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Eco-Architecture: A Greener Future Through Sustainable Building Designs

The evidence for the coming effects of climate change is compelling. As our world is progressively becoming more densely populated, a collective sociocultural movement towards restructuring our societies to mitigate the effects of climate change is taking flight. From record floods, storms and catastrophic natural disasters, climate change is demonstrating itself as a threat in a myriad of ways. 

The good news is, there’s reason to be optimistic. The next age in our society is the push towards sustainable development. This will involve the precise rearrangement of assets and restructuring our civilisation in a way that is as harmless to our natural environments as possible. The world is calling on new innovations from our younger generations to find ways to keep the Earth inhabitable for a sustainable future.

What Is Sustainable Architecture All About? 

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A topic of hot debate is how architecture could play a role in creating carbon-neutral cities. When it comes to sustainable architecture the future environmental implications are promising. The question is, what exactly is it that will make a building carbon neutral? Sustainable architecture is all about minimising the environmental impacts associated with a structure and how its operations are conducted. There are a few key factors that come in to play when reducing the environmental footprint of a building. Whether it be through energy usage, building materials or waste management plans, this article will outline a few key aspects of sufficient sustainable architecture.

Renewable Energy in Commercial Architecture

Efficient allocation of energy to power a building is the core of what lowers its impact on the environment. There’s many factors that come into play to make a building functional. Whether it be ventilation systems, elevators or lighting, architects focusing on sustainable development are tasked with implementing ideas that will mitigate the overall energy consumption of a building. 

– Solar panels

In basic terms, solar panels generate a flow of electricity through the conversion of particles of light into energy. Solar panels are a myriad of photovoltaic cells that are tasked with the conversion of sun rays into energy. The greatest part of employing solar panels is how they’re truly a source of renewable energy. They can be placed on top of buildings in areas exposed to the sun, and they provide a neutral way to collect energy to substitute current methods that are unsustainable. They reduce electricity bills, require low maintenance costs and are constantly being advanced with new designs that are more efficient. Green architects are flocking to the opportunity to implement solar panels to the top of buildings or in surrounding areas. 

– Wind turbines

Wind turbines collect kinetic energy from wind channels and generate clean, sustainable and environmentally friendly electricity for use in residential homes and commercial buildings. Wind power has been used in many ways for hundreds of years. During the industrial revolution, for example, large-scale windmills were built to generate power for factories and other workplaces.

– Hydropower

Hydropower is one of the most promising forms of renewable energy as it involves little pollution of the environment. Unlike other sources of alternative energy, hydropower does not use fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases. Also, unlike other renewable energy sources, hydropower has the potential to help offset the use of other nonrenewable resources.

The major drawback of hydropower is its high cost. Hydropower requires a dam to be built, which requires significant capital. The landscape and environment need to be optimal to construct a hydropower plant. Despite these factors, the long-term gain of generating hydroelectric power is compelling. For architects to design environmentally-neutral buildings, using hydroelectric power, if available, should be a priority. 

Eco-Friendly Building Materials

When it comes to constructing a building through the use of environmentally sustainable materials, architects have a few main options. For commercial high-rises, it should be noted that there will be structural requirements with the use of engineer-approved materials. However, architects should be strategizing which parts of their designs they can substitute for environmentally responsible materials. A few examples include: 

  1. Vertical Gardens

The use of vertical gardens is not only a beautiful aesthetic, but it’s also proving to result in several positive impacts on an office or commercial building as a whole. Incorporating a vertical garden in your office space cleanses the air in the room. This has been proven to bolster the mental health of employees, attributing to more efficient output in work in an office environment. 

If you’re an architect, finding a way to slip a vertical garden into your office design should be among your highest priorities. The positive benefits from doing so are overwhelming. Not only will your building design become aesthetically beautiful, but it’ll also reduce the environmental footprint of your design as a whole. The benefits from vertical gardens are overwhelming!

  1. Bamboo 

Bamboo is increasing in popularity for its durability and evergreen potential as a building material. Traditionally, bamboo was a popular building material in asian cultures. It continues to bring a harmonious feel when implemented into modern architectural designs.

  1.  Recycled steel

Reused steel is a trending building material which uses recycled steel to substitute new building materials.  Recycled steel can be found in various forms. The amount of carbon dioxide released when you use reclaimed metal is far less than that which is released by burning fossil fuels. Hence, the positive environmental implications are evident. 

The only disadvantage of using reclaimed steel is the amount of money needed to purchase it. But if your company has the budget, using recycled steel can be a great way to perk up the green potential of your building design. 

  1. Precast Concretes

Concrete can be recycled, which makes it a great option for an environmentally responsible construction recourse. Precast concrete has also come to be very popular in the commercial interior design world where it can provide a cost-effective and durable solution for flooring applications. Precast concrete forms can be purchased ready-made from your local home improvement store, as well as precast concrete forms sold online. As you can imagine, precast concrete forms are generally quite expensive compared to other forms of concrete that require pouring and curing (such as slab foundations). 

This form of concrete is less expensive than poured concrete, which means that building a structure with precast concrete forms can save you money in the long run. And because precast concrete forms can be quickly constructed and assembled when you need them, they make an excellent choice for those who need concrete fast.

Waste Management Plans in Architecture

Infographic by Courtesy of Centre for Architecture (AIANY)

One of the biggest influencers of recycling is through education. As an eco-architect, your waste-disposal layout should be as easy to follow as possible, whilst encouraging the building’s inhabitants to dispose of their rubbish correctly.

Because of the scope of trash being irresponsibly disposed of every day, architects and engineers are asking themselves how they can conceptualise ways to implement trash-disposal methods into their designs to reduce their building’s environmental footprint. 

Waste management plans are a fundamental part of all waste disposal, involving waste disposal, recycling, and the management of hazardous waste. Mismanagement and wasting of valuable natural resources are far too prevalent in today’s society. A waste disposal plan in architecture is written and visual documentation that outlines guidelines for the efficient and proper disposal of hazardous waste in an organisation, industry, or community. 

A few of the factors architects need to consider in their designs are:

  1. Waste separation and disposal: involves formulating convenient ways for inhabitants of the building to segment their waste on their own accord to place it in the correct bin. For example, clearly outlining which sort of materials should be placed in ‘general waste’ such as food scraps, nappies, light globes, organic matter etc. 
  2. Extracting as much recyclable material as possible from general waste: on the contrary, architects also need to find ways to clearly outline what sort of materials need to be recycled. For example: aluminium cans, rigid plastic water bottles, cardboard, etc. By extracting as much recyclable waste as possible from your waste management plan, it reduces the overall carbon footprint of your building.
  3. Waste storage and collection: as well as making sure that your waste is being segmented correctly, it’s also essential to provide sufficient space in your building design for the waste accrued weekly (in commercial buildings). On top of making this space, making an efficient spot for bin-collection companies makes for a more efficient design. If rubbish needs to be transported through elevators etc, you’ll be increasing the amount of energy required to dispose of your rubbish correctly. For this reason, efficient waste collection plans in your architectural design also contribute to the overall sustainability of your design.

Building Placement

Another prominent issue of sustainable architecture is building placement. Although you or your boss might want to build his office or home in a beautiful and isolated location, your decision to do so will have a flow on effects that affect the environment. The butterfly effect from this will substantially disrupt the food chain as a whole. For this reason, opting for areas already populated or making use of building space over abandoned buildings is a far better alternative to destroying parts of the environment. 

When Will Environmentally Sustainable Architecture Really Take Flight?

The great news is, socio-cultural movements towards a greener future is not only a hot topic, but it is also a positive investment for companies. Most higher tier architecture companies are flocking to the opportunity to improve the evergreen potential of their building designs. If you happen to be in Melbourne Co-lab Architecture are building a strong name for themselves among their community in modern commercial architecture in Melbourne. Otherwise, it won’t be uncommon for you to ask around to your local architects about eco-architecture to get nothing but a positive response and an optimistic attitude. Hence, from here on in you can expect to see a gradual increase in environmentally sustainable commercial building designs that will truly flourish in a few years. The future of architecture is truly exciting! 

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