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“The crisis has led to the emergence of more ingenious solutions”

by Alberto Barbieri

Interview with Alfonso Samaniego Espejo, architect and Treasurer and Vice Chairman of the Superior Council of Colleges of Architects of Spain since July 2012.

Alfonso Samaniego Espejo

Has renovation replaced new construction?
New building construction has declined sharply since 2007 and remained at very low levels. The figures for renovation indicate that although the volume of this segment has not actually increased, its percentage share of the total has risen due to the overall contraction of the sector. However, we have no figures for the smaller-scale unauthorised projects that make up the majority of the work.

What are the main trends in Spanish design?
Architectural trends are evolving constantly. Right now there is growing awareness of the crisis and the need for conversion and remodelling, but this itself does not entail a higher or lower level of experimentation.
In any case, the lack of financial resources is leading to the emergence of more ingenious solutions with fewer excesses than in the past. Concepts such as renovation, regeneration and sustainability will be common aspects of projects over the next few years.

What materials are most in demand?
Clay finishing materials are widely used in both new building and renovation projects. But other solutions such as ventilated facades and hi-tech trim pieces are also becoming increasingly popular. Clay can perform extremely well in a wide range of climates and the industry has succeeded in innovating and developing improved and more sophisticated solutions. Clay products such as facing bricks and cladding materials have played a very important role in the Spanish construction industry both for interiors and facades. Clay is a traditional material that has adapted well to new technical requirements and regulations, while new and larger sizes have increasingly been adopted for interiors.

What are the most important considerations for an architect when choosing a construction material?
The choice of a material is never based on a single factor and usually depends on a number of parameters, including economic and functional considerations, quality, design, etc. By definition, an architectural project must cater for a variety of needs.

How important are environmental issues?
Environmental considerations are playing an increasingly important role in projects, not just because of stricter regulations aimed at improving efficiency and sustainability but also due to the efforts of technicians who understand the importance of these issues for society. This is also demonstrated by the growing adoption of environmental certifications and labels that add value to architecture.

How do architects find out about clay products?
It is currently the product manufacturers who provide commercial information on existing products through their websites, catalogues and distributors. These activities are complemented by trade magazines featuring technical articles and product news, as well as publications by industrial associations such as Hyspalit.
However, given the stricter technical requirements imposed by current regulations and the constant technological development of clay products, it is advisable to organise training courses, technical workshops and professional product presentations to promote an awareness of these characteristics.
Furthermore, in view of the imminent implementation of BIM (Building Information Modelling) processes, clay manufacturers will have to provide technicians with up-to-date information on the use of these materials.

 

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