We have often talked about sustainability and how it has become the new ‘it’ lifestyle. Albeit, more than a trend, sustainability is a way we can sustain the balance between humans and nature. You can support sustainability by paying more attention to how you go through your daily lives and changing a few things here and there to reduce waste. You can look through our blog for sustainable lifestyle content!
As with anything else, there is always to bring it up a notch with sustainability. So we can start designing our houses and spaces sustainably! (Calling all architects to start heavily considering this!).
Let’s start with the meaning of sustainable architecture. How would you define this new concept?
We understand that sustainability is taking responsibility for your actions towards the environment as your responsibility for future generations. If we add architecture to that equation, it will signify structures made from materials with little environmental impact and how the building itself will affect the surrounding nature in the present and the future.
Simply, sustainable architecture is about creating something that lasts responsibly.
“Sustainable architecture [...] challenges architects to produce smart designs and use available technologies to ensure that structures generate minimal harmful effects to the exosystem and the communities. [....] While it has to be functional and aesthetically superior, space has to be constructed with the mindset of achieving long-term energy and resource efficiency.”
Some questions that we can start considering to begin designing sustainable architecture includes:
How will the structure disrupt or affect the surrounding environment?
For example, is there a way to minimize environmental damage to trees and natural landscapes?
Is it possible to build your structure around the surrounding plantation?
How can we minimize our disruption to the potential habitats of native animals?
We need to slowly progress to designing architecture with the mindset of maximizing resources. One article highlights this possibility with the theme of bioclimatic architecture:
“Passive measures like solar panels, rainwater and greywater harvesting, openings for natural light, and cross-ventilation are all low-cost, high yield methods of increasing a home’s thermal comfort and efficiency and decreasing its carbon footprints.”
— Belen Maistegul
Designing structures specifically to the climate and local terrains will optimize sustainability and minimize environmental damage. For example, Bueno Aires’ floor plans show how we can utilize open areas in the structures to generate a natural airflow. You can read a more comprehensive article about airflow and thermal induction here.
Let’s recall back to using alternative materials. Recent news reports that the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) has developed materials that can support passive ventilation. These innovations include Breathin Skin, Hydroceramics, Hydromembrane, Morphluid, and Soft Robotics. These materials can mimic organic processes and adapt to external changes to sustain the climate within its structure. The article writes, “by creating a series of systems that act as a second skin in buildings, IAAC transforms a building’s thermoregulation to imitate the human body transpiring water to regulate the temperature.”
A paper provided in-depth insight into the different alternative materials that we can choose to minimize our environmental damage: lightweight, non-virgin and non-toxic materials that have great potential in reducing emissions during transportation, construction, and overall maintenance. The paper also noted alternatives to wood that have less risk of depletion, such as bamboo, cork, or straw, since it has a growth period of fewer than ten years.
You should check out the article to learn more about their comparative analysis of materials for different structural components!
All-in-all, sustainable architecture is a new movement. However, many new things are being discovered and innovated as the years go by, reflecting our dedication to creating a better and healthier future.
Sustainable architecture is not only the solution to massive construction projects. It is also the start of awareness and the product of rising responsibility towards the environment. We shall see where this new movement will go and how new policies will support and incentivize people to create sustainable buildings!
Sustainable architecture is only the start of a fantastic beginning—and for our architect friends reading this blog, let’s continue fighting for a greener future!