The Porto Maravilha region of downtown Rio de Janeiro is a hotbed of new development with over five million square metres of space being revitalised into a new commercial district with a strong focus on sustainability. The area will see a stable of luxury buildings, as well as new roads, additional public transport and green spaces that captures the ethos of an emerging green community.
French sustainable construction specialist Natekko took on the project of reincarnating pre-existing buildings in the area, such as office space Rio Branco 12 (RB12), built in the 1970s, into greener versions of their old selves. It tasked architecture firm Triptyque with revamping RB12 to include innovative green concepts that reduced the building’s energy and water consumption. “Triptyque had to adapt and upgrade old buildings in order to align them with sustainable development criteria,” says lead architect Carolina Bueno.
Brazil has long been championing sustainable architecture and Triptyque has been at the forefront of the movement. In 2008, the Franco-Brazilian firm designed an office building in São Paulo with its own ecosystem and a “live” wall with vegetation growing on the exterior of the structure. The Harmonia 57 featured a sustainable watering system that collected rainwater and water from the soil that would then be drained, treated and reused throughout the building.
Triptyque took these principles of recycling water, refined them and applied them to RB12. For the Rio building, the practice created two systems to manage the tower’s water supply. “There’s the captivation and draining of the
rainwater from the rooftop and a system that reuses the water coming from the bathroom and air conditioners,” Bueno explains.
The building’s roof and balconies were filled with plants to help regulate the cooling and thermal control throughout the interior. The green roof also acts a barrier to capture rainwater which is then channelled into a complex water-recycling scheme for irrigation and the bathrooms.
The facade of RB12 was carefully designed for energy efficiency and has incorporated other green alternatives such as photovoltaic panels – the first on a commercial building in Brazil – to generate their own electricity by converting solar energy into renewable energy. “The panels produce electric energy from the harnessing of the sunlight,” Bueno says.
The structure will also make use of fuel cell technologies for its self-sustaining energy systems. These run on natural gas for electricity production and provide a steady stream of energy. Unlike solar and wind panels, fuel cells don’t depend on the weather to power their energy. The principle is similar to a battery that doesn’t require recharging. It relies on a chemical reaction between a fuel and an oxidant to produce energy, rather than a combustion – making the energy cleaner and more efficient.
Also present in the bioclimatic exterior are windows with diamond-patterned panels that play with light and shadow to control the amount of light entering the building. The unique design aids with the ventilation and regulation of the building’s interior temperature.
“Natekko asked Triptyque to conceive the first commercial building in Brazil based on positive energy concepts,” says Bueno. “This unique project combines daring design with sustainable development innovative technologies.”
Triptyque’s overhaul of RB12 forms part of a larger initiative that the city has launched leading up to this summer’s Olympic Games. Several projects have opened within the Porto Maravilha neighbourhood, including a new art education centre and the Museum of Tomorrow, an epic science museum designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.
With its plant-laden balconies and pioneering PV panels, Triptyque’s office revamp in Brazil’s second city is looking good and doing good