Sustainability and Digitization in Architecture: Essential for New Buildings

14 min read

Engineers in Lithuania explained how sustainability in contemporary architecture reaps benefits both in terms of ethics and finances.

Link to the article: https://www.delfi.lt/uzsakomasis-turinys/premium/tvarumas-ir-skaitmenizacija-architekturoje-be-ko-negali-apsieiti-nauji-pastatai.d?id=89415347

The rapidly improving Lithuanian engineering professionals are valued in other countries as well, especially in Northern Europe. Be Live, one of the largest design, consulting, and construction process management companies in Lithuania, proves this. With a portfolio of over 500 accomplished projects, ranging from wind farms to expansive shopping centres and museums, the common thread among these endeavours is a commitment to sustainability and solutions based on cutting-edge technologies.

Rapid learning and continuous improvement

“21 years ago we started our operations with paper and pencil, and today we use the most advanced digital design technologies,” says Darius Kvedaras, the Director of Be Live, a Vilnius-based company that works with clients both domestically and internationally.

Starting with building renovation and engineering consulting services, the company gradually ventured into increasingly intricate and ambitious projects. Today, Be Live offers comprehensive construction and process management services. These professionals not only design architectural and engineering solutions but also implement general design work.

The Be Live team comprises 35 experienced professionals who have successfully executed over 500 projects. While their primary focus has been within the Baltic and Northern European regions, the company is gradually extending to other countries. Alongside the continuous expansion of services, the company recently underwent a name change. Transitioning from its former title, Baltic Engineers, the new name, Be Live, was adopted at the year’s turn, aligning more closely with the present scope of activities.

“We are creating the story of the building from the inception of an idea, seeking a harmonious relationship with the environment and people. Later, we bring these concepts to life by designing structures, crafting engineering solutions, and managing construction processes. The narrative of the building does not end after the delivery of the keys. What matters to us is its capacity to evolve and adapt to the future,” says Kvedaras.

Fearless in the face of challenging projects

According to the Director of the company, his team thrives on challenges and tasks that allow them to create something new and interesting. A majority of the projects executed by the company have been honoured with top-tier digital construction awards. One such successful project is the Continental factor in Kaunas Free Economic Zone, which received recognition for its energy efficiency. During the implementation of this project, Be Live assumed responsibility for all stages of production, warehousing, and the development of office buildings.

The team of contemporary building design experts also takes pride in their contribution to the creation of the MO Museum, which opened its doors in 2018. The distinctive architecture of this establishment, conceived by Studio Libeskind, posed multiple challenges for the Be Live team. The specialists had to solve the dilemma of crafting engineering networks that are both compact and inconspicuous. Consequently, only the most discerning visitors can spot the discreet service hatches concealing air conditioning units within the museum café.

The company’s work also goes beyond the borders of Lithuania, as the structures they’ve contributed to become integral components of the cities they grace. A good example of this is the IKEA shopping centres in Vilnius and Riga. Engineers from Vilnius started to implement the latter project in the capital of Lithuania using territorial planning concepts. Today, only a few people know that thousands of garages used to be built on the current site of the shopping centre. Moreover, after successfully completing the Vilnius venture, the innovations introduced there, including solar modules, found application in the IKEA establishment in Latvia as well.

Innovations that help move forward

When asked about the challenges encountered in the field of building design, which is full of innovations, Kvedaras responds that every step into a new field brings its own set of hurdles. Therefore, when taking on new projects, Be Live draws on experience from analogous endeavours conducted elsewhere. They provide technical and architectural solutions to enhance the quality of new construction.

In addition, the design team uses innovative tools when engaging with clients. The Vilnius-based company has accumulated extensive experience in BIM (Building Information Modelling) digital design. This approach entails crafting virtual renditions of building structures and engineering systems, which are subsequently transposed into the physical realm after meticulous evaluation of all variables. In this way, it is possible to prevent potential construction complications and permit the precise resolution of design-stage challenges. Furthermore, this technology fosters closer client engagement, enabling them to participate virtually in the creative process.

Professionals operating within the engineering and construction sectors must remain adaptable amid evolving environments and working conditions. While the topic has been broached before, the global COVID-19 pandemic has intensified discussions about ensuring improved and healthier air quality in public buildings. The Be Live team has also embarked on the quest for such solutions.

“In design and construction management, we work with five newly built schools. A particularly intriguing challenge centres on establishing virus-inhibiting levels of ventilation. For example, we designed the heating and ventilation system at the Tolminkiemis Gymnasium in the Pilaitė micro district of Vilnius using a computer simulation of aerodynamic flows, which allows us to accurately predict air circulation within the school. Thus, a gentle and imperceptible stream of air circulates in the classrooms, refreshing the air every 14 minutes, or 3.2 times per lesson,” says Linas Andriulevičius, Head of the HVAC group at Be Live. He emphasizes that during the pandemic, a universal truth was reiterated: health is the greatest wealth.

Incorporating sustainable ideas into the company’s operations

Ideas of sustainability are rapidly permeating global consciousness and becoming an inherent component of responsible business practices. These values do not bypass the field of engineering. Therefore, when discussing the future, D. Kvedaras, Director of an architectural solutions company, emphasizes the importance of embracing the contemporary challenge of designing buildings that prioritize human comfort, exhibit vitality, boast intelligence, and coexist harmoniously with nature. According to him, in order for sustainable values to be practically implemented, a comprehensive approach is essential: from the idea to the construction and the future of a building.

“We like sustainable projects where maximum consideration is given to the well-being of the environment and the impact it has on it. We want to work in a manner that safeguards a sustainable environment for forthcoming generations. In the past, the prevailing perspective cast sustainability as a forward-looking investment, but in recent years, a shift has occurred. Today, it brings not only moral dividends but also financial returns,” says the interviewee.

A good example of this is the BOD Group Innovation and Business Centre building, designed by Be Live and currently under construction. This structure will achieve complete energy independence. The synergy between humanity and nature is similarly exemplified by the Žali shopping and entertainment centre in Vilnius. The roof of this building, cultivated by botanists, has specially selected plants adapted to the birds’ nutrition in different seasons, and the insect hotels were built together with the local community.

Lithuania is keeping up with Western countries

Discussing the progression of the building design sector, D. Kvedaras highlights that, when compared to engineering firms in other countries, Lithuanian counterparts and their associated specialists do not lag behind in any way. According to him, in the field of digitization of projects, Lithuania is keeping pace with the world, and in some places it is even outpacing Western countries in terms of growth rates. “Lithuanians are hard-working and ambitious, so even if we hadn’t ventured into certain domains previously, now we are working towards them much faster,” says the interviewee.

Likewise, Be Live places faith in the capacity to conceive ambitious and triumphant endeavours, esteeming its membership in the Rocket Cluster organization. Established in 2016, this cluster congregates a diverse array of professionals, encompassing programmers, engineers, builders, and product developers who transform their visions into tangible products or services. Therefore, according to Kvedaras, through the exchange of experiences and mutual supplementation, cluster members can present clients with the most fitting solutions, ranging from work planning to process execution.

“We value cooperation with the best, and we are happy to join forces in propagating and implementing sustainable concepts. I believe that good ideas are meant to be shared,” says the Head of one of the country’s largest construction consulting companies, elaborating on the benefits of being a member of the Rocket Cluster and the development opportunities.