Green Light for.. dictionary! All you need to know about “sustainable architecture”

Written by Camilla Mariani 

Sustainable architecture is architecture that tries to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings through efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, development space and the ecosystem at large; sustainable architecture uses a particular approach made of consciousness in the design of the built environment.
In order to understand how it really works, we have to consider the “three pillars” of this phenomenon: first of all, it involves a sustainable energy system; the use of sustainable materials that enrich every kind of buildings and last, but not least, a cautious way to manage the waste.
Surfing the net, an article has captured my attention. The writer, Charles Newman, reports the best six practices for sustainable architecture.

1. Regulate temperature with Earth and sun.

Surprisingly, the strategic use of thermal mass can allow a livable space to remain at 22 Celsius degrees year-round with no mechanical heating or cooling.

2. Harvest rainwater.

Rainwater catchment is a common way for reducing carbon footprint, but with a little effort of filtering it can become water for washing, cooking and drinking.

3. Generate power from renewables.

The author suggests a shift from a centralized distribution system of electrical power to a decentralized system of local energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro.

4. Harvest gray water for growing food.

Many cutting-edge, modern buildings use filtered gray water (water already used for cleaning or cooking) to flush toilets. Such filtering systems remove several nutrients that could be useful for planting systems.

5. Treat sewage locally.

In the past, humans used to move waste underground to a single point and it is usually either dumped in the sea or passed through facilities. By managing the sewage locally, the black water may represent a resource to irrigate landscapes or crops.

6. Build with recycling materials.

Using materials that would otherwise go directly to a landfill is both responsible and cost effective when the project is well structured and organized.

Despite all these tips, we have to consider the reality. In everyone’s imagination, when we think about our dream house, the first thoughts are linked to beauty, modernity, advanced technology and design.
Rather than environmentally friendly.

Today’s architecture, however, takes care of everything.
The famous French designer and architect Philippe Starck has teamed-up with Slovenian prefab firm Riko for the realization of the Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes3. Even if this project dates back to some years ago, I think it could be a good example that combines the aesthetic beauty and a particular attention towards the environment.
As well as being available in multiple shapes and sizes, PATH houses can sport an all glass outer shell, a combination of wood and glass shell or fully wooden shell. Optional sustainable tech provides a roof-based solar array, roof-based wind turbine and a rainwater collection and filtration system.
This project seems to be very “green”.  
As the French designer declares “Actions are needed, not products”. In his thoughts, the project has to improve life of the greatest number of people, to stimulate new solutions and habits, to promote a renewed and conscious commitment toward the world around us.

It’s interesting to analyze the sustainable architecture also from a commercial point of view. Tammy Davis, in 2016, writes on Business People that “Commercial building design trends evolve toward minimizing environmental impact”.

The commercial building design and realization has changed day by day: buzzwords such as environmental impact, energy efficiency and green architecture enter the conversation with an increasingly attention, and clients with commercial building projects want to incorporate some form of sustainability into their design. The most important thing that the writer underlines, is the fact that architects and engineers no longer considering “building green” as an alternative methodology; they integrate environmentally friendly concepts, practices and design into every project they undertake.

While the interpretation of what it means to be green can be very widely, there is a fixed point about client’s budget for the project: Local Firms Design Collaborative and MSKTD & Associates agree that the first step in any project is to asses a client’s needs, particularly with respect to budget constraints. Although upfront costs are typically higher for many building materials and systems with higher efficiencies, reduced energy usage can recoup these cost over time. In general, a three-to-five years payback period offers enough incentives to clients to undertake the project.

Green building incorporates a broad view of a project, from the creation of the materials used in it to the disposal of waste from them. It also takes into account the way the structure willbe used and how people will access it. Bike paths and racks, for example, can reduce the need for automobile access and its corresponding emissions”.  This statement perfectly sums up the meaning of “sustainable architecture”, as well as anticipating the future trends in the green building sector, which is increasingly dynamic and ever-changing.