Sustainable Design: How it can benefit you and help build a better world.
Sustainable design and green building have become popular buzzwords in recent years. But we have seen these terms become so overused that it’s hard for people to know what they really mean, especially when applied to design and construction.
So let’s start by defining what sustainability is – and what that means when applied to architectural design.
What is sustainable design?
At its most basic definition, sustainability means living from today’s resources without depleting them for tomorrow’s generations.
We believe that we have a responsibility to our children and their children to be responsible stewards of the Earth we all call home.
The truth is, the environmental impact of building and development can be tremendous. From the raw materials used and waste created during the building process, to the consumption of fossil fuels required to keep a building heated and cooled over the course of its use, traditional buildings can be incredibly wasteful.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable, which means once they are depleted they are gone forever. Also, as populations increase, the drain on our shared resources only increases exponentially.
Sustainable Design can include many things such as:
Minimizing reliance on non-renewable energy
Using renewable energy such as solar power
Designing communities to reduce waste and increase efficiency
Sustainable vs. “Green”
It’s important to note that using “green” or “environmentally friendly” products and techniques are not enough to ensure sustainability.
So rather than just a set of “green” products or techniques, sustainable design is about taking a holistic approach, looking at the larger picture and all of the factors and consequences involved in the process.
THE SOCIETAL BENEFITS OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
Humans are social beings, and buildings live within the context of our collective existence.
They are an exterior expression of the layers of community that bind us together.
Buildings that use less energy, water and sewage utilities will ultimately result in less strain on public infrastructure, lower costs for the community, fewer power plants and transmission lines.
Widespread adoption of sustainable design will lead to less pollution through stormwater runoff. Thus, a reduction in the heat island effect, which is a rise in temperature in urban areas due in part to paved surfaces absorbing and reflecting heat.
Studies show that people who occupy healthier, more comfortable buildings are happier, more productive, and tend to carry that general well-being back to their families and friends in the community.
All of these examples illustrate how changes to just one building can have widespread ripple effects, improving the conditions of the surrounding community.
GOING BEYOND SUSTAINABLE
A green building is also a healthy building for you, your staff, and your customers.
Sustainable design is a noble goal, and a growing movement.
But there’s even a further level, which is “restorative design” or “restorative building,” meaning building sites and structures that actually improve the environment by restoring what we take out of our fragile ecosystem.
For example, a restorative building might …
Produce more energy than it consumes, putting the excess back into the power grid so that other buildings can meet their energy demands
Provide space for urban agriculture, such as through a “living” roof, allowing the building occupant to grow food, or plants beneficial to the local habitat
Harvest most of the water it uses for the building and landscaping, through techniques such as rainwater collection and greywater recycling
This movement to replenish what we take from the environment is the goal of some of major thought leaders in the design and construction world, and it’s where the industry is pushing towards for the future.
At Alfandre Architecture, we are always engaged in continuing education from thought leaders throughout the industry. We continually research the latest materials and methods, looking for innovation and improved ways of doing things.
Our goal is always to use sustainable design in ways that are cost-effective and beneficial for our clients.
That’s why we are committed to finding ways to help our clients incorporate sustainable design and green building techniques into their projects in ways that will work for them.
Read more about green building.