conference in October to discuss the future of concrete in architecture and engineering. Among the themes that emerged was concrete's dual role as a structural and sustainable design element.

High-performance concrete allows architects to design load-bearing concrete cladding that looks more decorative than structural. The material's high strength allows designers to achieve more with less material, thus contributing to a building's sustainability. A new, web-like cladding design also contributes to heating and cooling systems, so the buildings are more energy efficient.


Ferrier's firm, Jacques Ferrier Architectures, focuses on designing for a sustainable society. He worked with Lafarge for almost two years to design Hypergreen, a tower building concept that showcases the possibilities of environmentally friendly urban design. Hypergreen uses energy-efficient, recyclable materials to reduce energy consumption; it also generates its own renewable energy.

Ferrier's book, Making of Phare and Hypergreen Towers, describes the building as, “covered from top to bottom in a white lattice, like a woven veil…that is both strong and delicate.” This skin is designed with Ductal, Lafarge's ultra high-performance concrete. It carries almost half of the structure's vertical load and most of its bracing, which frees the floors of load-bearing points.

Structural engineer Jean-Marc Weil chose fiber-reinforced Ductal for the structural lattice because its performance rivals steel. “What is new is the combination of high-performance concrete with a type of geometry that has been tried only in steel, and the use of a pre-stressing assembly technology that belongs more to civil engineering,” he said.

Hypergreen's concrete lattice also plays a role in controlling the building's climate. Its open design is tighter from north to south, offering shade from the sun. The grid allows sun to reach photovoltaic panels and air to circulate for ventilation. It is even more open at the top, surrounding rooftop gardens and wind generators.

The Sensual City

Ferrier also designed the French Pavilion for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. The structure, called “the Sensual City,” will be a temporary, but revolutionary building. It will be a model of sustainability, using advanced building materials and environmental technologies, and a showcase of energy efficiency and recycling.

Its outer shell will be part “woven” concrete and part living garden. The structural and decorative cladding will be made of high-performance concrete and reinforcing steel to meet seismic requirements. The pavilion gives new meaning to “green roof,” with live plants forming a suspended garden overhead and cascading down to form the walls of an inner courtyard.

The green roof and walls will provide insulation, while ventilation and the pavilion's design also allows maximum use of natural light. Low-energy metal halide and fluorescent lighting will be used inside. These measures will result in lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions.