Anthropocene, the current era of human-induced climate change, is the primary cause of global warming, air pollution, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, urban heat island effect, and other natural disasters. Buildings are responsible for over 40% of carbon emissions globally due to the changing climate and growing energy demand.  

From the very beginning, Architecture is driven by human needs and shaped by cultural and geographical factors. The early structures were built with available materials, and humans lived in a symbiotic relationship with nature. With the discovery of fossil fuels and the advancement of technology and new materials in industrialization, Architects embraced new ideas over the legacy of artistic, environmentally-friendly techniques from the past, gradually exploiting the available resources and imbalances in the natural environment.

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Many architects designed iconic buildings and skyscrapers that promoted wasteful consumerism and insatiable globalization following the post-World War II building boom. However, towards the turn of the 21st century, a building’s environmental integrity—as evidenced by the manner it was spatially organized and operated—became a significant consideration in its evaluation.                       

Sustainable Buildings 

The concept of Sustainability and Green buildings has been around for the past few decades but has exploded in popularity recently. Creating a sustainable environment involves the construction of eco-friendly and energy-efficient buildings.

Sustainable buildings have minimized the damaging impact of development on the environment thanks to the innovation of competent green architects. As a result, green buildings are now necessary and mandated in many cities around the world. 

Pioneers

Architect Frank Llyod Wright is known to be the pioneer of Sustainable Architecture. He understood the importance of integrating nature in designing structures way before it became a movement, as seen in his most famous work, the Fallingwater House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Landscaping and windows and outdoor spaces that brought nature and living areas together were essential in his designs.

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Wright used passive heating and cooling strategies and harnessed natural elements like sun and wind to create energy-efficient, cost-effective, and comfortable designs celebrated in today’s era of Sustainable Architecture.

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The Fallingwater House blends seamlessly with nature and sits on top of an existing waterfall, making it unique and an icon of organic architecture. Wright was a firm believer in designing buildings that would be in harmony with nature and its users.

Professor and Landscape Architect Ian McHarg is another pioneer who embraced eco-friendly designs. He established the Landscape Architecture Department at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. In his pioneering book Design with Nature, he found the fundamental rules for green architecture (1969). Then, envisioning humans as environmental stewards, he proposed a “cluster development” that would concentrate living centers while allowing as much natural environment as possible to grow on its terms.

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Sustainable Architecture in India 

Architect Laurence “Laurie” Baker was a staunch supporter of vernacular construction techniques. He was well-known for his low-cost, energy-efficient designs that incorporated locally produced materials. As early as the late 1960s, his designs included many modern methods, such as rainwater harvesting and low-cost construction. He was fondly referred to as “Gandhi of Architecture” because of his honest use of materials, belief in simplicity in design, and organic, eco-friendly architecture.

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As seen in traditional Indian architecture, Jali or perforated screens were used extensively in his designs to provide passive cooling and privacy. Similarly, intelligent use of masonry like the Rat trap bond was used to insulate his buildings passively. In addition, he would frequently aim to limit material usage in his projects, lowering both costs and environmental impact.

Ar. Yatin Pandya founded Footprints E.A.R.T.H. (Environmental Architecture Research Technology Housing) in 2008 to develop a legacy of sustainable architects in India, to strike the perfect balance between nature and the human world.

The Manav Sadhna activity center and crèche in Ahmedabad is one famous project that defines the organization’s fundamental ideals. The project was acclaimed as a paradigm of sustainable design and comprehensive community development of a slum because of its innovative use of construction materials regulated by environmental concerns. 

Commonly discarded materials like wood, glass, plastic bottles, etc., are used extensively in Pandya’s projects, contributing to waste diversion from landfills.

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Advocate of Organic Architecture in India 

Ar. Nari Gandhi is known to be a pioneer in the field of organic architecture in India. His work was to have the least potential negative impact on the environment where he built his buildings. Gandhi advocated for the use of locally produced materials and integrated nature into his designs. His attention to detail was such that he would build around existing trees without cutting them down or clearing the land for construction, thereby retaining the pristine conditions of any site.

  1. L. Wright’s concept of ‘flowing spaces’ inspired Gandhi while working as an Apprentice with Architect Frank Llyod Wright in the United States. He didn’t have a studio and rarely sketched his projects. Instead, he spent a lot of time on his job sites, collaborating closely with the craftsmen and frequently taking part in the construction process. To help his artisan grasp the design, he drew on the floor.

Green Building Standards

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Green Building Standards 

The establishment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in 1994, founded and maintained by the U.S. Green Building Council, was a significant milestone for architects and builders. These guidelines established quantifiable criteria for the design and construction of ecologically friendly structures.

Recycling at the household and community level, developing smaller and more efficient buildings, and supporting off-the-grid energy supplies are examples of household, commercial, and governmental attempts to comply with or enforce LEED requirements. However, such efforts alone will not be enough to protect the global ecology. The final success of any globally sanctioned environmental movement is determined by its social, psychological, and aesthetic appeal and its use of cutting-edge technologies.

In 2001, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) established the Indian Green Building Council (I.G.B.C.) to promote sustainable design and facilitate India’s leadership in the green building industry. The council provides a wide range of services, including new green building rating programs, certification services, and green building training.

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The Living Construction Challenge (LBC) is the most comprehensive green building standard available, and it can be applied to any form of structure anywhere on the planet. The goal is to construct Living Buildings that use regenerative design ideas to benefit the local environment rather than simply reduce harm. The International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a global network dedicated to ensuring a healthy future for all, administers LBC. 

LBC projects must aim to generate more energy than they consume, harvest rainwater, treat all gray and runoff on-site, utilize the healthiest building materials available, and create a beautiful, educational, and healthy environment.

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The A.E.C. industry has seen significant changes in the past two decades, laying the stage for a future in which lessons from the past, traditional methods, materials, and concepts are being referenced, valued, and executed in today’s designs, along with a strong buttress of technology and innovation. For example, today’s scenario reflects using locally available materials, climate responsive designs, energy efficiency, and other strategies to establish harmony with nature. 

In addition, rating systems like LEED, WELL, Passive House, Living Building Challenge, etc., are transforming the construction practices to design buildings that would minimize and reverse the negative impacts of buildings on the environment.

With cutting-edge technology and pioneering innovations in Sustainability, Architecture can significantly impact reversing the adverse effects of climate change. Tackling today’s challenges, gauging the ever-changing demands, and designing for the needs of future habitats will revolutionize the A.E.C. industry.

By incorporating sustainable design strategies into their work, architects have the opportunity to make a much broader and longer-lasting impact on the environment. Designs that blend seamlessly with nature, adapt, and embrace the changes in the environment will be celebrated and nurtured by their users. Therefore, architectural education will have to focus on integrating these concepts from the very beginning for aspiring architects to design user-friendly and eco-friendly spaces.

References

Alicja Zelazko (2018). Fallingwater | History, Description, & Facts. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Fallingwater.

Architecture Art Designs. (2019). World’s Five Most Renowned Green Architects. [online] Available at: https://www.architectureartdesigns.com/worlds-five-most-renowned-green-architects/.

Archgyan. (2021). Nari Gandhi | An Organic Dialogue | Howard Roark Of India. [online] Available at: https://archgyan.com/blog/nari-gandhi-an-organic-dialogue-howard-roark-of-india-archgyan/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].

Asia Green Buildings. (n.d.). India : Green Pioneers of the Past. [online] Available at: http://www.asiagreenbuildings.com/featured/2016/06/29/india-green-pioneers-of-the-past/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].

International Living Future Institute, (2021). Living Building Challenge 4.0 Basics | Living-Future.org. [online] Available at: https://living-future.org/lbc/basics4-0/.

Kuroski, J. (2015). Frank Lloyd Wright Practiced Sustainable Design Before It Was A Movement. [online] All That’s Interesting. Available at: https://allthatsinteresting.com/frank-lloyd-wright [Accessed 18 Sep. 2021].

MateriallyBetter. (n.d.). What is the Living Building Challenge? • MateriallyBetter. [online] Available at: https://materiallybetter.com/living-building-challenge/.

The Better India. (2019). Crates to Bottles: Ahmedabad Man Uses Waste to Build Sustainable Spaces for Urban Poor! [online] Available at: https://www.thebetterindia.com/177151/ahmedabad-architect-sustainable-homes-from-waste-affordable-india/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].

Wines, J. (n.d.). Green architecture. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/green-architecture.

World Green Building Council. (n.d.). Indian Green Building Council. [online] Available at: https://www.worldgbc.org/member-directory/indian-green-building-council [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].

Author

Abhiri is an Architecture Professional and Sustainable Designer with a penchant for writing, illustrating and traveling. She is interested in educating and raising awareness about Sustainable practices and strives to be a steward of nature in her designs and daily actions. Coffee, books, watercolors,and a walk in the woods are some of the things that keep her going.

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