Sustainable architecture is designing buildings keeping in mind environmental goals and sustainable development. The terms green architecture or green buildings are often used interchangeably with sustainable architecture to promote this definition further. In a broader sense and taking into account the pressing economic and political issues, sustainable architecture seeks to reduce the negative environmental impact of the buildings by increasing efficiency and moderation in the utilization of building materials, energy and development space. Similarly, green architecture denotes economical, energy-saving, environmentally-friendly, sustainable development and explores the relationship between architecture and ecology.
In a case strongly promoting sustainable architecture, some experts have laid down certain basic elements that will help us to contribute to this matter further.
Large houses generally use a tremendous amount of energy to heat and cool. They also consume far more building materials which may have their own environmental consequences. In a move to do away with such wastefulness, small houses are now being preferred allowing one to conserve energy and avoid unnecessary depletion of natural resources.
Nothing can be more comfortable for body and mind than living in a good solar-heated house. If designed ecologically, good passive solar energy provides just enough sunlight into the rooms to be absorbed by the surrounding thermal mass which acts as a heat battery and gives the warmth back into the room when the sun goes down. Crushed volcanic rock and straw bales make for good thermal mass insulation and designs in a green house
Among the several ways to conserve fossil fuel and produce electricity are using the natural powers of the sun, wind, or water.
The use of low water capacity toilets, flow restrictors at shower heads and faucet aerators are now being used as a part of sustainable architecture. More radical water conservation approaches include diverting gray water from bathing, clothes washing and bathroom sinks to watering plants; catching rain water from roofs and paved areas for domestic use. Landscaping with drought tolerant plants can also save water.
Using local and natural materials
Nature has been benevolent enough to provide us with several materials to build with, no matter what region you live in. If you use local materials for construction, processing and transporting hassles are minimized thereby also keeping environmental and economic costs low. From both, an aesthetic and health point of view, building with natural materials also helps sustainable development. Natural materials would include stone, glass, lime or mud plasters, adobe or rammed earth, bricks, tiles, untreated wood, cork, paper, reeds, bamboo, canes and grasses as well as all natural fibers. Including plants in your living space can greatly enhance the natural ambiance. Plants not only look nice, but they also release oxygen into the air, and some of them can actually filter some pollutants out of the air.
Saving our forests
While wood is most definitely a renewable source of energy we have gone beyond sustainable harvesting and ruined our eco-systems through deforestation. Wood must be used as little as possible and mainly for decorations. Cull dead trees for structural supports. Use masonry, straw bales; paper crepe, cob, adobe, rocks, bags of volcanic rock, etc., instead of wood. Homes can be made with certified sustainable harvested trees. This means that the forests where the trees are cut down from are carefully monitored to ensure that the health and character of the forest is maintained. Only certain trees are culled periodically, leaving the remaining trees to grow and contribute to a healthy ecosystem.
One of the important elements of sustainable architecture is durability. If a building doesn’t stand the test of time, it would be a waste of energy, from all perspective, human, resource and economic.