Hello, readers! Welcome to the Architecture Plus blog! We provide useful information concerning architectural design, unique trends, and essential aspects of the residential and commercial building process. Based out of Charleston, our full-service firm specializes in new residential construction, renovation, and commercial design. We aim to create sustainable structures which facilitate the health of their inhabitants while pairing harmoniously with their surrounding community. We encourage you to take a look at our residential and commercial galleries to glimpse our work and assess our artistic vision. If you need any additional information, reach out to us!

In our last post, we continued our “All About” series where we take a look at different styles of architecture. In this series, we aim to explore the characteristics of these styles, how they evolved, where they were most prevalent, and some of the best examples of the styles. Our goal with this series is to educate and inspire anyone out there who is interested in architecture! The last architectural style that we discussed was Neoclassical architecture, which began around the mid-18th century in Italy and France. If you are interested in learning more about Neoclassical architecture, we encourage you to check out our last post!

Sustainability & Architecture

Today, we’ll be discussing green architecture. Green architecture is a philosophy of architecture that advocates for building with the environment in mind and the use of sustainable energy sources. Within the design, construction, or operation of a “green” building, negative impacts on the climate or environment are reduced or eliminated. There are quite a few ways that a building can be made sustainably– Some buildings can even be converted to be more sustainable after they are already built. Additionally, any type of building can be a “green” building! If you are interested in learning more about green architecture, you’re in the right place! Let’s get started. 

What is sustainability, anyway?

Sustainability is generally defined as fulfilling the needs of our current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. It focuses heavily on avoiding the depletion of natural resources in order for humans to safely co-exist on the planet for a long time.

By now, you have most likely heard about climate change. This refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns that are largely due to human activity. As we have learned about climate change and begun to take it more seriously as a society, there have been numerous attempts to be more environmentally friendly, by both individuals and companies. Perhaps you’ve taken part by using paper straws rather than plastic, or by simply recycling. These are both great steps towards living sustainably. There are even bigger steps we can take, however, and one of them lies right here in the architectural industry.

What is green architecture?

When you think about green architecture, solar panels might be one of the first things that come to mind. You wouldn’t be wrong there– Solar panels are an environmentally conscious choice, but green architecture is much more than that! Sustainable architecture designs aim to reduce waste and conserve energy and resources, while still offering great performance and function to the occupants. A green architecture design may include any of the following:

  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances
  • Ventilation systems designed for efficient heating and cooling
  • Landscaping with the use of native vegetation
  • Minimal harm to the natural habitat surrounding the building
  • Renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power
  • Water-saving plumbing fixtures
  • Non-toxic, recycled, and sustainable building materials
  • Locally obtained materials to reduce long-haul transportation

These are just a few of the ways that architects can make their designs more environmentally friendly!

The History Of Green Architecture

Concepts of sustainable architecture can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Before the introduction of modern technology, ancient civilizations had to use whatever materials were available to them. This meant that they used local and earthly materials, such as mud and wood. Numerous cultures throughout history have used mud and mud bricks as building materials that were baked using the heat from the sun rather than a kiln, which is a low-energy approach within itself. Many civilizations also utilized openings and reflective surfaces strategically placed to use natural lighting during daylight hours. The Anasazi, a Native American civilization that arose as early as 1500 B.C., built villages in a way that all of the homes would receive solar heat in the winter months. 

Even the ancient Romans, some of the best builders of all time, utilized natural resources in their architecture. For example, their dining rooms were positioned facing Southeast to get the most evening light, while their bedrooms were positioned in the East direction to get maximum morning light. Some homes or religious centers for worship, such as the domus, were particularly ahead of their time when it came to sustainability. The domus had a central hall known as the atrium, which was open on the roof to let light and air circulate. It also collected rainwater in an impluvium, a small draining pool in the center of the atrium. This rainwater was used for drinking and washing. 

Fast forward to the 1960s, and environmental advocacy had really begun to take off. Some dedicated eco-activists moved into rural communes and lived in tent-like structures in a form of protest against high-rise congestion. The type of green architecture that we know today began to arise in the 1970s, when oil price increases acted as a catalyst for research on improving energy efficiency and finding renewable resources. This also spurred corporate and government investment in solar, wind, water, and geothermal sources of power. 

Environmental advocacy continued to grow well into the mid-1980s and through the 1990s. By 1994, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards were created by the U.S. Green Building Council. This provided criteria for the design and construction of environmentally responsible buildings, and encouraged sustainable practices in design. Some of these standards include encouraging the reuse of existing buildings whenever possible, monitoring water usage, encouraging the use of locally sourced materials that are free from harmful chemicals, and increasing energy efficiency. 

Green architecture today

As we continue to develop new technology, green architecture is also evolving. Most recently, you may have heard of “smart homes”. A smart home is a house with a convenient setup that allows appliances to be automatically controlled remotely from anywhere via the use of an internet connection. Homeowners can control thermostats, lights, and other appliances with a simple touch of a button. Additionally, many of these appliances can be set to automatically go off at a certain time, or when the room reaches a certain temperature. This helps save energy and saves the homeowner money. These concepts can also apply to businesses.

Many buildings around the world have committed to going green. A few of our favorite examples include:

  • The Pixel Building in Melbourne, Australia – This was Australia’s first carbon-neutral office building, generating its own power and water on-site! Its roof captures rainwater and it has structures that help process wastewater.
  • Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China – This building features a transparent “second skin” that creates a buffer of captured air for natural ventilation, which reduces energy costs. It also features 270 wind turbines to power its exterior lights!
  • The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington – This six-story office building was formulated to be carbon and energy neutral. Additionally, it has a self-sufficient water and sewer processing system.
  • ACROS Fukuoka Foundation Building in Fukuoka, Japan – Opened in 1995, this building fuses natural greenery with eco-architecture. It features a large atrium for natural lighting and has systematic water drainage that allows natural irrigation to take place.

As you can see, green architecture is a great step towards sustainability! There are so many ways to make a building environmentally friendly– We encourage you to explore options!

Here at Architecture Plus, we love creating eco-friendly designs and contributing to the architectural industry with new ideas and ways to improve! We are always willing to take on environmentally friendly design projects, so feel free to reach out to us! We hope you found this article informative and we hope to see you back on the blog soon as we continue to dive into various topics regarding architecture. Perhaps something might spark inspiration for your next project! For more information on architectural design and building, keep up-to-date with the Architecture Plus blog. If you’re ready to sit down with an experienced team of designers and hash out the elements of your next project, reach out to us! We’re eager to hear from you. Until next time, thank you for reading!