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|The INSEE Prize has unveiled a raft of exciting initiatives since its inception in 2009|
When it comes to INSEE, many people think of cement and other building materials. But many students from the technical field are more familiar with the annual innovation contest first held in 2009. As with many other events impacted by COVID-19, this year’s competition is being held in video conference format, but appeal has not been lost.
According to Bruno Fux, director of Ecocycle and Sustainable Development at INSEE, although he missed face-to-face interactions with students it was a smooth process and did not see any negative impacts. “Compared to the last year’s contest, I feel that the quality increased once again: students addressed the key issues of sustainable development in a comprehensive, innovative, yet feasible manner”, said Bruno Fux.
Accordingly, the five finalist projects highly appreciated were the Project of Children’s Cultural Palace: Rustling Village (Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology); the Dreamer: a library space combined with playground (Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology); the Assemble House accommodation solution for students (Van Lang University); A COSY LIFE: a home for low-income people (Danang Architecture University); and CERAMIC: A cultural space at Bat Trang primary school (Hanoi Architecture University).
Formerly known as the Holcim Prize, the INSEE Prize is an opportunity for the young generation to approach and learn about sustainability, through which they can craft good ideas to bring benefits to society.
According to a representative of the organizing committee, INSEE wants to award projects that address sustainable development in a comprehensive manner. “We are using a variety of criteria to evaluate each project along the triple bottom line of the environmental, social, and economic contribution of the project,” the representative said.
However, according to Bruno Fux, in addition to the above criteria, the judging board also evaluates by the innovation aspect and whether the project can be implemented in practice or not. “In a world where climate change and resource scarcity are becoming more acute than ever, I would say the environmental aspect of the construction plays an ever-increasing role,” he explained.
This is also a big obstacle for students to face off and approach the differences between dream and reality.
Tran Hai Ninh, human resources director at INSEE, shared her experience working with a team from Can Tho University who eventually won first prize, and which had the opportunity to see their project come to fruition.
“This group of students reached the final round for the first time in 2017 and won third place. But they came back stronger to win first prize the following year with and were given more than six months working at INSEE to implement their ideas,” recalled Ninh. “The project was handed over to the local government in December 2018, and those same students became mentors for their junior team to go to the INSEE Prize final last year.”
The INSEE Prize is an ideal platform for students to present ideas that are clearly changing the current way of construction. “What we need are sustainable and innovative ideas that can be practically implemented,” said Bruno Fux.
The line between a creative but not feasible project in reality today is difficult to predict. For example, a few years back, renewable energy was considered green but expensive to implement – nowadays, it becomes very cost competitive and can be implemented in a variety of projects.
“I believe that some of the ideas proposed in this year’s contest might be considered as difficult to implement today but will become the new normal in a few years. If we don’t dream it today, we will not implement it tomorrow,” Fux explained..
Similarly, Ninh also said that INSEE never thinks of the aspect of Vietnamese students being overly creative leads to simply dreaming.
“All projects and ideas are acknowledged and appreciated. We have known that in the world there are some seemingly impossible ideas but they can come true in another time,” she said. “The core idea here is that young people have a playground to freely think, create, and provide good ideas for sustainable development.”
According to the INSEE representative, “The construction field globally and in Vietnam still has a lot of potential for innovation and sustainable development. We as INSEE would like to contribute our part as the industry leader, for example with green products – we were the first company to attain a Green Label from the Singapore Green Building Council – or special solutions such as INSEE Extra Durable, which is high sulphate-resistant cement for the saline environment in the Mekong Delta.”
In fact, the very first INSEE Prize in 2009, on collecting and thoroughly processing pesticide packaging implemented by Can Tho University students, became a pedestal that prizewinners now attempt to emulate.
After successfully implementing the project in Can Tho, INSEE continues to replicate the model in Kien Luong district of Kien Giang province and now more than three tons of packaging have been recovered and locally put in the co-processing system of Hon Chong Cement Plant.
“This project was the premise for INSEE in general and Ecocycle in particular to join hands with many partners in programmes raising awareness about the environment such as “Together with Farmers to Protect the Environment”, which collected and handled pesticide packaging in 22 provinces in the south of the country,” shared Ninh.
The INSEE Prize lists eight implemented projects which are “distilled” from more than 3,100 ideas from 43 universities, and with more than 5,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.
“We look forward to spreading to all students in different schools and regions, and calling for the cooperation of our partners to help mentor students while strengthening the ability of the projects,” shared Ninh.