How has architecture been shaped by the green revolution?

The green revolution is concerned with providing solutions to environmental issues such as global warming and pollution, and has shaped a form of architecture known as ‘green architecture’.

Green architects design energy efficient buildings. They focus on using sustainable materials in building construction, creating buildings that respect the physical and emotional health of the building’s occupants.

There are specialist green architects that, as well as having the standard degrees in architecture, have additional qualifications in environmental subjects. An architectural firm may not employ a qualified green architect, but most firms will take environmental issues into account when designing new buildings.

Many companies have green policies, and any buildings that they occupy need to conform to these policies.

The green revolution influences several aspects of building design, including energy efficiency, building materials, waste, and how a building fits into the local environment.

Energy efficiency

Architects need to add energy efficiency technologies to their green building designs. This can include renewable energy such as solar panels and wind power. Energy conservation can be achieved using many technologies, including insulation, A-rated double glazing systems and smart energy technology controls.

Sustainability and natural materials

Buildings can include natural materials such as stone, wood, straw and earth. A green architect will make sure that any natural substance will come from sustainable sources. Wood needs to be harvested from responsibly felled forests that replace fallen trees with new ones.

Many manufactured materials, such as plastic, involve the use of fossil fuels, which many regard as not environmentally friendly. Green architecture often uses alternative and more natural materials. Some manufactured materials may be toxic and this is given as a compelling reason for avoiding them.

The use of natural materials can add to the visual appeal of a building too. A building incorporating lots of natural wood will generally be seen as more aesthetically pleasing than a one made mainly from concrete.

Recycling

Recycling is not just about how the occupants of a building handle its waste; the building itself can include recycled products. Materials made from old tyres, glass and plastic bottles have been developed from recycled materials, and these can all form part of the design of a building.

Respecting the local environment

A building usually does not exist in isolation, but tends to be one building amongst many others. Architects respect the local environment by building structures that fit into the local ecology. Green buildings need to be in harmony with the local environment.

Health

A green building needs to respect the health of its occupants.

Many people working in traditional office buildings suffer from what is known as ‘sick building syndrome’ where a number of symptoms including headaches and nausea are claimed to be caused by the building they work in.

There is some controversy and disagreement about exactly what aspect of the building construction causes these symptoms. Some people blame working for long hours at computer monitors, especially if their seating and workstations are not ergonomically designed. Other symptoms could be the result of stress.

Most experts believe that there is not one cause but a combination of factors that can contribute to sick building syndrome. These include poor ventilation, low humidity, electrostatic charges, high temperature changes, airborne particles and poor lighting. These are all elements that can be addressed by in the design of a building.

Other issues resulting from dirt and contaminated ventilation systems can be addressed by regular maintenance and cleaning.

Example of green architecture

There are many examples of architecture that have been shaped by the green revolution.

The Nanjing Green Lighthouses in China is a large building that has a net-zero energy status, where renewable energy exceeds the energy the building consumes.

Hanover Olympic Building in Los Angeles is a solar-powered apartment block that is built from sustainable materials, including recycled glass and reclaimed wood. Like the Nanjing Green Lighthouses, it has zero-energy consumption and sends its excess power to the city’s electricity grid.

The Kathlees Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability in New York has a large solar panel roof and consumes half the power of the average public school building.

The benefits of green buildings

The green revolution has impacted many areas of life and architecture is no exception. With extreme weather, the loss of rainforests and the pollution of the environment threatening the destruction of the natural world, people who support the green revolution are demanding action and many architects are listening to their calls.

Recent research in the United States found that buildings accounted for 39% of a city’s total energy use and 28% of carbon dioxide emissions. Green buildings that reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission can make a huge difference to these statistics.

Green buildings have a multitude of environmental benefits, including enhancing and protectng the biodiversity and ecosystems. Green-designed buildings can improve air quality and reduce waste. They conserve and restore natural resources.

Green buildings can also have economic benefit. As they use less energy and incorporate renewable energy technologies, they are cheaper to operate. Research has also found that working in a clean, light, airy, environmentally friendly building enhances the health and comfort of people working in them, and thus increase their happiness. These workers are more productive, which adds to the company profits, making it a good deal for everybody.

The future

In the future, environmental issues will probably continue to dominate the news. More companies and organisations will demand that green issues be a major concern when engaging architects to design their new buildings.

People that work in green buildings will also want their homes to be built on green principles, and this will influence the design of new homes.

For clients not familiar with green issues, architects can point out the many benefits of green buildings. The economic benefits alone may be enough to persuade organisations to adopt green architecture principles in their buildings.

The trend means that architects cannot afford to ignore green issues. They need to be up to date with all the current and emerging green technologies.

Posted by Mark
October 5, 2016
Features

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