LafargeHolcim Foundation Knowledge Turntable for Sustainable Construction


Speaking from experience

How community consultation contributes to sustainability

Focusing on “people-centered performance” is important for increasing sustainability of the built environment. One of the five “target issues” created by the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction is “PEOPLE”. The “target issues” are used in the LafargeHolcim Awards competition to evaluate and compare all entries. The human factor of sustainability is supported by projects that reflect a sensitive understanding of their unique social and political contexts, and generate the potential for long-lasting positive impacts on the local community.

Within the many facets of ethical standards and social inclusion that form the people “target issue”, the process of community consultation is crucial in many projects. By enabling the active participation of stakeholders in the design and implementation phases of a project – including users, clients, neighborhood affiliations, local authorities and non-governmental organizations – there is a significant opportunity for strengthening shared values and empowering communities.

Community consultation enhances the capacity of the design team to identify and more sufficiently understand locally significant factors, and encourages design solutions that address the distinctive elements of each specific context. The community-centered approach avoids designing from a “clean slate”, but uses its understanding of the well-established community social system to design and implement interventions that are intertwined with improving lives.

Going with the flow

A14APacTH-prog16-04.jpgAn urban water transport system for Bangkok, Thailand by DI Designs proposes to revive the ancient canals of the city to create a modern network of waterways that will supplement the existing Metropolitan Rapid Transit system. After winning a LafargeHolcim Acknowledgement prize in 2014, the project authors are engaged in community consultation with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to ensure the waterways are part of a sustainable urban master plan for the city.

DI Designs were part of a team set the task of studying and finding ways to improve the housing of the many informal communities that live along Ladprao and Bang Sue canals. The process included many meetings and workshops with community leaders, government organizations, universities and private sector companies who were interested to be a part of the urban development along the canal. The objective of DI Designs is to work in detail with the related organizations so that their Resurrected Canals concept is included in the nation’s Thailand 4.0 smart city plan.

Read project overview: Resurrected Canals: Urban water transport system, Bangkok, Thailand

Information driven design

A15GLfiUSnyTheDryline-06.jpgThe Dryline (BIG U) addresses New York City’s vulnerability to coastal flooding with a protective ribbon in Southern Manhattan. The 12 km-long infrastructural barrier incorporates public space with the high-water barrier doubling as parks, seating, bicycle shelters or skateboard ramps. Through the greater understanding developed by consulting with the communities in lower Manhattan, the project not only looked at the water situation, but was also able to ask: What else do the local communities need? Can the design combine water management measures with solutions to other problems and deficiencies identified by the community?”

In partnership with LESReady! (a coalition of more than 25 community groups coordinating planning efforts for the Lower East Side neighborhood in Manhattan), a series of public outreach work sessions with community end-users were conducted. Residents were invited to build their own resilient waterfront through drawings and interactive models with an array of options for creating a collective vision for their waterfront.

The Dryline was created from the specific knowledge of external specialists, as well as the local community. The founder of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) emphasized how the design work of his office is driven by information. “Our role was to take these inputs and synthesize a design solution that is informed by this wealth of knowledge,” explains Bjarke Ingels, winner of the Global Awards Bronze for 2015.

Read project overview: The Dryline: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, USA

What is the right question?

A11LAsiCL-gallery010x.jpgThe Sustainable Post-tsunami Reconstruction Master Plan from Elemental led by Alejandro Aravena was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people in southern Chile. The masterplan responds with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.

By bringing the community into the process to understand the problems – the design process ensures that the “right questions” are the focus. Through community consultation, the design team broadened the scope of the project to address issues of seasonal flooding and public space: using a forest band between the city and the sea that would dissipate the force of future tsunami waves, but would also address the more immediate concerns of the community. Five years after implementation began, most elements of the project have been implemented to improve the quality of the city. The approach was able to negotiate private benefit with common good.

Read project overview: Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, Constitución, Chile

LafargeHolcim Awards competition

Do you have a project or design concept in architecture, building and civil engineering, landscape and urban design, materials, products and construction technologies that contributes to the five “target issues” for sustainable construction?

The 5th International LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction is open for registration until March 21, 2017. More information at:

Last Updated: January 11, 2017
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