Buildings are not only Energy Consumers but also can be Energy Suppliers”
Sustainable architecture is defined as a building design that is built to reduce the damage inflicted on the environment. A sustainably designed building has its importance in nature because it requires substantially fewer resources in the long term and is built using more energy-efficient materials. Sustainability is not only saving for our future needs but is a way of living life with less environmental impact. Sustainable structures are the sole saviors of what humankind might refer to as a major land crisis or an extreme construction doom in the next century. Knowledge of sustainability and its aspects makes us self-aware, and conscious of what we use and what we waste, making us save the planet Earth and its resources for the future.
The Concept of Green Architecture defines the theory, science, and style of buildings constructed with respect to their environmentally friendly principles. Green architecture strives to minimize the number of resources consumed in the building's construction, as well as curtailing the harm done to the environment. Green Architecture also refers to the name literally “Green” which alludes to promoting more greens than built mass in our living spaces and surroundings. It includes everything from using natural light or ventilation, circulation, the standard of living, having a garden or a small kitchen farm, and experiencing the benefits of a microclimate.
The amount of waste produced by human construction activities causes negative effects on health and the environment. In order to limit these effects and design environmentally sound buildings; "green building systems" must be thoroughly understood. We as humans and the younger generation of the world should understand the importance of sustainability and its impact, applying it to practice and making it a norm in society.
The necessity of sustainable architecture
In today’s times, when the world is facing its worst times of the climate crisis, sustainability is the raft to our sinking ship. With our water bodies overflowing and land mass reducing across the globe, there is a significant need for resilient and efficient designs that are made of ecologically positive materials. The depletion of the ozone layer, bad air quality, unpredictable extreme weather changes, natural calamities, eruptions, drastic changes are some of the many consequences that we’re facing due to global warming and amongst all these, sustainable architecture seems to be the only way to save what we have in the future of humankind.
Whenever a new building is constructed on land, it not only produces pollutants but also has numerous untraceable and traceable disastrous impacts on the surroundings. These days when the life of constructed builds is around 50 years, it is becoming dead serious for us to replace the existing enormous amounts of non-renewable content around.
The awareness regarding sustainability and its influence should increase so that there is a tremendous rise in demand and thus easily accessible for the common masses. For example- incorporating bamboo in house construction would be practically economical, vernacular, and ecologically better but due to less demand and expensive skilled yet scarce labor makes it is difficult for these materials to be easily acceptable.
Utilizing what is given to us by nature and protecting our natural resources should be the norms for future developments in any form of structures made. The use of alternative materials or advanced materials will not only save our natural resources but also will save the planet from further destruction and safeguard upcoming generations.
Nature has existed on this planet since its creation and there are a million things that have made human life thrive on Earth, a number of these factors are the ways in which surroundings protect themselves against threats. The concept of biomimicry derived from learnings of nature and its resilience against threats is another important part of sustainable architecture. Deriving from what has already been existing for thousands of years, is something that more and more architects should adapt in their style and adopt as a common practice.
Characteristics of Sustainable Architecture
Keeping in mind the fact that buildings these days can also act as a source of energy, is proof of how advancement in the field of sustainable architecture can help solve the energy shortage faced in a lot of major cities today. Research in the field of energy optimization allows mechanical energy from human movement or the rotating of turbines due to heavy winds and even kinetic facades to produce energy. These innovations in sustainable architecture are just the conversion of one form of energy to another, which replaces the existing norm of buildings that just require and exhaust energy supplies.
Sustainable Architecture is a broad topic that covers many fields and aspects, and incorporates a number of strategies that can be applied in order to build structures that are better for the environment:
The focus should be on reducing human actions against nature and environmental carbon footprints.
Minimizing waste and promoting more sustainable options such as reusing or upcycling materials. For example, Aluminium has around 56% more emission factor as compared to bricks but is still used a lot in the construction industry as 70% of the aluminum used today is recycled. Theoretically aluminium is indefinitely recyclable. Similarly, using materials that have fewer emissions should be promoted.
Water conservation systems, such as rainwater collection by using materials with high runoff coefficient and recycling greywater and blackwater on site or near the site. The use of aerobic and anaerobic realtors has been a widely used method for the same. The use of the ‘Living Machine’ is another new concept in the field of grey and blackwater recycling for reuse.
Making more vernacular and contextual architecture, which is more suitable to the local culture. The use of mud walls in architecture, terracotta pots in slabs and facades for cooling, and grass creation are all examples of how local materials can be economical and readily available for construction.
Replacement of conventional materials like concrete with sustainable alternatives, such as hempcrete (made from hemp, lime, and water) or conventional plastics with innovative bioplastics made from algae.
Promoting the culture of tiny houses or micro apartments, that promote sustainable living, according to necessity, is a good solution in cities with land and housing crises.
Alternative housing solutions, such as homes and apartment buildings constructed from recycled shipping containers as well as floating architecture on waterways around the world help address housing shortages in dense coastal areas
Incorporation of plants and nature via living walls, tree-covered residential towers, and green roofs to help cool existing buildings and create healthy biophilic environments for humans. We are promoting the use of indoor plants such as spider plants, snake plants, etc to improve indoor air quality (IAQ).
Components of Sustainable Architecture
There are many channels through which sustainable architecture can work for future betterment, some of them being energy efficiency, the use of proper orientation of buildings with a focus on local climatic impacts, using materials for adequate insulation, and minimizing the use of mechanical cooling or heating devices.
The components to work on for a better architectural future are water efficiency, energy optimization, usage of microclimate, passive technology, and reclaiming used products.
Energy optimization is an important component and can take place in various forms, such as using solar-powered appliances or other alternative forms.
Water efficiency can have major advantages when done properly, it involves the amount of water we collect by harvesting rainwater, along with reducing the amount of water that we take from the municipalities. Water efficiency further included recycling of grey and black water through various advanced techniques to process such as using bio-digesters, anaerobic baffled reactors, root zone treatments (primary, secondary, tertiary), etc.
Energy optimization can be handled in a number of ways, by using onsite renewable solar power, replacing all the existing lighting fixtures with LED lights which are 30% more efficient and energy saving, using 3-5 star Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) rated appliances, calculating the required lux levels for the overall room and designing lighting layouts accordingly to the conditions which are required, etc. These methods help to reduce the energy loads on a building thus making living in these structures more economical and easy to stay in.
Retrofitting existing Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, reducing the load on mechanical devices by incorporating passive features in the building design, etc. Water optimization on the other hand can take place majorly by reusing the produced grey and blackwater and using it again for different uses in and around the structure. The collection of rainwater and filtering it for further use is another important way in which we can reduce our intake of freshwater from municipal authorities.
Architects in today’s time have a crucial role to play by incorporating sustainable methods of construction that will not only contribute to the betterment of the environment but also help to save our future generations from the doom of climate change and its consequences. We, as young designers and planners, should take the oath of saving the earth from falling into this trap of climate crisis and promoting sustainability.
Minza Shahid is an undergrad student of VNIT, Nagpur perusing a B.Arch. As a passionate explorer of sustainable and green architecture, she is dedicated to understanding and promoting the use of environmentally responsible design strategies and materials. Along with this, she has a keen interest in traveling to explore diverse cultural perspectives on architecture, sustainability, and urbanism.
Soham Dange, an undergrad student of VNIT, Nagpur perusing a B.Arch. As a curious and creative individual with a deep interest in the built environment, he is dedicated to exploring the many facets of architecture and design. Whether through research, hands-on experience, or collaboration with others, he is constantly seeking out new opportunities to expand his knowledge and skills in this dynamic field.