Sustainable Architecture: A Comprehensive Guide

An In-Depth Look Into Sustainable Architecture: How Architecture Plays a Part in a Building’s Sustainability and Eco-Friendliness

Written by Taylor McKnight, Author for Red Dot Buildings

Environmental friendliness is one of the most critical design considerations for any building.

We have been taught that a sustainable building should have a long lifespan, low maintenance, and require little energy to operate; however, it’s not just about how much energy buildings use — solid waste reduction and recycling are also important.

Nowadays, architects are designing buildings to be net-zero carbon emissions to be environmentally friendly.

Ways in Which Architecture can be Eco-friendly

1. Energy Consumption.

Buildings consume energy even when they are not occupied, so optimizing energy control is a critical component of sustainability. Although there are several ways to control energy consumption in buildings, one of the most effective ways is to create an efficient building envelope that reduces the amount of heat and light entering the building.

2. Waste Reduction.

Architects consider waste reduction a priority because it can be very costly for a building owner to handle and dispose of large amounts of trash. Reducing waste is achieved by using eco-friendly products in construction and implementing efficient materials and resource management processes throughout the entire building life cycle.

3. Water Consumption.

Water is a crucial resource, and it is essential to keep water usage at a minimum while still providing optimum indoor comfort. Architects design buildings to minimize water consumption by using water-efficient technology, like rainwater harvesting systems, or vegetation, such as rooftop gardens, for capturing and reusing rainwater.

Sustainable Architecture: Rooftop Garden

4. Green Building Materials.

Green building materials have been certified to be low in toxicity, chemical reactivity, and environmental impact. It means that green building products are safer for users and the environment than traditional building materials.

5. Recycling.

Recycling significantly impacts the environment by reducing landfill space that you would otherwise use for all types of waste disposal. In addition, recycling helps save valuable resources like water and energy by decreasing the raw material required for production.

The Importance of Architecture in a Building

1. Ensuring Structural Longevity

Architects design buildings to last for a long time by ensuring that they are structurally sound and withstand environmental changes. Architects consider all potential dangers in the building design, such as earthquakes and extreme weather. Poorly-designed buildings can become dangerous to residents both during and after construction.

2. Ensuring Precise Measurements and Details

Architectural drawings are used during construction to ensure that the building is built with precision and efficient energy use and the highest LEED score possible. Poorly-constructed buildings lack energy efficiency, increasing energy costs for years to come.

3. Providing Visually Pleasing Architecture

Architects design and build structures with aesthetic appeal in mind, which can generate a positive image and serve as a source of pride for the community where they are located.

a small architectural building covered on growing plants with some nearby statues

4. Ensuring Safety

Architects design buildings with Safety in mind to ensure hazard-free zones. Architectural drawings are used as a checklist to ensure that building materials and design elements are safe for human use.

5. Shaping our Buildings

Architects play an active role in shaping the city. When well-designed, buildings can become attractive additions to their neighborhoods, bringing beauty and culture to their surroundings.

Ways in Which Architecture Contributes to a Building’s Sustainability

A building’s sustainability is mainly based on several factors, including using land efficiently, optimizing energy and water use, and reducing waste in the building’s construction and operation cycle. To maximize a building’s sustainability, architects must consider all these factors— planning efficient site layout, designing efficient and environmentally sound structures, and utilizing sustainable, long-lasting, and cost-effective materials.

The following set of guidelines can help sustainably optimize your life:

1. Designing Green and Energy Efficient Buildings

Green buildings are constructed with high levels of energy efficiency, which decreases the amount of energy required to produce a building’s interior environment. In addition, environmentally-friendly products are used in the construction process to make a building more comfortable and aesthetically appealing.

2. Choosing Appropriate Building Materials

Strong materials like steel can be suitable for durability. Still, they can also contribute to an increase in carbon emissions and damage the environment because of the number of resources used in their production. By choosing building materials that have been certified to be low in toxicity and chemical reactivity, architects can help reduce their environmental impact.

3. Using Efficient Cladding Systems

Cladding systems are used to protect the structural integrity of buildings by covering the building skin. Architectural cladding systems can be made of various products, such as glass and stone, that are durable and strong while giving architects flexibility in designing. Although glass claddings provide some environmental benefits, they can be costly, making them a defective material for sustainable architecture.

a modern seaside house

4. Designing Well-Lit and Ventilated Buildings

Well-lit buildings that have been designed to be ventilated at all times provide an optimal indoor environment. White roofs, which reflect sunlight and reduce heat absorption, help reduce excessive heat gain that is often responsible for air conditioning usage.

5. Implementing Highly-Efficient Design Elements

Highly-efficient design elements are implemented to provide energy efficiency. For example, a photovoltaic (PV) array is a highly-efficient system that can be applied to a building’s roof to generate electricity. Unlike other solar panels, photovoltaic arrays have zero impact on the environment. They do not require additional construction work, making them a perfect design element for sustainable architecture.

6. Building for Flexibility

Flexibility in a building’s design allows its users to be broadly defined. It means that a building can be used for more than one purpose. Builders define the flexibility of their structures by choosing the right material qualities, such as insulation, that are durable and give the flexibility needed for passive design.

Benefits of Architecture to The Environment

Architecture has the potential to make a positive impact on the environment. Sustainable architecture is helpful in a variety of ways, including:

1. Reducing Environmental Contamination

Using environmentally-conscious materials in the construction process can reduce the amount of waste emitted into the environment.

2. Optimizing Energy Use

Buildings with high energy efficiency levels are more efficient than their counterpart buildings. As a result, they require less energy to operate, lowering the number of carbon emissions produced due to powering them.

3. Forming Maintenance-Free Spaces

Buildings that don’t require maintenance can be more sustainable because less work needs to be done to keep them in good condition.

4. Improving Human Health

Architects can use environmentally-conscious materials in the construction process that are harmless to humans, including wood and brick, which do not cause adverse health effects.

London apartments

5. Minimizing Environmental Hazards

Buildings built with maximum Safety in mind can help reduce the effects of potential environmental hazards, such as floods and fires.

6. Reducing the Risk of Flooding

Buildings designed to be flood-resistant reduce the risk of flooding in their surrounding areas. In addition, building owners can also use flood-prevention strategies to minimize the damage caused by a potential flooding event.

Types of Architecture to Avoid That can Hurt the Environment

Buildings are constructed in many different styles, each associated with a particular culture. Although some architectural styles do not burden the environment, others can cause a significant amount of pollution and waste that can be harmful to our world. They include:

1. Unnecessarily Large Buildings

Buildings unnecessarily large use more materials and energy than smaller buildings to produce and maintain. For example, a skyscraper requires more resources to make its internal environment.

2. Buildings That are Expensive and Inefficient

Buildings that are expensive and inefficient use a significant amount of energy and materials in their production process. Many of these buildings are constructed using steel, which is very expensive to produce but contributes to releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere.

3. Buildings That are Highly-Constructed

Buildings that are highly constructed must be built to a high standard to remain structurally sound. The use of high-quality building materials can contribute to the release of hazardous substances into the environment, especially when construction is ongoing.

Factories in Detroit

4. Buildings That Emit Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide production is one of the most harmful environmental impacts buildings can have on our planet. When buildings are constructed using carbon-intensive materials, such as concrete, they significantly contribute to the emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere.

5. Buildings that are Unsafe for Occupant

The construction of unsafe buildings can lead to the loss of life, making it imperative that architects design less risky and safer buildings. Buildings with poor safety elements can be a significant source of environmental risk because they threaten the occupants’ health.

6. Buildings That are Not Sustainable

Modern architecture focuses on sustainability because it provides an efficient and cost-effective way of reducing the amount of energy used. However, it is relatively ineffective when architecture is compared to other industries that have a similar impact on the environment, such as automobiles and electricity generation. Buildings are responsible for producing carbon dioxide and other materials that contribute to global warming. Still, they also occupy a large amount of land and space that you can use for other purposes.

7. Buildings that are Not Resilient

Most modern buildings are made from steel, which is a solid material. But if a building is not designed to withstand natural or artificial threats, the structure can be much more susceptible to damage. Buildings that are not resilient can be at risk of collapsing and causing an environmental hazard.

8. Buildings That Are Not Energy Efficient

Sustainable architecture is an ideal building style for reducing the amount of energy used because it can use fewer resources than conventional and other types of construction. However, the high-quality materials used in the building process contribute to the release of harmful substances into our environment.

Final Thoughts on Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture has the potential to have a significant impact on our environment. It can raise awareness about environmental issues and bring improvements that can improve our health and well-being. But if not appropriately designed, architecture can also stress the natural world in several ways, including directly contributing to the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

So, architects must take steps to minimize their impact on the environment and focus their efforts on improving how buildings are constructed to use as few materials and energy as possible.

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