The Challenge of Sustainable Architecture at Cria+
An Interview for Business Portugal Magazine

Sustainable architecture challenges the creation of intelligent designs that utilize available technologies to ensure minimal impact on the environment and communities. This concept influences architects to rethink the materials used in building construction, construction methods, resource usage, and design. This premise was the basis for a conversation with Luísa Teixeira, Architect and CEO of Cria+, where we also got to know better an award-winning architecture studio, recognized as one of the top 50 in the country.

Q: Sustainability is more than a mere trend; it is an imperative in architecture, real estate, and construction, as these sectors generate significant environmental impacts due to energy consumption, natural resource usage, and waste generation. That said, what characterizes a sustainable architecture project in its various aspects?

A: In 2015, world leaders from the United Nations came together to consider what could be done for a more sustainable environment by 2030. They defined 17 goals for more sustainable construction, focusing on what harms the environment and how each of us, as architects, can contribute to reducing the negative impact on it. A sustainable architecture project is characterized by its commitment to minimizing environmental impact, energy efficiency, and responsible use of natural resources. This involves themes such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, the use of sustainable (or reused) materials, natural resource management (such as water), environmental quality (reducing the need for mechanical climate control), longevity, and flexibility (anticipating adaptability to new uses). These criteria guide us today with a view to minimizing the impact that construction can generate, thinking of future generations.

Q: How has this imperative been addressed at Cria+ and how has it been reflected in the projects you develop?

A: Increasingly, we have developers and investors who are concerned with environmental issues. In the case of residential and office developments, we are being contacted more frequently to develop our projects to obtain LEED or BREEAM certifications. This reflects the recognition that clients are seeking these types of environmental certifications, though there is still a long way to go. However, there is a notable difference compared to what was done 10 years ago, as this topic is now much more frequently discussed during project conception.

Q: What paradigms need to change in the architecture sector to move towards more sustainable architecture?

A: One of the problems we face is when environmentally friendly solutions cost much more than conventional ones, and it is often at this point that we encounter obstacles we cannot overcome. It is necessary for decision-makers to continue promoting environmental education, even through subsidies (some already exist, but much more can be done). I once attended a presentation of a project developed by a team from Northern Europe who created an entire housing project using reused materials from buildings that were going to be demolished or were in ruins, and this was not for cost reasons but purely for environmental reasons. I found it fantastic!

Q: How can Artificial Intelligence also contribute to this evolution in architecture?

A: I truly believe that Artificial Intelligence can be used to educate and raise awareness among architects, engineers, and the general public about sustainable design and construction practices. It can also develop better solutions that simulate the energy performance of buildings and communities, maximizing efficiency and minimizing resource consumption. AI algorithms can study the intelligent use of materials and the minimization of construction waste, assist in managing efficient buildings, and contribute to the development of lighter and more sustainable materials with greater durability. Speaking about Artificial Intelligence means discussing a world in constant evolution with much to develop.

P: Cria+ works with Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, which has undoubtedly significantly transformed the way architects develop their projects, making them more precise, reducing costs, and avoiding conflicts during construction. How does this technology improve performance while increasing project efficiency?

R: Actually, we have been working with BIM technology practically since I founded the firm in 2007. At the time, the decision was made to optimize production processes and reduce project development time, but today it is much more than that. BIM brings significant benefits in terms of efficiency, collaboration with other specialties, and building performance. The evolution has been gradual, but currently, even the legislature has recognized the benefit of this methodology. Recently, with the publication of Decree No. 10/2024, dated January 8, it defines the obligation for municipalities to mandatory present the architectural project according to the BIM methodology starting from January 1, 2030.

P: Cria+ has been developing several architectural projects for clinics of different specialties. What are the requirements of these specific projects in order to reconcile a pleasant and attractive clinical space while promoting efficiency and the specific techniques of such spaces?

R: We started developing clinics in 2008 when a client challenged us to design several clinics they intended to open in a short period of time, and we haven’t stopped since then. At that time, the specifics of these projects were not what they are today, nor was there as much oversight, but there were not many teams understanding this type of project (as there are today). Currently, clients who approach us want to have design combined with compliance with the numerous legal standards. They want a team with accumulated experience, proven by the various projects we have already developed. It’s necessary to cross-reference several decrees and know how to interpret them. Today’s demands are many, and we’re talking about large-scale investments, with a lot of responsibility. Achieving great design within the legal constraints we have requires constant search for new solutions. In this regard, we are specialists, and it’s an area where we always have projects in development.

P: Cria+’s projects provide support that encompasses not only architecture but also urban planning and investment support consultancy. What advantages does such complementarity bring to your clients?

R: This complementarity provides our clients with a more comprehensive and holistic approach to project development, resulting in more sustainable solutions with lower costs. It also helps identify opportunities that may sometimes go unnoticed without a technical perspective.

P: Cria+ has been receiving several awards over the years. What are the reasons for this repeatedly recognized success?

We never sought recognition, but I see it as the result of the good work done by our team, which gives their best for our clients. They inspire us to do more and better every day. Success is not built alone. I remember the first recognition we received when a client submitted one of our projects to a competition. They kept informing us that we had advanced to the next phase, and until the award ceremony, I thought it was a competition of minor significance, perhaps more municipal in scope. It was only at the final ceremony that I realized it was a national award, highly recognized. Imagine… such was my distraction in these matters. And that night, we brought home an award that we are very proud of and still pride ourselves on!

P: Last year, you were also invited to become a member of the Worldwide Women’s Association, based in New York, which includes a prestigious and exclusive group of women entrepreneurs dedicated to the professional development of women worldwide. Who is Luísa Teixeira, architect, and entrepreneur?

This one’s a tough one, but I see myself as someone who strives to maintain a balance between personal and professional life, believing that a woman can build a company from scratch and work towards the dream of positively transforming people’s lives through architecture. I also try to give my best to society, which is why, among other associations I’m a part of, such as the International Rotary, I also volunteer as part of a street team that supports the homeless in Lisbon, through the Community Life and Peace organization. And I aspire to be a better person every day, both in my relationships with others and with myself. Every day, one step at a time.

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