Paula Baptista
Our Conversations | March 06 2013

Paula is a Brazilian Architect and Urbanist specialized in sustainable building: performance and design. Her work is inspired by the idea of employing a holistic approach to architectural and urban design by following ecological energy efficiency principles. She is currently working at adapting green technologies to the Brazilian construction method via passive and active design strategies along with an award winning team of architects and engineers at Tecverde Engineering. We caught up with Paula to find out how she’s helping to build a greener future.


E2H: Of all the places you’ve either visited or lived, which do you feel embraces the most sustainable way of life?

  My personal idea of a sustainable way of life is one that offers a healthy, live and dynamic balance between the various interconnected systems that make up a city: the social, cultural, ecological, economic, and so on. Of the cities that I’ve lived, two stand out as best embracing a ‘sustainable’ way of life: Vancouver in Canada, made living so enjoyable and effortless, that I wouldn’t even notice that I was effectively being ‘sustainable’ since being generally conscientious was naturally part of the whole experience. Today I live in Curitiba, Brazil, a city which had a very efficient master plan back when it was implemented in the late 1970’s (and which inspired the rapid transit system of Vancouver as well as other cities worldwide). Back then the city became internationally known for its ‘sustainable’ quality (read: well integrated and balanced systems), however through the years it did not adapt to the demands of a rapidly growing region and the city’s urban plan has become less and less efficient. This demonstrates how a city also needs to be reactive and immediately responsive to the changes which occur within its systems, whichever they may be, constantly finding a new balance. So a dynamic, responsive and adaptable urban plan, in my mind, seems to be what makes for a sustainable way of life within any city.

The city of Curitiba - image licensed under Creative Commons

E2H: What was your ‘Earth 2.0 moment’ – when you realized humanity needed to start doing things differently?

  Once I experienced first-hand the ecological devastation created by the same industry I am part of as an architect. The ecological system is still being blatantly overridden by the construction industry and green technology is still in most part perceived as add-on, or a gimmick to stimulate sales based on hype, so the intent behind sustainable construction already starts in the wrong place. Also, an architectural project might be all encompassing and super-efficient on paper but in the end it’s the available resources, building culture and economic priorities that decide how the construction is carried out, so despite all good intentions the result does not always render the designer’s original intent. This led me to research into ways that would allow us to better integrate current technology, design and building processes so that this could be improved. It’s an on-going research and part of it became the focus of my MSc thesis which can be found on my website.

Heliocell prototype assembly at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and BCN FabLab.
Image copyright: Adrià Goula for DOMUS 2012.

E2H: As an architect, what are you working on now that you believe can make a positive impact?

Aside from the work at the office, I am currently developing a personal project that seeks to apply concepts of generative energy efficient design to improve a building’s energy efficiency levels for UniLivre - a urban sustainability organization and community school in Curitiba. In developed countries similar methods are already being used with success, for example Barcelona´s Media ICT building by Cloud 9 Architects, as they have the capability of increasing a building’s energy efficiency levels significantly, as well as being able to integrate active technologies, like for solar capture, more seamlessly in the design. My intent is to see if here in Brazil, where technology takes time to arrive, it could be more easily incorporated by breaking it down: using open sourced graphical algorithm editors and object-oriented programming. I strongly believe that in order to achieve a positive impact the ability to integrate current green technologies to projects should be as straightforward as possible and easily accessible to the greatest number of professionals, this way the totalled increased efficiency can be greater and its application less costly than with a monopoly of specialists and suppliers.

Artificial lighting/lux levels/PIR system analysis for a Post Occupancy Evaluation
of the John Payne Building in Oxford, UK. Click on image to enlarge.

E2H: Of the many new ideas around building a better future, which ones are you most interested in and why?

The ease of access to information that has come from the recent boost in globalization, the greater public access to the internet and the free sharing of knowledge that has allowed for real time global interconnectedness for example, the principle of open sourcing software and data has facilitated the free exchange of ideas and projects. This is very exciting because new methods and technologies developed anywhere in the world can now be more easily shared, adapted and implemented. Not only that, the formulation of the idea or technology itself can now be developed through interdisciplinary teams with real time feedback worldwide. This translates into a very effective bottom up approach which empowers ‘small’ professionals.. as opposed to the top down economically hierarchical approach that has dominated markets so far. This is a powerful tool that enables opportunities for anyone to grow and develop and to hopefully be used to collectively build a better future.

E2H: Who would you like Earth 2 Hub to interview next? Who do you think our community should know about and why?   

One very interesting person to interview would be the Architect and Curitiba’s ex-Mayor Jaime Lerner. He was the one who envisioned and designed the master plan for the city of Curitiba that I mentioned before and which has served, from the time of its implementation, as an inspiration for international master plan models. Other people who are presently breaking paradigms in Curitiba would be the independent researcher, philosopher and cycle-activist Jorge Brand, who is successfully challenging and influencing a growing and culturally laden motorized urban sprawl into a cyclist oriented one, and the young company Tecverde who has been upgrading the methods of construction in Brazil to a more ecologically conscientious one.

Paula Baptista's official website
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