Sustainable Architecture: What is it and How do We Get There?
Sustainable Architecture: What is it and How do We Get There?

Sustainable architecture has been around for a while. This term is used often in the construction sector, but it hasn’t been able to make a breakthrough. However, even though this practice hasn’t entered the mainstream, there are good signs that this will happen in the near future.

For construction companies, things like the environment and sustainability are now some of the top priorities, and just a couple of decades ago, these factors weren’t even on their radar. On top of that, consumers are becoming aware of their environment.

This is another crucial aspect that customers consider before making a purchase. Even though we all know that sustainability has something to do with preserving the environment, do you really understand what it represents? Today we are going to explore this concept.

Defining sustainable architecture

Sustainable architecture is part of sustainable development. This concept reflects on things like design and planning while trying to provide all the required life conditions. At the same time, it tries to save as many resources as possible.

When it comes to sustainable architecture, it focuses on designing buildings with a limited impact on the environment, energy-efficient, and comfortable. It tries to meet the needs of customers while considering the resources and natural consequences from the very beginning of the design process.

Furthermore, the materials and space designed also need to be reusable in the future. Sustainable architecture aims to create homes, buildings, and other structures that will last for a long time and be able to sustain themselves without wasting additional resources. That's where the name comes from.

Why it matters

Sustainable architecture takes into account a couple of essential elements, including biomass, natural ventilation, sunlight, shading, and orientation.

It also includes systems with renewable energy and domotics, all combined with the use of materials that are thoroughly studied and are valued for the way they affect the environment.

All this is incredibly important because humans are consuming the natural resources of the planet more than ever. The number of people living on earth is at its peak, and the planet simply doesn’t have the capabilities to regenerate resources that fast.

This practice doesn’t only reduce the amount of waste and energy used – it involves several subcategories, as it takes into account the existence of humans on the planet and what we can do to protect the environment.

Sustainable architecture also needs to explain how people will live within the buildings and how their lives will affect energy and waste.

How is sustainability achieved?

The first step towards designing a sustainable structure is research. The construction site needs to be inspected to learn about the natural factors that need to be considered. In most cases, architects use this opportunity to meet with local authorities and talk to them about any specific regulations they might have.

In case you are creating a large building, you need to talk with the locals and get feedback from them. They might give you more information about the environment around the location, offer religious or cultural considerations that need to be addressed.

For most architects, the next step involves drawing sketches of the design. It also includes the desired finishes and material options. Before continuing forward, it’s important to analyze the whole sketch and make the necessary design elements.

At this point, the building planner and other consultants need to understand all the sustainable elements. They need to know all the essential elements and how to deliver them. Additionally, make sure that you prepare all the documents for the construction.

Materials for sustainable architecture

Building materials are one of the most important aspects of sustainable architecture. Since sustainability is all about preserving natural resources, the building materials can’t have negative effects on the environment.

At the same time, a typical example of sustainable architecture material includes reclaimed lumber.

It's a recycled material that doesn’t require new natural resources or spending energy to produce. Reclaimed wood usually comes from demolished structures, and it gets reused for other purposes. It can include various hardware, windows, and doors.

When picking out new materials for sustainable architecture, the first choice are materials that can be renewed in the future and used once again. When it comes to wood options, one of the most popular ones is bamboo. Bamboo can be used commercially after six years, which is much better than timber.

In a lot of cases, sustainable construction will use materials located on the building site to reduce transport needs and energy consumption that goes along with it. For example, if a house is being built in the middle of an orchard and trees need to be cut down, they can be used for construction.

Waste management systems for sustainable architecture

Waste management is one of the key areas of sustainable architecture. It’s essential to ensure that the household won’t be polluting the environment while occupied. Every home creates waste, and architects need to design systems that will minimize their impact on the environment.

In some cases, architects can find solutions for the waste to be used or recycled by some other organization. For example, gray water can be gathered for gardening purposes; there are toilets that reduce sewage waste, and systems that gather food and organic waste for future uses.

These kinds of waste management systems are not a burden – they are an opportunity. They can lead to creating new ecosystems that generate profit while saving the environment. Companies and employees can make money from these economic ecosystems and stop waste dumping.

Sustainable energy efficiency

For construction to be sustainable, one of the biggest requirements is to ensure that the building will be energy efficient throughout its lifetime.

The process involves both active and passive solutions to reduce the energy expenditure of the whole structure. At the same time, there are also methods through which the building can generate or capture energy.

When inspecting the site, architects need to explore the possibilities for using any local environmental resources.

The placement of the construction is essential to reducing energy consumption. The design needs to work well with the surroundings and complement energy efficiency.

Insulation is also vital for ensuring that no energy will be wasted. Less wasted energy means less power spent on warming up or cooling down the building. One of the best solutions for sustainable energy is solar panels.

They can cover a large portion of energy needs the building has while not using up any resources.

The whole construction industry is changing

The question here is whether or not sustainable architecture will have large scale applications in the future. Even though we can’t predict what will happen in the future, there are a lot of factors that indicate that this will happen. Let’s break it down and see why this is a probable outcome.

First of all, the construction industry, like any other, wants to make money. In the past, green solutions weren’t profitable as there weren’t green technologies that can meet the current market demands. At the same time, more and more consumers are becoming conscious about the environment.

People want to live their lives responsibly and do whatever they can for the environment. Simply put, the popularity of sustainable homes is growing.

More and more people choose to build their own sustainable homes rather than move into old ineffective ones. Choices like these show great promise for the development of sustainable designs in the future.

Sustainable architecture spiritual doctrine

The whole movement of sustainable architecture sees themselves as stewards of the environment. They believe that it’s up to the human race to protect the earth and along with it, all of humankind.

They see natural resources as precious and think that we should make the most of our knowledge and technology towards preserving them.

At the same time, they recognize the fact that humans have their needs and need to build homes for themselves. There is a huge wave of young architects who think this way, even if they haven’t officially started working on sustainable designs.

This shows that the industry is changing, as well. The goal for professionals is no longer just to establish themselves as experts, no matter what, and work on as many projects as possible.

Today they want their work to contribute to both the consumers and the planet. It's what sustainability is all about.

Technology, society, and the industry all agree that sustainable architecture has many benefits. Today, everyone understands that we need to take care of our environment and that there are issues that can’t be ignored.

However, traditional architecture will need to transform itself into a sustainable branch. At the same time, institutions need to change laws and regulations to enable this kind of design and construction.