March 28, 2016
It’s already a common to discuss topics as sustainable architecture, carbon footprint in construction, and its environmental impact, among many other similar ones. But what do we precisely mean by sustainability in this field? When can we talk about sustainable architecture?
The growing recognition of the environmental and social challenges that our society is facing has led us to reconsider many aspects of our work, especially the type of buildings and infrastructure we should design to minimize environmental impact and promote more efficient use of natural resources.
Have you ever wondered what the ARCHITECTURE OF THE FUTURE will look like?
In collaboration with TPO Pride Architects, Zaha Hadid’s studio has developed a master plan for the western part of Moscow, covering an area of about 1137 acres, aiming to accommodate the city’s rapid and continuous growth without increasing congestion in its center.
This plan projects a “futuristic city”, a city based on technology, where sustainability is one of the main foundations. The master plan aims to optimize energy consumption and production by promoting electric mobility within the city.
There’s no doubt that we all agree that the path to that future lies hand in hand with sustainability. But what are we doing to make it happen? As architects, how can we contribute our part to this transformation process?
Let’s talk about the regulatory aspect of architecture. Increasing “green” standards and certifications regulate and establish specific parameters in the construction process and for building performance, maintenance, and operation.
Sustainable certifications are recognitions granted by specialized organizations that assess the environmental, social, and economic performance of a building. Among them, the most prominent and developed ones today are:
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): An international certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which evaluates various aspects of building design, construction, and operation, including energy efficiency, water use, waste management, indoor air quality, and the use of sustainable materials.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method): A certification created in the United Kingdom and widely used in Europe. It assesses similar aspects to LEED and measures building performance in categories such as energy, water, materials, health and well-being, and management.
EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies): Created by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, it focuses on promoting the construction of more energy-efficient buildings regarding energy consumption, water, and energy embodied in materials and processes.}
WELL Building Standard: Developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), this standard focuses on the health and well-being of building occupants. It evaluates air quality, water, lighting, thermal comfort, nutrition, and physical activity.
In addition to the positive impact sustainable certifications have had on the architecture and construction industry, it’s important to highlight some of the challenges they face, as they offer both environmental and long-term economic benefits. These buildings tend to be more efficient, reducing operating and maintenance costs and offsetting the increases in initial investments.
Other essential points addressed by these certifications, in one way or another, include:
1. IMPROVEMENT IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY
2. RESPONSIBLE USE OF RESOURCES
3. REDUCTION OF CARBON EMISSIONS
4. PROMOTION OF HEALTHY SPACES
Sustainable certifications have proven to be a powerful tool for driving change but raising awareness, education, and promoting more responsible technologies and practices are also essential to reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry and create healthier and more environmentally-friendly spaces.
There are also other fundamental tools to achieve this goal:
1. Strategic Planning:
This is the fundamental pillar in any sustainable architecture project, as it involves a deep analysis of the project’s objectives and requirements and a detailed understanding of the physical and social environment in which it will be developed. This approach helps identify specific opportunities and challenges related to sustainability. It defines clear goals for design and construction, considering the end user’s specific needs and providing appropriate solutions.
2. Building Information Modeling (BIM):
BIM facilitates collaboration among design and construction team members, improves informed decision-making, and helps reduce errors and rework during construction. Additionally, it allows to simulate the building’s performance in terms of energy efficiency, natural lighting, airflow, and resource consumption, optimizing its sustainable performance from the early stages of development.
3. Lean Philosophy:
Lean thinking also encourages innovation in design and construction, seeking more straightforward and more effective solutions that, at the same time, reduce environmental impact. By focusing on efficiency and reducing the consumption of resources, a culture of responsibility towards the environment and society in general is promoted.
Sustainable architecture is essential for a more resilient and environmentally respectful future. Strategic planning, the use of BIM, and the Lean philosophy are powerful tools that enable the design and construction of more efficient buildings and infrastructure with a lower environmental impact. At BAM, we support and believe that this is the right path: global awareness, research, and development in the sustainable field. That is why every day we specialize more in this subject, and we emphasize incorporating these practices and methodologies in each development, project or work of which we are part.
What tools are you implementing to contribute to this transformation journey?