Architecture has helped people in many ways, from creating long-lasting buildings to making them as efficient as possible. However, this domain must always keep up with human needs since they constantly change due to social and economic factors. As the industrial revolution required more people to leave their homes and gather in specific buildings for work, architects had to find ways to provide safety and enough space while dealing with design issues.
Therefore, the latest architectural improvement is considering sustainability more as a way of reducing the industry’s reliance on non-renewable resources (fossil fuels) and maintaining a cleaner environment while keeping a suited style. At the same time, green architecture can provide ideas for solving other problems regarding the building around us, which we’ll discuss in the paragraphs below.
Passive sustainable design
Passive sustainable design is all about taking advantage of natural resources regarding lighting. As we know, artificial light not only consumes a lot of energy but also affects our eyesight, especially fluorescent lighting. Therefore, the passive sustainable design aims to:
- Create buildings perfectly oriented on the site in order to get most of the lateral lighting throughout the day. By accessing the right amount of solar energy, people are provided with warmth during cooler months while preventing overheating in summer;
- Make insulation, thermal mass and ventilation a priority in buildings since they help maintain even temperatures all throughout the year while improving indoor air quality through passive cooling;
- Shading is also important; for example, if the building is North-oriented, and the sun direction is at a high angle, the type of shading should be fixed or adjustable above the window;
- Design windows properly in order to allow natural lighting to come inside while avoiding overheating. This factor might depend on the client’s wishes and the elements of the buildings―bigger is not always better;
Active sustainable design
While passive sustainable designs focus on using natural resources for guidance, active sustainable strategies rely on purchased energy (therefore artificial lighting) to provide efficiency and comfort. This design includes approaching mechanical system components (air-conditioning, heat pumps) and systems that generate energy (solar panels, wind turbines). The active sustainable design consists of the following:
- Designing grid-connected buildings to generate electricity for use on-site. This type of technology can be net-positive so that the amount of electricity supplied is equal to the amount drawn from the grid;
- Geothermal heat exchange, with which heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, is done through subterranean resources. This type of system usually has an indoor handling unit and a buried system of pipes through which energy is provided;
- HRV/ERV are ventilation systems that supply fresh air inside your house. The systems pre-condition the air by transferring the heat or humidity into the fresh outdoor air, therefore saving energy in heating and cooling;
- Building Automation, which is used to monitor and control HVAC technology within a building regarding security, fire and safety, lighting and humidity.
Green building materials and finishes
Building materials have always relied on stone, bricks, wood and concrete, but as time passes, they are not steady anymore. Unfortunately, sub-standard construction and poor maintenance practices kill around 300 people annually, including natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. While authority cannot control these, governments can adopt better methods of building long-lasting buildings by using green materials and finishes.
Some of the most durable and sustainable materials include:
- Slate rocks are a great option for making tiles used as roofing materials;
- Fibre cement, made of cement, sand and wood fibres, which are great for exterior siding;
- Earthen materials (adobe, cob and rammed earth) are some of the most solid and durable materials;
- Bamboo is also durable, and it also provides an excellent appearance to the structures;
Choosing durable and green materials can minimise the number of people dying or injured yearly due to authorities’ negligence. However, if you find yourself in this situation, you can file a claim for personal injury in the UK, prove that you’ve been a victim of the local council’s failure, and get compensation.
Stormwater management aims to reduce the risks of flood, keep rivers and lakes clean and reduce the costs of flood damages that affect the lives of many communities. In some areas, especially where the climate is tropical wet and there are plenty of rainfalls during the year, stormwater management is crucial for keeping people safe and conserving building structures.
Some sustainable stormwater management practices include:
- Green roofs that enable rainfall infiltration. Such a design can reduce the effects of atmospheric pollution, energy costs and the “heat island” effect;
- Permeable pavements (unlike concrete) allow the water to infiltrate and soak into the soil. Parking lots, driveways and sidewalks are perfect for such method;
- Curb and gutter elimination systems are made for collecting and transporting water into drainage without allowing for infiltration or pollutant removal;
- Sand and organic filters are perfect for treating stormwater and infiltrating it in land properly;
Native landscaping has a crucial role in building water consumption because you can reduce irrigation needs by using trees and plants as a shield. But the plants used must have evolved in that specific habitat to reap all the benefits of this practice. Native landscaping is beneficial because:
- You save money and water on planting since native plants are accustomed to their habitat;
- You nurture better resistance to local weather since native plants grow big and strong;
- You don’t need to provide much maintenance since native plants are resistant to diseases and drought;
- You don’t need to use fertilisers or pesticides so that the environment won’t be affected;
Native landscaping is more about providing biodiversity and taking care of the environment in a design-oriented way. It’s about using your existing resources while maintaining your own space.
Sustainable architecture is here to stay ―and make some noise. It allows architects and people to benefit from strong and durable buildings that don’t affect the environment since greener concepts can provide better outcomes than traditional building practices.