The concept of sustainable architecture is revolutionizing the way both our homes and our commercial buildings are constructed. The primary purpose of sustainable architecture is to minimize man’s impact on his environment while still providing the comfortable dwellings and commercial buildings that humans have come to expect. The primary goal of sustainable architecture is to maintain energy efficiency for the life of the building and minimize the footprint left to future generations.
Using the concept of passive solar design, buildings are placed to maximize the heating elements of the sun for heating the structure. Windows are placed with a southern exposure so that in the cooler months, maximum heat is achieved from those solar rays.
In the warmer months, awnings and deciduous trees shade the windows from the sun. In addition, energy-efficient windows maximize the insulation properties of the windows, which generally allow considerable heat loss in the winter or heat absorption in the summer.
Solar heating panels are a standard of sustainable architecture; they are used both to generate hot water as well as heat for the building, swimming pools and Jacuzzis. Solar energy panels also generate electricity that harnesses the power in the sun’s rays and leaves virtually no ecologic footprint.
Although smaller wind turbines are available to generate electricity, they can be less effective than solar panels depending on wind conditions for the area. Wind turbines need wind within certain limits to function effectively.
Additionally, the structural design of the building plays an important role in sustainable architecture. Ranch style structures, or those that are flat and have a large footprint, are less environmentally efficient than those that are more compact. The saltbox design of home, popular in the 1700’s and the 1800’s, is an excellent example of a heat-efficient building.
Not only is design a key element in sustainable architecture, but the materials used also play a vital role. Bamboo is perhaps one of the most popular renewable building materials; it grows very fast and is very durable. Other renewable materials are less well-known, such as sheep’s wool, sorghum, coconut, flax, cork, straw, sisal and locally obtained rock.
Often, sustainable architecture uses recycled materials from structures that were erected by traditional methods.
Inherent in any building inhabited by humans is the issue of waste disposal. Sustainable architecture uses onsite waste management processes to reduce this to a negligible amount. Recycling grey water into landscape irrigation, using aerobic composting toilets, and composting food waste into fertilizer significantly reduces the ecologic footprint of a building. Recycling systems also capture the heat from water leaving the building and use that to generate power.
Sustainable architecture is mandatory to maintain the planet in a manner that will enable future generations to thrive in a pollution-free world.Sponsors: