The built environment has a significant role to play in addressing climate change and enabling the transition to a net-zero and more inclusive future. The Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction global winners showcase the cutting edge of approaches to sustainable design, green architecture, and materials innovation. In the 6th competition cycle, the predominant focus of the entries in the North America region was the sustainable improvement of quality of life. The global prizes were presented at a handover ceremony at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. The regional Holcim Awards Main category winners for North America were recognized at the same event.
The Holcim Awards winning projects from five world regions are recognized at regional prize handover events. All winning projects at the regional level automatically qualify for the Global Holcim Awards, in which the submissions are evaluated again by a global jury, which was chaired by Hashim Sarkis (Lebanon/USA) in 2021. Participants can submit additional material on their projects, including detailed information on the carbon footprint of their project over its entire life cycle and the project's contribution to the circular economy. The entries that the jury considers outstanding at the global level are then awarded prizes at a global handover ceremony. Due to the pandemic, this procedure was adapted: all regional and global prizewinners were invited to the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, where they received their prizes at a single handover ceremony.
Toward net-zero emissions and circular material flows
The issue of sustainability is of paramount importance in construction. In view of climate change and diminishing resources, new approaches are needed along the entire value chain of the construction industry as the building sector moves toward net-zero emissions and circular material flows. Developing and applying these new approaches are what the Holcim Awards promote. The prize money of the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design totals USD 2 million.
The number of competition entries shows how intensively specialists in the fields of architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials science, construction technology, and related disciplines deal with sustainability issues: A total of 4,742 projects from 134 countries were submitted in the 6th cycle of the competition. About half of them fully met the requirements and were then scrutinized in extensive online jury meetings in the five regions around the world. The juries spent a total of over 100 hours sifting through and ranking the winners in the Main and Next Generation categories. Around half of the entries worldwide were submitted in the Next Generation category, which seeks bold ideas and visionary concepts by participants up to 30 years of age. The 21 winning projects in this category were announced in virtual ceremonies earlier this year: www.holcimfoundation.org/awards/6th-cycle.
In the Main category, the Holcim Awards recognize projects that are nearing implementation at an advanced stage of design. In the North America competition region, many proposals dealt with socially disadvantaged ethnic groups. The regional jury, chaired by Reed Kroloff (Illinois Institute of Technology, USA), selected four projects in the USA and one project in Canada as the main winners. They all convinced the jury with coherent concepts and bold approaches. The Global Holcim Awards went to Switzerland (Gold), Colombia (Silver), Morocco, Vietnam (ex aequo Bronze), Australia, Cabo Verde, Jordan, and the Philippines (Commendations).
From infrastructure to waste management
As Head of the Academic Committee of the Holcim Foundation, Marilyne Andersen was a member of all five regional juries and the global jury. The North America jury analyzed the projects as well as their underlying intentions: “Discussions could go quite deep to figure out what the message or story behind a project is,” she tells.
As in all the competition regions, the main themes of the entries also evolved in North America. “The chief topics changed from infrastructure upgrading and resource management several cycles ago to energy issues, recycling, upcycling, and waste management,” sums up Andersen. The jury ultimately decided on three Awards and two Acknowledgement prize winners. In addition to prize money totaling USD 220,000, the winners of the Awards received a personalized trophy featuring the Holcim Foundation’s iconic icosahedron, which symbolizes the golden ratio and therefore ideal proportions. The trophy base is made of EvopacZero, a climate-neutral concrete by Holcim Switzerland, exemplifying materials that enable circular flows and sustainable construction. Holcim is the sponsor of the Holcim Foundation, which conducts the competition.
Sustainable community building in Chicago, USA
Holcim Awards Gold North America - House as Garden
In collaboration with the nonprofit organization Blacks in Green, a sustainable residential building is being placed into an afflicted urban neighborhood. As a prototype, it shows how community can be regained and sustained by applying rational and appropriate technologies, self-reliance systems, and a spirit of sharing. The multifamily building consists of eight flexibly designed residential units as well as indoor and outdoor shared spaces, including a guest room, spaces for collective recreation, and green areas for onsite agriculture. The residents share cars, bicycles, gardens, and certain indoor spaces. The project is intended to be net carbon negative thanks to the many green systems and materials, the extensive greening, and the energy-efficient design.
“We’re creating a new normal for affordable housing,” explains Naomi Davis of Blacks in Green, Chicago, USA. “It is awesome, zero-waste, energy producing, wealth generating, grounded by food and flower gardens inside and out, and within reach of the black middle-income purse.” The jury says the proposal suggests an innovative residential building typology that not only gravitates around the value of sharing as a means of human empowerment but that is also environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing. They particularly appreciated the great potential for flexibility and replicability of the project, which promotes transferable sustainable practices on many levels.
Sustainable center for Indigenous peoples in Yellowknife, Canada
Holcim Awards Silver North America - Indigenous Wellness
The Artic Indigenous Wellness Centre is a new building designed for providing cultural and health-related services. It will primarily serve 22,000 Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people. These indigenous Canadians are often forced to travel out of their region when they need specialized care. The proposed facility aims to bridge the gap between informal wellness centers and conventional hospitals. Besides providing traditional medical treatment and mental wellness therapy, the center will revitalize elder-to-youth skills transfer. The facility embodies the local indigenous concept of wellness that combines physical, cultural, and spiritual aspects. Indigenous elders, healers, and youths were included in the participatory design process.
“The Arctic Indigenous Wellness center focuses on sustainability through material selection and climate specific strategies,” explains prizewinner Lola Sheppard of Lateral Office, Toronto, Canada. “In its form and orientation, the building employs passive strategies in this unique arctic climate, oriented towards the beautiful Frame Lake.” The jury was convinced that the genuine community engagement, which is a rare yet admirable effort in a design process, was key in providing the authors with the necessary instruments to conceive a building that is not only relevant to the community but also architecturally compelling. The project ultimately resulted in a forceful and attractive design concept.
Mending wounds of the past in Boston, USA
Holcim Awards Bronze North America - Emerald Gateway
Boston’s Emerald Necklace is a historic park system built along the Muddy River in the 1800s. During the 20th century, three elevated-highway projects were introduced in the park at Charlesgate, where the river flows into the Charles. The resulting fragmentation severely compromised the environmental & recreational quality of the park and severed a critical link in Boston’s nonmotorized traffic network. The new project proposes a series of visionary but realistic interventions to mend the urban green infrastructure. It includes over 20 kilometers of reconnected greenway, one kilometer of new shared-use pathways, and 300 meters of restored shoreline. Road-surface runoff will be treated in wetlands to reduce eutrophication and ocean acidification.
“This project is going to take place over many years across multiple jurisdictions and in multiple phases,” says prizewinner Daniel Adams of Landing Studio, Boston, USA. “There is significant focus on water-quality improvements and restoration of habitat corridors.” The project is the result of a participatory design process that involved different stakeholders to find shared interests and offered an opportunity for a shared investment, praised the jury. This approach is a decisive strength of the proposal that enhances the project’s economic viability since the requirements of multiple funding agencies and local communities are well considered.
Clever cooling in Arizona, USA
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize North America - Hydroculus Cooling
An organically shaped pavilion was built as a prototype. The shape of the light wood frame ideally channels the downdraft. The shell of the structure reflects shortwave solar radiation during the day. At night, longwave radiant cooling is effected, coupled with embedded thermal mass storage. The evaporation and radiation mechanism reduces necessary cooling energy by a factor of ten over conventional systems. The jury particularly commended the manner in which the authors successfully combined engineering and an interesting design. “The concept demonstrates new possibilities for envelope design and rethinks the way that sustainable cooling can be achieved through combined architectural and engineering engagement,” says project author Forrest Meggers of the Princeton University, NJ, USA. “Thanks to the Award, we will now be able to test the concept in the hot, arid desert of Arizona.”
Material harvesting in Detroit, USA
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize North America - (Re)constructed Block
This project aims to transform an abandoned historic industrial site into a vital live-work environment. Local recycled materials will be used. The old warehouse is being adapted to house exhibitions, vocational training, and shared offices. Recycled materials are incorporated. Old shipping containers are being adapted to create offices on the site. “We want to demonstrate the value of natural resources and how to use things that were left behind as the factories came down,” tells prizewinner Diane Van Buren Zachary, of Zachary and Associates, Detroit, USA. The jury applauded the principled objective of restoring a sense of community through meticulous upcycling of its assets. The reuse of existing materials from dismantled buildings makes the project very respectful of the environment and economically sustainable.
Prizewinning projects and author teams online
The winning projects and authors in the Holcim Awards Main category were honored at a hybrid event at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice on 13 November 2021: the 33 regional winners 2020 as well as the eight winners of Global Holcim Awards prizes 2021 were announced. A film of the handover ceremony and virtual presentations of all winning projects, including detailed descriptions, videos, jury reports, and statements by the authors as well as numerous illustrations, are available at www.holcimfoundation.org/awards. In addition, the latest book of the Holcim Foundation features in-depth interviews with the prizewinning authors: www.holcimfoundation.org/publications.
The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction was created in 2003 by Holcim as an independent legal entity to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning, and the building industry have in achieving a sustainable future. The Holcim Group is a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions and enables greener cities, smarter infrastructure, and improved living standards around the world. The company is driving the circular economy as a world leader in recycling in order to build more with less.
Members of the Holcim Awards jury North America 2020
For the first time in the history of the Holcim Awards, the projects submitted in North America were discussed and evaluated by the jury online. The independent, international jury of experts was chaired by Reed Kroloff, Rowe Family Dean of the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). At his side were Sarah Burch (University of Waterloo, Canada), Sarah Graham (agps architecture, USA), Mitchell Joachim (Terreform ONE, USA), Sharon Johnston (Johnston Marklee & Associates, USA), Jesse LeCavalier (John H Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, & Design, University of Toronto, Canada), Christophe Levy (Holcim Innovation Center, France), and Sarah Whiting (Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University, USA). A further jury member from the LafargeHolcim Foundation Academic Committee was Marilyne Andersen (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland).
Members of the Global Holcim Awards jury 2021
The independent jury that evaluated the projects at the global level was chaired by Hashim Sarkis (Dean of the School of Architecture & Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA). The jury included Angelo Bucci (spbr arquitetos and Professor of Building Design, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), Bruce Gibbons (Thornton Tomasetti, USA), Anne Lacaton (Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, France), and Mun Summ Wong (WOHA, Singapore). Marilyne Andersen (Professor of Sustainable Construction Technologies, EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland), Maria Atkinson AM (Green Building Council of Australia), Meisa Batayneh Maani (Maisam Architects & Engineers, Jordan), and Brinda Somaya (Somaya & Kalappa Consultants, India) represented the Board and the Academic Committee of the Foundation as additional jury members.
Holcim Awards winning projects North America
Holcim Awards Gold North America (USD 100,000)
House as Garden in Illinois, USA
A self-sustaining and collaborative residential project in Chicago.
Winner: Michael Sorkin (1948–2020), Michael Sorkin Studio, New York, USA
Holcim Awards Silver North America (USD 50,000)
Indigenous Wellness in Yellowknife, Canada
A holistic healthcare and cultural center in the Northwestern Territories.
Winners: Mason White, Lola Sheppard and team, Lateral Office, Toronto, Canada, and Wilbert Cook, Nicole Redvers and team, Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, Yellowknife, Canada
Holcim Awards Bronze North America (USD 30,000)
Emerald Gateway in Massachusetts, USA
Symbiotic mending of an urban green-infrastructure belt in Boston.
Winners: Marie Law Adams and Daniel Adams, Landing Studio, Boston, USA
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize North America (USD 20,000)
Hydroculus Cooling in Arizona, USA
A clever and efficient mechanism for indoor climate control.
Winners: Forrest Meggers, Princeton University, NJ, USA; Dorit Aviv, University of Pennsylvania, USA; Aletheia Ida, University of Arizona, USA
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize North America (USD 20,000)
(Re)constructed Block in Michigan, USA
A sustainable and productive urban district rises from its ashes and creates circular material flows.
Winners: Diane Van Buren Zachary and an international team of architects, Zachary and Associates, Detroit, USA