Sustainability is defined in many ways, especially as it concerns the various disciplines and professions. Historically, the concept came into the limelight at the end of the 20th century, which characterized the blooming industrial development that led to the exploration of natural resources. The world’s dynamism is sharpening the views and perspectives of this concept regularly, cutting across various innovations and advances that have been introduced into everyday life, all seeking to ensure environmentally responsive and socially sustainable settings. 

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet1
Govt. Initiated Energy-efficient building in India

This consistency reflects in the construction industry also. One key driver of sustainability in the construction industry is the push for resource efficiency because is the biggest user of natural resources. The absence of this approach in the industry could cause the depletion of those resources. Sustainable design means making provisions for renewable and recyclable resources and materials in the construction process, during the design phase. It also means making a design that caters to possible occurrences in the lifetime of the project. The result of the project should be economically viable.

 It is against this backdrop, this paper seeks to discuss possible ways of applying resource-efficient design strategies as architects, bearing in mind the economics of the whole project. We have a responsibility to understand the economics of every project architect. This paper discusses the potential of introducing sustainability measures in the architectural design process so that they can be part of the whole project by design. The concept has introduced a new pattern to the architectural practice, bringing into reality, economic, social, and environmental factors into play at the design phase.


With the increasing amount of attention on the environmental impact and the number of construction projects, this concept has to be considered at an earlier stage before implementation, to avoid the depletion of natural resources. Sustainability by design focuses on resource-efficient design, making minimal use of materials and minimal use of energy.



Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet2
Construction Infograph

This is the extent to which the design of a building is achievable, or constructible. At this pre-planning stage, a lot is considered, such as the form and geometry, structural design, etc. It is essential to check these so the project won’t go back and forth due to irregularities. This concept brings the architect to the reality of construction methods and processes to be used. It is not about compromising the quality and integrity of the design or an alternative for simplicity of forms or spaces but helps to make intelligent and realistic decisions.


Space is a principal element of architecture, and should not be mishandled. spatial layout contributes to the overall economics and efficiency of the building from energy use to thermal efficiency. 

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet3
3D Space arrangement

Spatial efficiency is about making the most out of a given enclosed area. The functional distribution, and the adequacy of the space, both in height, width, and length are all key considerations. These indices, when not properly checked, will impact heavily on the economics of the project. Either the space is too big or small or was not provided, and in cases where it was provided, was not adequate, thereby reducing the functions, and the user spends more to maintain the space. At this point, the designer evaluates the number of users, the nature of the users, and the necessary functions assigned or required, allowing a balanced proportion between the used area and the built area, or allowing for flexibility, creating multifunctional spaces. Critical to spatial efficiency is the outlined proposition of the building, because that will determine both the quality and quantity of the spatial provisions.


 This is the use of less amount of energy in a building to perform the same functions and operations as those that consume more energy. 

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet4
Home with artificial energy source

Relative to spatial efficiency, the bigger the space the more energy it consumes in other to function. For example, having up to six or eight lights in a small room designed for one user is not economical, and having fewer lights in a reading room for multiple users is also not economical. This is the balance that both energy and spatial efficiency seeks to create such that in either case, the optimum decision is taken. However, the necessity of having more lights in a reading room is optimal but can be controlled to ensure the energy consumption is moderate, possibly by using passive lighting strategies. 


As the architect improves in taking on larger projects that might require outstanding forms and geometries, the need for sophisticated materials arises to enhance those extensive formal surfaces. 

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet5
Frame construction using wood

Global warming and greenhouse gas emissions are serious problems and are motivations to pursue material efficiency as an emissions abatement strategy. Material efficiency is about finding ways to optimize the waste generation and material usage of a building project. This can be achieved through good materials management techniques, lightweight design and construction, recycling, and reusing materials, making products with a longer life span, and the use of BIM, where building materials can be planned more accurately through virtual simulation to aid in analyzing the site, the building, and the materials.


This is when a building is designed to accommodate required change. The essence of this design approach is due to the ever-evolving built environment. Adaptability is the built-in capacity or plan to adapt and adjust to change by meeting different uses, allowing for multiple spatial and functional configurations, without disrupting the functionality of the building. Architecture as a whole embraces flexibility and adapting to change is one way of promoting such a concept. Economically, it allows for multiple-functional usage, thereby saving the user the additional cost of looking outing for a new space.

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet6
Nakagin Capsule Building


Maintainability is the thin line between design and facility management, where the building is designed with considerations for the present and the future needs and changes that might occur, due to wear and tear of components, and items. 

Architectural Design for Economic Sustainability - Sheet7
Green Building

The purpose of this consideration is to keep high performance across the life cycle of the building. Maintainability does not address the ease of repairing only, but the ease of restoring defects to a functional state, without spots. These can be done when the building is done with a sense of standardization, that is working with available material standards or sizes in the construction process, also modular materials whereby components used are designed in modules and sets and can be replaced with ease, without looking for special sizes, etc. Very critical to this is the definition of materials that are maintainable during the design processes and construction processes that is flexible.


Truly, sustainability by design provides economic rewards for building owners and users, lowering the costs of operation, with optimum usability. If these factors are considered early enough in the design phase, then the concept of economic sustainability can be accelerated.


What is sustainable construction and why is it important( 2023) (Date visited 20 May, 2023)

Sustainability in construction (2023) (Date visited 20 May 2023)

The Construction Industry Is Getting Greener: Why, How, And What’s Changing (2023) (Date visited 20 May 2023)

The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Design(2023) (Date visited 21 May, 2023)

Zero Waste in Architecture: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle(2023) (Date visited 21 May 2023)


Edet Samuel is a Nigerian based architect with consistent practice experience in the built environment He began his career as a pupil architect in a firm and grew through the ranks of starting out his practice. He holds a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Nigeria, and he's currently pursuing Doctorate with focus on Intelligent building management systems, architectural forensics, and Urban design. Edet Samuel has been exposed to a wide range of design projects cutting across major categories of buildings, and has contributed this experiences to students' academic works. Edet is broadly interested in contemporary responses and diversification in architecture, especially in areas of improved working drawings & detailing, design information and management, public health architecture in this era of pandemics that has made the home front the first line of defense, and design as 'preventive medicine'.