We are witnessing the blurring of boundaries between urban and rural areas, a heightened awareness of the fact that primary resources are limited, shortages in supply chains and the growth of investment budgets. These are the beginnings of the year 2022 that influence the architecture and construction of built spaces in the medium and long term, according to research conducted by Studio ae.
“It depends on the ability of society and architects to take the necessary measures now for a sustainable future. It is important that the perspective is oriented towards the quality of spaces in the long term and that we allocate the necessary resources” said Elena Ștefănescu, architect, co-founder of Studio ae – architecture & evolution. Thus, the efforts of architects to cope with climate change become demanding from projection to execution and maintenance”, underlines the co-founder of Studio ae – architecture & evolution.
1 | The blurring of the border between urban and rural
People want increasingly safer, cleaner and greener environments in cities, suburbs and rural areas. Suburban and rural communities offer proximity to nature, larger lots and housing, greener landscapes, thus attracting families from the metropolitan area. Especially since the number of those who want or have to work from home is still high. Thus, available space, nature and sustainable communities increasingly matter in the decision to build or choose a home in a certain area.
Over the past two years, I have noticed in Bucharest a major movement of investments towards the Ilfov district, where Studio ae is currently working on several residential projects. Practically, a new residential “ring” is being built and developed around Bucharest. Projects are under development in Corbeanca, Snagov, Otopeni, Brănești, Cernica, Domnești and Berceni. However, infrastructure development for roads, including sidewalks, and utility connections is also very important. And, to obtain quality housing, it is necessary to take into account the need to have schools, parks and public spaces, leisure functions and commerce.
In addition, the landscape of many villages and towns around large cities will become industrial, with large logistics centers changing the visible and invisible structure of the community. Until the end of 2022, it is estimated that 1 million m² will be built in the logistics area, concentrated around major cities such as Bucharest, Cluj, Timișoara, Oradea and Sibiu.
2 | Buildings become more “green”
Terms used more and more often and partially overlapping as a definition such as sustainable, durable, passive, low energy, ecological, green buildings, NZEB, etc., essentially sum up society’s concern for the protection of the environment and the way we build and live.
“Green” or “sustainable” architecture has also evolved in Romania in recent years. Sustainable architecture aims to create healthy, bright houses, adapted to the needs of users, flexible over time, which also contribute to the quality of public spaces. A main aspect is the reduction of the negative impact of the built environment on the long-term environment.
Architects’ efforts to cope with climate change are becoming pressing from planning to execution and maintenance. For example, a sustainable building material is wood, which brings many health benefits and the concept of well-being. Wood has been and continues to be an extremely popular green building material as it is considered renewable, having been used for thousands of years.
Currently, Studio ae is in the projection phase of several buildings that wish to be certified to the passive house standard and which are on a timber frame or Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) type structure.
3| Increase in execution budgets
At the beginning of 2021, when the Nearly Zero Energy Building standard, NzEB, came into force, the subject was mainly discussed by architects and engineers. With the increase in the prices of building materials, first to wood and metal, then to energy, the theme is felt by all of society. These price increases have generated increases in investment budgets in 2021, sometimes by 20 to 25%, depending on the stage of execution work. The increase in the price of electrical energy is a contributing factor to the increase in the operating costs of a building over time.
Including for buildings intended for retail, maintenance costs will be affected by these successive increases.
4| We realize that primary resources are limited
There is a growing awareness that primary resources, including land and water, are finite and influence the way we build. We have noticed a growing preference for the use of quality materials for thermal and sound insulation, heat recovery systems, photovoltaic panels, respectively solar, heat pumps. These will result in long-term savings and benefits for the environment and happier users.
5| We bring nature close to home
This need has intensified since 2020 against the backdrop of pandemic limitations on staying at home as long as possible. The connection with nature goes through large windows, the use of as much natural light as possible, the development of exterior and interior gardens, patio-type courtyards, terrarium-type greenhouses, plant walls, and where it is not not possible, the growth of plants and shrubs in pots.
Natural materials and textures are increasingly used in interior finishes and decorations in light “earth” and “natural” tones.
6| Minimalism versus maximalism
Minimalist architecture has also become a more popular architectural trend in Romania too. This style of architectural design that emerged more than 100 years ago continues to be a valid response to today’s increasingly information-ridden society. Simplicity balances the complexity of everyday life. Minimalism is distinguished above all by the materials used to build, the offer of simple, calm perspectives that do not weigh down our eyes. Natural light plays an essential role. The focus will move away from small, undersized spaces in classic blocks to spaces that are more flexible over time and responsive to current