As inhabitants of the Earth, we should all be making conscious strides towards more eco-friendly lifestyles. This means being aware of our carbon footprint on both an individual and community-wide level. While we can reduce our waste and energy use, the most impact comes from large corporations. Thankfully, many architecture firms have begun to make efforts toward incorporating sustainable development into their designs. Hopefully, in the future, our communities will only consist of sustainable developments, helping us move towards a brighter and greener future.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is related to many different areas, but in terms of the environment, its goals surround reducing human impact on the Earth, addressing climate change, pollution, deforestation, and the harm to various ecosystems caused by those things. Adopting sustainable practices includes addressing environmental issues, such as:
- Greenhouse gases
- Wildlife Protection
- Habitat Preservation
Why is Sustainability Important?
Sustainability is extremely important for the health and longevity of the planet, as well as for all of its inhabitants. Choosing sustainable practices will help us avoid certain, irreversible damage to the Earth including:
- Loss of freshwater
- No more land
- Ozone depletion
- Chemical pollution
- Loss of biodiversity
- Ocean acidification
- Climate change
Sustainable development is important for the very reason that these types of environmental damage are not reversible. Leading greener lives includes building sustainable architecture, allowing us to pave the way for future generations.
Elements of Sustainable Architectural Design
Sustainable architecture is designed with a few defining characteristics – the ultimate goal aiming to reduce the human footprint.
Sustainable architecture will often incorporate solar panels for the most efficient energy production and use. Solar panels significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions emitted from the building. The cost of solar energy is also significantly cheaper than other leading energy sources, making solar panels a key component of sustainable architecture.
Water Conservation Systems
Sustainable development often features water conservation systems such as rainwater harvesting, which effectively reuses rainfall in plumbing systems and for landscaping purposes. Additionally, sustainable houses feature high-quality leak-proof plumbing and pipes, as leaks are a major cause of wasted water. Low-flow plumbing fixtures are also an effective solution for saving water.
Recycled & Renewable Materials
Replacing conventional building materials such as brick, concrete, and plastic with sustainable materials like hemp, bamboo, flax, cork, and soy. These materials are great substitute for some the mass-produced construction materials. Hemp, for example, can be used as natural, eco-friendly insulation. It is more efficient at maintaining the home’s internal temperature due to it’s ability to be compressed. Bamboo sustainable architecture is another efficient alternative, as bamboo trees take three years to grow, whereas many other tree species take upwards of 25 years to fully mature. Using bamboo as an alternative to wood slows deforestation.
Natural landscaping incorporates many native plant and flower species that attract pollinators. The vegation chosen for the home’s garden should be well acclimated to your region’s climate. Additionally, natural landscaping does not permit the use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or weed killers. As a bonus, you can build a small pond or creek from which you can water the surrounding plants.
Sustainable architecture typically means smaller houses, which take up less resources to efficiently heat and cool. They require less water and take up less space, addressing both water scarcity and land mass issues. Lastly, it’s more affordable to substitute the home’s building materials with more sustainable ones.
Examples of Sustainable Architecture
Sustainable architecture can be found all over the world as it becomes more and more common. Buildings of all shapes, sizes, and functions are being built with sustainability in mind. Below are some of the most interesting eco-friendly buildings found in various countries.
Pixel Building in Melbourne, Australia
The Pixel Building is a multi-colored, carbon-neutral office building, made of hundred of panels that can let in sunlight or shade as needed. These panels help the building generate its own energy and water through various energy-saving technologies, such as a rainwater harvesting roof, wind turbines, more efficient wastewater management systems.
One Central Park in Sydney, Australia
Another interesting building located in Australia is the One Central Park, which is a high-density residential complex that is covered in various, native plant and flower species. The vegation stretches from the bottom to the top of the entire building, featuring 250 different species of plants. The building successfully requires significantly less energy than buildings similar in size and function.
Vancouver Convention Centre West in Vancouver, Canada
This building won two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum designations, for its honeybee hives, garden rooftops, and marine ecosystem preserving columns. The rooftops have alternating slopes, which help collect rainwater and evenly distribute it among the vegetation, which in turn, helps shade the building and keep it cool.
Torre Reforma in Mexico City
This tall, slim building is known for its narrow, energy-saving features. Due to its slim nature, it allows for abundant natural light, reducing the need for artifical lighting. The building is self-ventilated through automatic opening windows, which open before dawn to let in cool air. The building is incredibly structurally sound, as its build to withstand an earthquake despite being over 800 feet tall.
Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, US
While only 6 stories tall, this building produces more energy than it uses thanks to its roof made entirely of solar panels. That isn’t the only interesting thing about this building – it is also heated by warm water circulating through tubes in the floor and even have self-composting toilets. The Bullitt’s plumbing system is so efficient that it cleans graywater and releases it back into the ground. Additionally, this building has been built to stand 250 years.
Conclusion – What is Sustainable Architecture?
Various places around the world are starting to incorporate certain requirements regarding sustainable architecture. Singapore, for example, requires the new development to have the same amount of trees and plants that it has knocked down in order to be built. Sustainable architecture is becoming increasingly more common all across the globe. Thankfully, as we take more steps towards an eco-friendly lifestyle, sustainable housing will be more attainable and affordable.