Looks like Ed Mazria has one more case study for Architecture 2030 (see post below):
Sustainable Design Update reports that uber-architects Skidmore, Owings and Merril have designed a skyscraper in the booming Chinese city of Guangdong that produces all of its electricity on-site. The building uses site orientation, hi-tech window glazing, air circulation strategies, and heat-absorbing materials to reduce energy consumption by 60% over a conventional building of the same size, and the reduced energy needs are met by PV panels and large- and small-scale wind turbines. Sounds pretty sustainable, right?
Except for one thing. The building is the new headquaters for the Guangdong Tobacco Company – an arm of China National Tobacco Company, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the world. In a country where smoking is a part of the national culture, the government-owned CNTC provides Beijing with billions of dollars in taxes every year, while feeding the addictions of more Chinese than the entire US Population.
The Guangdong Tobacco building provides a fine example of the inscrutable ethical knots found at the intersection of capitalism, globalization and sustainablility. To be sure, we should be doing all we can to reduce our global carbon footprint, especially in emerging superpowers like China. But is it ethical to build a green skyscraper, even a zero-energy one, if the building’s client is cutting short the lives of hundreds of millions of people? And what if the profits from that client are helping finance education, infrastructure improvements, and renewable energy? Tricky times, indeed.