Precisely what is green architecture, and is it really shaping our future? When I look at renderings from Vincent Callebaut, a Belgium Architect, I am amazed. I can picture how future generations will live. We already see green architectural projects all over the world; They represent an approach to building that has been growing in popularity for nearly three decades. It centers on minimizing the ecological effect of creating a construction.
The history of green architecture
The term “green structure” was established throughout the 1990s. However, the movement of its roots can be traced back a very long way. Nowadays, the excitement for green structures began during the power crisis of the 1970s. Engineers began to wonder the wisdom of construction enclosed glass-and-steel boxes, which demanded massive cooling and heating systems.
The green revolution we are experiencing today can be traced back to the 1960s. Social awareness and the adoption of different procedures of design have paved the way for new techniques and innovative theories. However, although buildings have gotten greener, by no means is the “green building revolution” enough to offset the carbon footprint that most older buildings produce.
Advocates of green architecture have always argued the benefits and advantages of this approach. A large office building, for instance, combined with green design methods and smart technology not only reduces energy consumption but also has a tremendous beneficial environmental impact.
According to an article in the economist, a green building reduces running costs and creates a more pleasant work environment. Improving employees’ productivity and health, reduce liability, while also enhancing home values and lease yields.
LEED – The green standard and climate change
According to a study from the Green Building Council about the correlation between buildings and climate change: US buildings produce 39% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. A large part of building emissions comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which in turn is used to power appliances, lighting, and other electrical equipment. Unfortunately, these emissions are to increase over the next 25 years. Buildings devour 70% of all energy produced in the US. The study suggests:
If half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year. The Green Building Council
I believe green buildings are a precious tool in the fight against climate change. Scientists are already forecasting rising temperatures between 2-8 ºF within this century if climate change is ignored. There are plenty of studies out there that paint a bleak picture. Therefore greenhouse gas emissions must be slowed or even reversed. Meeting the challenge will require noticeable improvements in technologies and a change in how the world economy creates and uses energy. Green architecture could be the cure for our emission problem.
Agencies like the US green building council (LEED) leading the way in green construction. In fact, a LEED certified home built in Texas is worth $ 25,000.00 more in value than conventionally built homes. The U.S.G.B.C has been promoting green design since 1994. In 2000 they created a rating system which builders, developers, and architects can adhere to, and submit an application for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The LEED certification supports four different score levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Only a fraction of buildings is LEED certified. However many hotel corporations, like Hilton, are choosing to build LEED certified buildings. These companies are leading the way in sustainability. Their approach not only guarantees for a more efficient operation, but it will also set them apart from the competition.
Green architecture as a choice
” Typically, buildings are designed to meet building code requirements, whereas green building design challenges designers to go beyond the codes to improve overall building performance and minimize life-cycle environmental impact and cost.“—American Institute of Architects (AIA)
A prosperous green project will decrease waste, use non-toxic materials, and pay careful attention to the location and purpose of a building, in addition to the climate which surrounds it. That’s a long way from the old idea of “one size fits all” construction methods of yesteryear.
What makes a building green?
According to California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), a green building must have the following essential characteristics:
A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment. (CalRecycle)
As technology and mindsets have progressed, so has architecture.
What makes a building green? Many theories compose a green building.
The key components of green architecture are:
- Energy efficiency
- Use of land
- Reduction of waste
- Substances used
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting in commercial properties is the highest power consumption after heating. Since large business buildings utilize the most energy, it makes sense to create work spaces with more natural light.
Solar panels seem to be the ideal investment to reduce energy cost. Walmart, Costo, Ikea, and Target are now producing the largest amount of solar energy.
According to an article in Climatecolab.com, passive building design includes passive cooling, heating, lighting and the building orientation. These elements all help offset energy costs.
Gray water recycling and passive solar design are all elements of passive building design. Buildings are located and faced to take the best advantage of natural circumstances. Ultimately, improved energy efficiency is the desired outcome, and it makes for a more pleasant use a building. The usage of land planning, transportation, and parking concerns become viable as well.
In a perfect setting, the materials used should enable the building to be reused for other construction changes in the future producing minimal waste. Green architecture should lower the dependence on wasteful and toxic substances and products, which has become much easier these days.
Of course, not all jobs labeled green is really green. Some are “greenwashed” – standard projects given a green veneer to get propriety functions. Others constructed with good intentions but bad planning. That is why it’s essential and useful to know that all green jobs be scrutinized carefully to ensure they are as safe for the environment as promised. Helping the environment is complex, but it is well worth it in the long run, with buildings becoming more valuable and more sustainable years later on.
With healthier designs, architects can help to make those occupying the structure more comfortable and healthier through indoor atmosphere quality enhancements, improved acoustics and additional sources to daylight.
Current trends in architectural design
As with any other type of art, whether it is painting, audio or fashion design, architecture depends upon present trends.
You don’t have to be a prophet to guess that sustainability is one of the trends in design. In my opinion, it will be a trend for a long time until it becomes part of the law of most countries.
Below are some of Dezeen’s, most popular trends in architecture. Dezeen is one of the most well-known architecture design magazines.
- Prefabricated homes
- Skinny Skyscrapers
Honesty – a trend?
Maybe it is a response to the Great Recession, but home owners are looking to simplify their lifestyles, including their homes. Even though glitz and glamor used to be attractive regarding its architectural features, people are opting for a more appropriate form of design. Therefore having interior layouts which focus on clean lines, small to no embellishments and organic finishes.
Together with the bloat of large-scale homes, more buyers are choosing something a little smaller, and high-income homes are becoming less popular among prospective buyers.
The architect must be a prophet… a prophet in the true sense of the term… if he can’t see at least ten years ahead don’t call him an architect. Frank Lloyd Wright
For instance, contemporary architecture isn’t just about how good the final result seems; it’s about presenting new ways of thinking. Architects can achieve this by implementing analytical and scientific methods. In doing this, they can reflect complex technical problems from 20th Century house designs. It is about presenting something which is not only amazing but natural in every aspect of construction.
Tiny homes movement
It’s a social movement in which individuals are deciding to downsize their homes they reside in. These small homes come in any shape or size, but they allow easier living in a bigger, more efficient area.
Individuals are joining this movement for a number of reasons. However, the most popular motives include environmental issues, financial issues, and the need for more freedom and time. For many Americans, up to 1/2 of their earnings is devoted to the home they live in. Americans are sick of living paycheck to paycheck, that’s where tiny homes come in handy.
Small homes are not for everybody; yet there are lessons to be learned when one is downsizing to escape a high mortgage, where almost 70 percent of Americans are immobilized.
Great architects like Vincent Callebaut are taking green architecture to another level. The Time Magazine has declared his work as the best eco-utopian architect. Among many other awards, Vincent Callebaut is famous for his super utopic looking skyscrapers, which produce more energy than they use. My favorites include the 7-year construction of the Carbon-absorbing green tower in Taipei, which is supposed to be completed September 2017, and his utopic concept of the Oceanscraper Aequorea in Rio De Janeiro. More on this in another post.
Parametric design in architecture is a procedure of intelligently formulating systems based on algorithmic rules and relationships that evoke a response through the design. Initiated by architects like Frank O. Gehry who started to exploit digital technologies, initially developed for the automotive sector for design. The parametric design enables architecture to respond to its circumstance, the surroundings and regulations, and rules, allowing a digital workflow from design to manufacturing.
With the usage of parametric applications, architects have the ability to study connections and integrate key areas of a structure such as material, construction engineering and structural components to the design procedure. How cool is that?
Such tools transform complicated issues into logical, easy conclusions. However, this trend toward sophistication contributes to new layout issues, requiring a deeper comprehension of geometry, science, and computer applications. The builder cannot forget he or she needs to be a master of and restrain the instrument, instead of the other way round. Sounds intimidating for someone like me who is watching this movement, however, isn’t technology awesome?
We live in a world that is more environmentally friendly conscious than ever. This impulse to protect Mother Nature, I think, extends to the design, and more architects are trying to incorporate eco-friendly methods into their plans, including selecting products that don’t leave much of a carbon footprint.
Even master architect Frank Gehry is asking in his Ted conversation, what’s next? During his talk, he brought up the point that architects need to collaborate more on future projects instead of one designer build’s it all. Some food for thought…
What is your opinion on green architecture? Do you think green construction will shape our future? In what way and how? I am curious!
If you are an architect, engineer or work on a sustainable project, I would love to hear from you. If you would like to contribute to Coolmomentum, feel free to do so: submit