São Paulo: First LEED Neighborhood Development in Latin America, ICT and Sustainability. An Interview with Mariana de Cillo Malufe

São Paulo: First LEED Neighborhood Development in Latin America, ICT and Sustainability. An Interview with Mariana de Cillo Malufe

São Paulo: First LEED Neighborhood Development in Latin America, ICT and Sustainability. An Interview with Mariana de Cillo Malufe

Sao Paolo, Brazil

Mariana de Cillo Malufe has a multinational experience (America, Europe, Asia, Oceania) of more than 14 years in projects of positive social and environmental impact. She implements sustainability initiatives,  encourages dialogue between the public, private, non- governmental and academic spheres, respecting the dynamics and diversity of those involved. She is responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring sustainability strategies and innovative waste management, energy efficiency, water management, and greenhouse gas-GHG emissions programs with a strong performance in the supply chain.

Mariana made possible the first certification LEED ND – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development in Latin America and the first certification AQUA Neighborhoods and Lots of Rio de Janeiro. She was the winner of the Odebrecht Real Estate Achievement Award, 2013 – environment, was also responsible for the environmental agenda of the winner of the ADEMI RJ, 2014 – environment award.

Mariana graduated in Leadership for Sustainability at Harvard University, Boston, in Responsible Management for Sustainability at Fundação Dom Cabral, São Paulo. Has a master in Housing and Urbanism at Architectural Association and a post-graduation degree in Environmental Comfort and Energy Conservation at the University of São Paulo. Her undergraduate course was at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at PUC Campinas.

VG: Mariana, sustainability and environmental issues receive a great deal of focus in architecture schools and the real estate market right now. Why is that?

MCM: The interest of the Brazilian real estate market in sustainability and environmental issues has been growing in recent years, following an international trend. Even though it is not the main issue, the society is more aware of the consequences of the current world’s environmental crisis. Cities are dealing with a shortage of water and energy, the world’s oil is running out, as are the natural resources. And the impact of climate change can be observed by the rising level of the oceans and by the frequency and intensity of extreme events, among others.

In other sectors, companies are addressing these issues and making use of sustainable initiatives as a differentiation factor. The real state sector is still not driven by the environmental awareness, but by the potential of reducing operational costs, as the “green buildings” might use less energy, water, and natural resources during its use. The concern about environmental risks, which includes reducing the risks of reputation, is also pushing the sector to be more environmentally responsible.

Most professionals are not familiar with environmental and sustainability issues as they did not have access to in-depth knowledge during their graduate courses. It’s common for these professionals to use consultants and attend masters and post-graduation courses about this subject. The implications of more sustainable buildings and cities in Brazil are being learned more from practice, as stakeholders, developers, builders, suppliers are getting involved with issues that are relatively new. As the demand increases, the market gets more prepared and vice versa. As the professionals are more familiar with these issues, they tend to incorporate sustainable initiatives and new technologies more often.

Nowadays, sustainability and environmental issues are increasingly addressed by undergraduate courses in Brazil. As the real state market’s demand increases, it pushes students and professionals to be better prepared to incorporate sustainable initiatives and new technologies. The architecture faculties have the role of being in the center of discussions and there is definitely more attention to these issues nowadays.

VG:  You were involved in the first LEED-CS (core and shell) certification in Brazil, and responsible for the first LEED ND (neighborhood development) in Latin America. You also received awards for waste management programs and real state environmental initiatives. How did you come to be interested in this field? How does this interest overlap your work?

MCM: My core interest is improving people’s wellness through design. I started my career working with urban planning, but I realized it is very associated with sustainability. It is not possible for designing good projects without considering the social and environmental issues related to it. For the last 10 years, my interest has been about developing more sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and cities as a tool to improve people’s well-being without being detrimental to the planet we live in.

Environmental certification processes shouldn’t be the final goal of the projects, as they are part of the process of achieving more sustainable built environments. The same to the awards, which are a consequence of the work. Always focused on doing a great job and bringing innovation to the construction sector. Of course, I was glad about the certifications and awards I got, but it has never been the focus of my work. Instead, they were an indication that my team and I were working in the right direction.

VG: Let’s talk about LEED for a moment. What do you see is its main benefits for the architects, industries, and practice?

MCM:  LEED, and environmental certifications in general, are important as a third party recognition of the sustainable initiatives of the projects. It is a useful framework to drive decisions, but should not be understood as the final goal, It’s always possible going beyond in order to achieve more sustainable built environments.

However, It’s important to notice that the environmental certifications for buildings and neighborhoods are changing its focus. In order to address the urgency of the current environmental challenges, and to respond to society’s claim for action, it’s growing the importance of understanding the lifecycle of products and buildings. Nowadays, It’s not enough delivering “green buildings” to owners if they are not operated properly. Buildings and cities “net zero” (zero water consumption, zero carbon emissions, zero energy consumption, among others) is what the international trend is heading for. But I must say that some buildings and cities are already going beyond.

There is an increasing call to replace the effort to reduce the negative impact by increasing a positive impact in the community. In other words, there is an understanding that buildings and the built environment must have a positive impact on society and in people’s lives. We were used to certification’s processes that would credit a building with strategies that would reduce energy and water consumption. The new certifications and the newest version of some certifications are crediting buildings that operate with zero consumption of water and/or energy. In other words, the credits are given after a period of operation of the building, not over computational simulations that indicate the reduction.

Melbourne’s town hall, in Australia, is an example of “water positive” building. The water treatment plant of the building has a capacity greater than the demand, creating part of the city’s sewage. This is how buildings might look like in the future, as reducing the negative impact will not be enough.

VG: How do construction and architecture change when incorporating these strategies into their agenda? What is the role of technology in this new field?

MCM: The sustainability strategies definitely redefines architecture and urban planning. Let’s take the thermal comfort as an example. One could use double glasses as an isolating material to improve the comfort of the users inside the building using less amount of energy. And it doesn’t necessarily change the design of the building. But cost-effective initiatives, as orientating the building on the right direction (to reduce the solar incidence and the use of air condition in the “Global South”, or increase the solar incidence and reduce the heating during the winter in the “Global North”) will have to deal with changes in the design of the buildings.

There is also an interface with changes in habits and culture, in the daily life of people. If an apartment with efficient showers is used by a family that takes long showers, the initiative is questionable. Incorporating sustainable initiative in architecture and urban design might remind people of the importance of being responsible for the use of natural resources. It’s a two ways path, on the one hand, the built environment and technologies and on the other hand the habits and culture of people’s daily life.

We can not separate sustainable initiatives from innovation and new technologies. We need disruptive changes in the way we consume and live, how we use natural resources, and generate waste and green gas emissions. Innovation is the only way out, as we are running against time.

VG: How is education changing or needs to change because of the emergent environmental challenges of our world?

MCM: Education is the key to address the current environmental challenges. Mankind is consuming 1,3 planets a year, which means that we are consuming more natural resources than the planet is able to recover. The forecast is that by 2030, we will be consuming 3 planets a year if we don’t have a disruptive change in the way we live. As we have only one planet Earth, we have to change the way we live and the way we build.

VG: What are you working on lately and what are your goals for the future?

MCM:  I’m working as a consultant, supporting people, communities, and companies on their way to achieving a more sustainable life. Building together a view of the challenges and potentials of incorporating sustainability into their daily life and business.

I also work with sustainable initiatives in the built environment, incorporating design strategies and technologies in buildings, neighborhood, and cities. But lately, the importance and power of daily habits and small decisions are gaining my attention. Our buildings and cities must be prepared to the future of scarce and more expansive resources, but we also have to incorporate new ways of living, making use of technology, shared economy, and more responsible consumption.

The environmental challenges placed by the United Nations call for action and I understood the need of working beyond the built environment. It’s necessary for working with people, influencing people to consume in a more conscious and balanced way, changing habits, such as changing the car by bicycle,… I’m using the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as a framework to support people, communities, and companies to put their hands on and start the change. The only way to change globally is acting locally and that’s where is the focus of my work.

VG: Which are the next steps:

MCM: Nowadays we are dealing with the footprint of the built environment, which is the negative impact of our actions and our built environment. The future is about handprint, which is the positive impact. The Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations is a clear framework for the biggest social and environmental challenges of our time. Architects and urban designers are not taking this agenda, but I believe it will be an important tool for action in a couple of years. As it is already in other sectors.

Valina Geropanta and Mariana De Cillo Malufe— 

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