As the year progresses and we socialise and explore the world, one thing is evident – that we all need and crave connection and community. Being together to have a meal, a coffee or a drink and stay at a hotel is something we are all enjoying with gusto. With The Social Space category at the INDE.Awards, we showcase great design that enhances the way we socialise but there are also other aspects that come into play such as sustainability in design and build and the way we use our resources.

2020 Social Space Category Winner – Sukasantai Farmstay (Goy Architects, Indonesia). Photography by: Fabian Ong

An understanding of our environment and sustainability are reflected in the projects in The Social Space and it’s fitting that the partner of this category is Capral, a company that has a long and rich history. Established in 1936, Capral is now Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of aluminium products and a market leader in supplying to fabricators and distributors focusing on the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

However, it’s not enough to be the biggest and best, Capral has sustainability at its heart and is initiating projects and products that are making a real difference to the built environment. For example, LocAl® is a new product that is a lower-carbon primary aluminium used across Capral’s locally manufactured extruded window and door systems. LocAl® is delivered in two options – LocAl® Green with carbon emissions of eight kilograms CO2e/kg Al* and LocAl® Super Green at four kilograms CO2e/kg Al – among the lowest carbon aluminium available globally. This is a ground-breaking product that will have a dynamic effect on the building industry.

Urban Plus Sliding Door (Image courtesy of Capral)

Aluminium is often described as the “sustainable metal” due to its versatility and recyclability but with LocAl® there is the opportunity to significantly lower carbon emissions even further. Capral also sources the primary aluminium exclusively from Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certified smelters. ASI is a global non-profit organisation that brings together producers, users, and stakeholders in the aluminium value chain. While Capral as a business, has committed to reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050, the introduction of such a product as LocAl® demonstrates a deliberate shift in procurement strategy by the company. Capral is now able to supply architects, builders and specifiers with window and door systems that are responsibly produced and greener on all levels.

Shelter Brewery (Image courtesy of Capral & Paul Burnham Architect Pty Ltd)

To understand just what all the excitement is about Brendan Orth, National Specification Manager, Capral, explains, “In our industry, we mine Bauxite in Australia and convert it to alumina, which is a powder that is then cast and converted into Aluminium as we know it. To produce aluminium billet, which is used in the extrusion process, Aluminium smelters use a lot of electricity. The energy intensity of creating Aluminium places the material high on the embodied carbon list, with a global average of 16.8 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions for every kilogram of Aluminium produced. We know we can do better than this, so Capral has now focused on sourcing a portion of its aluminium billet from smelters using alternative energy supply with a lower carbon footprint, whether that be wind, solar, gas and also hydro-powered electrical. Hence we can offer the market LocAl® green, and LocAl® supergreen, which is as low as four kilograms to kilogram emissions. It’s an enormous step.” He continues, “Our preference is always to source from Australia, and we are working closely with our local suppliers to find opportunities to contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions here in Australia.”

The Log Cabin (Image courtesy of Capral & Team2 Architects)

With such a product as LocAl® there is the chance for real impact in the building industry and so when that new restaurant or café, bar or hotel is designed and built, sustainability can be embedded in the very structure of the building. It’s the direction that we all need to follow that will help sustain people and better help the environment.

While we see the wonderfully innovative projects that comprise The Social Space at the INDE.Awards, the places they represent and the social activities they encourage, it’s worth thinking about not only how we activate and consume in these spaces but how they are built.

It’s a lot to take in, but then the INDE.Awards is all about showcasing change and supporting great design on every level.

The 2023 INDE.Awards is now open and we encourage architects and designers to submit your projects to The Social Space category – whether that is a restaurant, bar, café or hotel – or any other place where people gather to meet and mix. Showcase your talent, expertise and creative projects in The Social Space category here.

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