It may come as no surprise to you that in a survey funded by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it has been found that the average person spends 87% of his time indoors. Why is that a big deal? Add to this the time spent in commuting in vehicles and you are left with only 7% of time spent outdoors! Should you be worried about getting more physical activity outside? Yes, but let’s make that a problem for another day. The bigger concern is how we can make the air inside healthier and more pollution-free. That’s right, the air inside has more pollutants than you think. It is the result of toxic chemicals released by certain building materials, prolonged exposure to which can cause numerous health problems and nervous disorders.
Green Buildings are gaining popularity as the latest trend in environmentally-conscious architecture. This concept, however, is the repackaged version of sustainable design – an essential and indispensable part of the architectural process that takes into account a broad spectrum of factors such as climatology, resource consumption, energy usage and quality living. Sustainable design is the balance of environmental, social and economic issues to ensure a viable and valuable industry for the future generations.
The process of sustainable architecture has now, more than ever, become a crucial part of the building industry. Buildings are more than a combination of steel, bricks and concrete that provide shelter. It is time to extend their function and think of them as masses that consume energy from the environment in an extensive manufacturing process. It is only imperative that the resulting product be a safe, conducive space for the users that enhances their physical and mental well-being and which generates its own resources and is self-sustaining.
Photo credits: Eric Laignel
Sustainability in architectural design can manifest in several forms such as use of local renewable building materials and labour, incorporation of processes and techniques that minimize energy consumption, water efficiency and recycling, use of non-toxic materials and products that improve indoor air quality. The adaptation of these systems in the design of buildings will greatly impact the world which is currently facing a massive energy crisis and climate change. It takes many years for innovations to transform the building industry and the change is not taking place at a pace that can keep up with the global environmental predicament. Architects need to constantly work on developing methods which provide optimized, efficient and innovative solutions to the construction process.
Best Innovative Practices of Sustainable Design
Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), USA
Credits: Phipps Conservatory
The CSL is a global showcase of innovation. It uses solar panels, geothermal wells, wind turbine, passive cooling, heating and lighting methods to achieve net-zero energy consumption making it one of the greenest buildings in the world. Recycled steel and salvaged wood have been used as part of the construction process and its other distinguishable features include a storm water lagoon, solar powered water distillation system, rain gardens and constructed wetlands that use plants and natural processes to clean waste water.
Shanghai Natural History Museum, China
Featuring an “intelligent building skin,” the Shanghai Natural History Museum uses the concept of bioclimatic interaction that is designed to maximize daylight and minimize solar gain. Rainwater is collected from the vegetated roof and stored in an oval pond in the courtyard to provide evaporative cooling.
Vancouver Convention Centre, Canada
This LEED Platinum building has a massive living roof (more than six acres) that contains around 400,000 indigenous plants and a natural habitat for approximately 240,000 bees that provide honey, which is used in the Centre’s kitchen.
Credits: Vancouver Convention Center
Cover Photo Credits: Interface Studio Architects