Sustainability in Architecture: Designing for the Future
Let’s talk about sustainability in architecture. How do we design buildings for the future? It is widely understood in the architecture, design, and construction industries that the ways we did things in the past can’t be the way we do things in the future we imagine.
So how can we, as an industry move to be more sustainable? As architects, how can we be the drivers of innovation?
Why is sustainability important in architecture?
The resources of our planet are finite.
The Spruce explains: “the world is now in the midst of a climate change emergency, and many of the environmental laws that were passed in the last 50 years have been rolled back. This makes it even more imperative for designers, architects, builders, and consumers to demand better building practices to help combat the damage caused by one of the most polluting industries on the planet. In the United States, for example, buildings account for 39 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.”
If we are to help our industry, then sustainability in architecture is key.
HMC Architects tells us, “Sustainable architecture is the use of design strategies that reduce the negative environmental impact from a built environment. Architects take the site landscape, energy management, and stormwater management into consideration when planning, and then use environmentally friendly systems and building materials during construction.”
What are the top sustainable architecture strategies?
There are a number of strategies that architects have adopted to help sustainability. These include:
Passive Sustainable Design
These are strategies to maximize the effect of wind, the sun’s orientation, naturally occurring vegetation, and more when designing a building’s infrastructure (heating, cooling, etc.).
Think of passive sustainable design as including things like ensuring that the building is oriented to help solar panels harness the energy or to help mitigate the use of electric lights in the afternoon.
Active Sustainable Design
Active sustainable design, on the other hand, is the use of high-efficiency systems (HVAC, electrical) that, as HMC Architects puts it, “are designed to have small environmental footprints.”
Prioritizing Green Building Materials and Finishes
Architects ensure sustainability by seeking eco-friendly or natural materials, and by utilizing suppliers that use recycled materials, or that operate in other environmentally responsible ways.
Renewable Energy Systems
HMC Architects explain: “Renewable energy systems, including those that harness solar and wind energy, are also great options for some buildings. These systems are often used in conjunction with passive design strategies.”
Planting native plants in the area of the new building can help ensure a more sustainable design, as it reduces the need to water or irrigate in unnatural ways.
Another sustainability strategy is the management of stormwater that allows rainfall to replenish natural groundwater supplies.
Sustainability in the Architecture Office
And finally, many architects are emphasizing sustainability in their offices. From utilizing high-efficiency lighting and sustainably sourced furniture, to getting their large format printer from a company that champions sustainability, architects can implement sustainable building practices early in the life cycle.
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