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Euro Copper - Sustainable New Offices in Strasbourg

Copper Architecture Forum

The ‘Agora’ administration building for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, completed in 2008, is proud of its impressive environmental credentials – and copper plays an important part.

Like the other building materials used on the project, copper was chosen on the basis of all aspects of sustainability in terms of manufacture, delivery, processing, further development and ageing. In addition, all technical, ecological and economic decisions made during the planning and construction phases and also during the building’s entire operational life were examined in detail in regard to sustainability. This method of working by the architects Art & Build was especially acknowledged in June 2008. For the new general office building of the Council of Europe, the architects received the BEX Award 2008 in the sustainable building category. Each year, innovative projects in the field of architecture are distinguished with the awards from the BEX-Building Exchange international conference.

Isidore Zielonka and Steven Beckers, managing architects of Art & Build in Brussels and responsible for planning and realisation of the new administration building, made some remarks concerning their views about copper, building materials and sustainable planning. Steven Beckers said: “When planning the Council of Europe building we were lucky that we could stay very close to the original competition design, also in terms of material choice. Pre-patinated copper was part of that design from the very early phases. We used this material for interior parts and outside as well. The surfaces still have the same appearance today, outside and inside. This is unique; with patinated copper, there is hardly any other material offering that long-term quality in appearance for both applications.

"Regarding sustainable building: during my studies, I was totally involved with ecological topics in architecture. They became more and more interesting and important then, but at the same time they were still quite distinct. Meanwhile the whole situation has become very complex. Today in every field of applications you can find materials suddenly in question that nobody worried about using yesterday. This is a very confusing and challenging situation, and our generation is the first to face it. At Art & Build we investigate building materials as far as possible, of course. But our eco team has only limited capacities in this complex field. Therefore, we have to remind manufacturers of their responsibility over and over again. They have to keep in mind the consequences of material use in any application, especially regarding high amounts of use. Because at the end of the day, it is always a question of resources." Isidore Zielonka added: "Despite the high importance of ecological criteria, we must not forget the human factor, which for me is the most important element of all. The idea of sustainability should be based on this in the first place. For me, the highest compliment for my work is when somebody turns up and says: I feel very comfortable in this building. I love to be here and to work here.

"Of course we keep our critical view on every building material, also on modern and future developments. Today every material has to face critical investigation regarding sustainability over and over again, and this applies just as much to copper in every respect. The responsibility of manufacturers in using this material is especially high. Because copper is a beautiful, unique and very precious material that surely will be as important for future generations as it is for us today."

This article was published in 30/2011 issue of Copper Architecture Forum magazine.

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