What is sustainable architecture? and why will it represent the cradle of the next architecture?

Green architecture or sustainable architecture is a name for construction that is built to reduce the effect of the human-made on the environment. A green approach to modern building encompasses all aspects of the planning and construction process. This includes the choice of construction materials, the design and implementation of heating, air conditioning, plumbing, waste disposal and ventilation systems, and the integration of the built environment into the natural landscape.

A lot of concepts and practices applied in green architecture have a link with the construction of the past and its practice that were changed with the escalation of modern materials in the industrial age. Modern awareness of the need for sustainable architecture dates back at least 50 years to the anniversary of the first Earth Day and the international environmental movement and related legislation around the world.

The world is now in the midst of a climate change emergency, and many of the environmental laws that have been passed over the past 50 years are being overturned. This makes it even more imperative for designers, architects, builders and consumers to demand better building practices to help tackle the damage caused by one of the most polluting industries on the planet. In the United States, for example, buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions.

Sustainability has become an important part of contemporary architecture. Environmental norms such as LEED or BREEAM make a list of rules for ecological construction for architects and constructors to reach these global standards in their buildings and validate their sustainability certificates. But many others simply use buzzwords like “eco-friendly”, “green”, or “sustainable” as terms in green marketing. Despite all the advances in knowledge and awareness, truly sustainable architecture remains more the exception than the rule.

Sustainable architecture has a lot of concepts and characteristics that are mentioned below :

  • Small houses are also known as tiny houses, micro-apartments and other small structures that help answer the call for more sustainable housing and use less land mass and energy.
  • Replacing usual materials like concrete with alternatives materials that are sustainable like natural concrete made from lime, hemp and water or natural plastics made from an innovative material called bioplastics made from algae.
  • Use of recycled materials.
  • Modular and adaptable spaces made from natural materials that can be easily broken down and reused or recycled.
  • Using materials that are able to be renewable like bamboo, cork, hemp and flax.
  • Integrating the building to the landscape to be part of the surrounding nature.
  • Integration of the green materials in building to reduce the temperature and make a healthy environment and the well-being of the people who use the building.
  • Limit energy waste using renewable energy sources such as solar panels and natural heating, cooling and ventilation systems.
  • Recycling wastewater and collecting rainwater by conservation systems.
  • Buildings that consume energy less or as much as it produces.
  • Setting goal to reduce the man-made and its impact on nature and environment.
  • Covering the walls with plants and nature or making it part of the materials, make green roofs to reduce the effect of the sun exposure and temperature on buildings, create a healthy environment for users of the building.
  • Alternative housing solutions such as houses and apartment buildings constructed from recycled shipping containers as well as floating architecture on waterways around the world that address housing shortages in dense coastal areas.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, winner of the 2014 Pritzker Prize, uses recycled cardboard tubes to build both emergency shelters around the world and his world-famous Transitional Cathedral, built in 2013 in Christchurch, in New Zealand.

Transitional Cathedral – Christchurch

Timber may be an old building material, but cross-laminated timber, made by gluing layers of timber together, has become a sustainable alternative for city towers and prefabricated cross-laminated timber houses in Europe and in the USA. If the 20th century was defined by the steel and glass skyscrapers of cities like NYC, the 21st century might come to be defined by the wooden skyscrapers like Mjøstårnet by Voll Arkitekter in Brumunddal, Norway.

Mjøstårnet building – Norway – Tallest building made of timber material

Another example of sustainable architecture is CopenHill in Copenhagen, Denmark, which introduces itself as “the cleanest waste-to-energy factory in the world”. The building has a facade built for climbing, a roof you can walk on and a real ski slope.

CopenHill building – Copenhagen , Danemark.

Despite innovations, advancements and growing public awareness of the need for greener building practices, sustainable architecture is still the exception rather than the norm. In addition, many experts believe that the concept of sustainability is outdated given the current state of the planet.

Instead, they insist that the way forward lies in regenerative architecture and design, a much more progressive holistic approach that focuses on harnessing the world’s natural resources to create buildings and systems able to regenerate and completely collapse when they have served their purpose.

We know that climate change most severely affects humans and poor communities, and the regenerative design incorporates social equity into its practices in a world where even among green building designations, only the living building challenge of the world. ‘International Living Future Institute includes a mandatory social commitment.