Green building is designing buildings to enhance the well-being of occupants and to minimize negative impacts on the community and natural environment. The growing concerns over climate change have boosted green building into the spotlight of mainstream interest. The rise in energy prices, shortage of materials and resources, and the growing consumer demands, further, driving designers and engineers to seek out better and more efficient ways to build our buildings. It is inevitable, in the future, all buildings will be green, and sooner, we practice adapting to a more sustainable living, the better off we all will be.

Encompassing below, some essential approaches that should be taken into consideration while designing green buildings.

1. Reducing Power Consumption

The major means of energy consumption in a building involves HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), lighting, major appliances and miscellaneous areas including electronics. Through intelligent architecture and other smart control technologies, such as by allowing in much natural light, low-energy appliances, and replacing conventional lighting to LED lighting,  are largely effective means of energy reduction. Moreover, light controls and smart meters are being promoted as a good practice of reducing energy consumption in buildings. 

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Reducing power consumption through natural lighting and ventilation ©

2. Conserving and Minimizing Water Use

Rainwater Harvesting

One of the simplest and old strategies in water conservation is rainwater harvesting. Rainwater can be collected from rooftops or ground and stored in large tanks for later use. Expanding water reservoirs and installing rainwater catchment systems on homes are different methods that can be followed for harvesting rainwater. 

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Rainwater Harvesting ©

Water-efficient Appliances

Minimizing water use can be efficiently achieved by water-efficient appliances such as low-flush showerheads, low-flush toilets or composting toilets, and as well, greywater reuse systems provide sustainable benefits, for example, toilet flushing or watering gardens.

3. Renewable Energy Strategies 

Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic systems

Renewable energy resources include photovoltaic systems. This is an increasing alternative to zero carbon emissions and infinite energy supply. Rooftop solar systems bring myriad benefits to both buildings and the environment such as reducing local air pollution and many financial benefits. Although, planning of both roofing systems and solar installation requires considering aspects like environmental impacts, seismic activity and high wind factors for any successful rooftop solar photovoltaic system. 

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Solar panels in roof ©

Passive Solar Design

Well-integrated passive solar design results in comfortable internal temperature without any means of mechanical heating or cooling device, occurring minimal costs year-round. The passive design includes consideration of location and orientation, room layout, window placement and size, and shading. Each of these elements works alongside each other and therefore should be considered holistically to achieve comfortable temperatures and good air quality.

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Passive solar design ©

4. Enhancing Indoor Environmental Quality

The best way to control air quality is through an increase in natural ventilation. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutants caused from combustion sources such as oil, gas, coal, and tobacco products, from building materials and furnishings, pesticides, and other materials. High temperature and humidity is also a major contributor to some pollutants. Below giving some guidelines for improving occupants’ comfort and control: 

  • Install operable windows
  • Use daylighting
  • Check the filters of the household appliances 
  • Use cooking vents to filter out the air
  • Bring indoor plants to freshen the air
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5. Alternative Materials

There are several green alternatives for building materials which can give a lower impact on the environment. This includes:

Rammed earth – rammed earth walls provide several advantages like high thermal mass, temperature and noise control, strength and durability.

Straw Bale – the oldest building material provides excellent protection against hot and cold weather. They are also very cheap and totally renewable. 

Bamboo – bamboo is a fast-growing and an excellent alternative for construction materials. It is one of the least expensive building materials which are ideal for constructing in low-income areas. 

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Building constructed with rammed earth ©
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Building constructed of Straw Bale ©
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Building with Bamboo ©

6. Waste Management

Waste management is a growing global concern that has a strong linkage to the other global challenges such as health, climate change, sustainable production, and consumption. The best practice of waste management concerns recycling, reusing, and composting. For instance, separating recyclable materials (such as paper, glass, metals, and plastics) can lead to a reduction of a landfill.

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Waste management process ©

7. Sustainable Flooring

Investing in sustainable flooring is another tool to improve environmental impacts. Cork floors are a more sustainable choice as it is both recyclable and soundproof. Reclaimed timbers are also an option for sustainable flooring and are now being used widely for flooring. Wool, sisal, and jute carpets are other alternatives for all great sustainable flooring materials.

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Reclaimed wood flooring ©
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Cork flooring ©

8. Green Roof

Consisting of several layers, green roofing can help in protecting buildings and enhancing character to the urban environment. They have a wide range of ecological benefits such as the ability to absorb carbon dioxide, limit heat absorption, and provide habitats for flora and fauna, and bring economic benefits by lowering heating and cooling costs. 

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Biesbosch Museum, the Netherlands ©
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Moesgaard-Museum, Denmark ©

9. Landscaping

Landscaping is another cost-effective green tool. Other than just making a yard a beautiful retreat, landscape design lies beyond aesthetic improvements. The right landscaping design helps to prevent a flood, reduce air pollutants as plants absorb harmful pollutants and chemicals, and the ultimate design plans for drainage, erosion, and sustainable plant-life. 

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Landscaping design ©

10. Reuse and Recycle

Construction materials such as concrete, metals, glass, wood and untreated timber, and plastics can be efficiently recycled that would ultimately lead to the decrease in consumption of natural resources and would prevent overloading of landfills.  Reuse is the other prioritized strategy for achieving sustainable development that can extend products’ life span and reduce the amount of waste directed to landfills.

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Tasmania Chowdhury, an architecture graduate, is currently engaged as a feature writer in the leading architecture magazine in Bangladesh. To her, architecture exists as an emotional platform. It has the potential to make people move. She enjoys putting down this emotive tool in writing while enjoying a cup of latte and plugging to ‘Rabindra Sangeet’.