Green Giants tower over CTBUH AWARDs

Green Giants Tower Over CTBUH Awards

PARKROYAL on Pickering: Singapore's uber eco-friendly hotel took home the prize for top urban habitat.

PARKROYAL on Pickering: Singapore's uber eco-friendly hotel took home the prize for top urban habitat.

by JOHN GREGERSON | Nov 18, 2015

It was a tall order, but just weeks after its marathon, week-long international conference in New York, an event that drew 1,200 attendees from 45 countries, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) still somehow saved the best for last, this month bestowing its 14th annual awards at the architecturally significant Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

The two big events were so close together, in fact, that CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood joked that he still hadn't fully recovered his voice from the late-October conference. Plenty others were in full voice at the awards program, however, which drew some 300 attendees and honorees from across the globe to honor the latest monumental achievements in tall buildings and urban environments. Topics ranged from the twisting, turning Evolution Tower in the Moscow International Business Center to a spectacularly eco-friendly facility in Singapore conceived as "a hotel in a garden", but invariably all talk seemed to center on style and sustainability, and continuing efforts to combine the two.  

Among the top honorees was Milan's verdant residential high-rise Bosco Verticale, selected as the year's "Best Tall Building Worldwide" by an international jury chaired by Mun Summ Wong, co-founder of Singapore-based WOHA Architects. Finalists for the honor included New York's One World Trade Center; Singapore's CapitaGreen; and Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Summ Wong: Judging was not easy.

Summ Wong: Judging was not easy.

Wong explained the difficulty he and fellow panelists experienced in selecting this year’s winner, designed by Milan-based architects Boeri Studio. “How do you start to compare a building like Bosco Verticale, which has trees all over it and is just over 100 meters tall, with One World Trade Center, sleek, elegant, poised, and more than five times taller than the former? One is where people live, and the other where they work.”

Billotti was humbled.

Billotti was humbled.

In addition to design and construction feats, CTBUH also honors entire careers dedicated to advancing the profession. This year, Nicholas E. Billotti, chairman of Turner International, a 50-year-old subsidiary of NYC-based Turner Construction, received the Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal for Facilitating the World's Tallest Buildings. “This is kind of awkward for me, because I have to tell you I was shocked when I learned I was being honored," Billotti confided to the room. "I'm not an architect and I'm not an engineer, which is a little different for this group."

Billotti explained the medal by describing how Turner internationally has had to “fill voids” in shaping and programming tall buildings in ways that extend beyond the traditional role of the builder. For instance, he recalled that original plans for the iconic 44-story Al Faisaliyah Center, a mixed-use facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, called for a “mish-mash spread over several acres.” With Turner set to serve as project builder, Billotti and colleagues persuaded members of Al Faisaliyah Group that “the plan made no sense,” he said. Thereafter, the owner asked Turner to participate in a feasability study that reprogrammed and reapportioned retail, office and residential spaces, with British designer Norman Foster serving as architect for the resulting 15-year-old tower.

“It's not what you do, but how you do it,” summed Billotti of his 39-year career with Turner.

Calatrava credited owner HSB for demanding quality.

Calatrava credited owner HSB for demanding quality.

Spain's renowned designer Santiago Calatrava, and Sweden's Jan Andersson, of developer HSB Malmo, were on hand to accept the Tall Building 10-Year Award, an honor that acknowledges the enduring influence of a project done a decade before, in this case the 54-story HSB Turning Torso in Malmo. In addition to “putting a twist on contemporary skyscraper design,” the office and residential tower was lauded for spurring further development in surrounding Western Harbour.

The tower's forms, composed of several pentagonal segments that twist relative to each other as the structure rises, “arose from the challenge of how to reconcile the tower with the scale of surrounding four-story to five-story structures, the concept being to reference the human body in a way that demonstrated, 'I can look at you, but also twist my body,'” the architect explained. In a nod to HSB, he conceded, “No one can design a good building without a client that doesn't [also] want a good building.”

high energy, striking innovation

In the category of Tall Building Innovation Award, jurors selected voided lightweight, reinforced concrete slabs that can be pierced by electrical and plumbing systems, dramatically reducing the vertical space required to house those components. In accepting the award, Maria Ramirez, managing director of Madrid, Spain-based HOLEDECK, noted the system is particularly well suited for tall buildings, since it can reduce up to 20% of the total built volume. “One additional floor can be obtained for every five floors built,” Ramirez said. “The system accommodates additional stories with fewer materials, which is why we say we do more with less.”

The Tall Building Performance Award recognized upgrades that dramatically improved the energy performance of Sydney, Australia's, tallest building, the 53-story Chifley Tower, “one of Sydney's, if not the world's, most prominent addresses,” said Michael George, regional director with property and asset manager Jones Lang LaSalle. Nevertheless, George acknowledged the 23-year-old property, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, had begun to lose luster relative to newer, more sustainable structures in Sydney's Central Business District. While the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) assigned some buildings up to five stars, Chifley, as of 2008, received just zero.

Due to a multi-year initiative begun shortly thereafter, the iconic tower now boasts a 4.5 rating. The turnaround involved upgrades to lighting, HVAC, elevators, BIM and waste management systems. As a result, the tower achieved an energy usage reduction of 55%, said George.


Other award recipients included the late developer Minoru Mori, recipient of the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award “for transforming the shape of Tokyo's skyline", and Wong, who received the Urban Habitat Award for his work on the PARKROYAL Pickering hotel in Singapore.

In all, CTBUH received more than 100 award submissions. Wong, who did not participate in the category for which he was honored, noted that deliberations went well into the wee hours due to differing time zones among Singapore, the U.S., Europe, etc. Appropriate perhaps, given that the achievements he and fellow jurors here honored all strive to be timeless.  

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