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What Is The Meaning Of Green Architecture?
Green Architecture is an expansive topic and the intention of this blog is to provide an introduction into the concept and not offer a full explanation of the subject. At its most basic Green Architecture is a sustainable and environmental friendly method of building design and construction. It uses a design approach that will reduce the building’s environmental impact, not only during its construction, but also during its end use.
A key aspect of Green Architecture is that of energy efficiency. There are many aspects and approaches to creating environmentally friendly buildings, but the majority of them come back to the concept of saving energy to reduce the production of carbon.
What Are The Benefits Of Green Architecture?
- Reduced emissions and carbon footprint
- Protection of the environment & ecosystems
- Improved air and water quality
- Conservation of water
- Reduction of waste during construction & occupation
- Reduction in the reliance on natural resources
- Natural temperature control
- Increase in the size of the environmental economy – the “Green Markets”
- Reduced running costs
- Building life cycle savings – long term running costs
- Increase in property market for environmental housing
- Improved occupant comfort & health
- Greening of cities and streets, in a physical context with vegetation
- Reduced strain on local infrastructure architecture as a tool to increase the social, moral and economic conscience of occupants
- Passive design strategies – the use and control of the natural and free energy available from the Sun. As a minimum it can help reduce the need for additional space heating. At its extreme it can remove the need for any additional heating for all but the very coldest of days. The design will take into consideration the building’s global location, shape, orientation, including the sun path and solar gains available
- Structure’s first approach – using the building’s physical structure to affect, improve and control the building’s energy use and heat loss, that will last the whole life of the building rather than the life of the technology
- Developing strategies – design principles that rely on naturally available elements, primarily light and ventilation that have been proven to have a positive impact on productivity and well being
- Product choice – use of high-efficiency lighting and controls, flexibility to control lighting and levels as you move through a building, rather than leaving lights on in areas not in use. Use of task specific lighting to reduce energy use
- Energy-efficient heat/cooling system – when this is not provided by the building fabric, the use of a mechanical system, sized and designed to work directly with the space will reduce energy use and carbon production
- Reduced carbon production – reducing energy requirement (load) by product choice and use, will reduce the carbon produced as part of the use and occupation of the building, and ultimately saves money on fuel bills
- Alternative energy sources – the use of small power generation such as photovoltaic panels, solar heating and ground source heat pumps
- Computer modelling and testing – there are programmes available that model and test a building’s overall performance to ensure the points spoken about above will work and achieve the highest levels of energy efficiency
- Sustainable materials – all products have a carbon footprint and embodied energy, this is the amount of energy used, and the carbon produced, in the manufacture and transportation of any material or product. The correct choice of material will allow for recycling and/or recycled material content products with a low or zero global warming affect or toxicity. Careful material choice will affect how products are produced along the whole supply chain; remove the market and you remove the production of harmful materials and products
- Modular design – has been spoken about in context of scale and proportion, but with regards to Green Architecture it relates to a building’s design and is built to specific repeating sizes and off site manufacturing. This often relates to dimensional planning, where the size of a building responds to the size of the product being used. This reduces the need for cutting and waste, often associated with sheet material. Improved working facilities and only having to handle already processed materials reduce build times and cost
- Reuse of reclaimed material and recycling or recycled products – this not only reduces the cost and time of sourcing new products, it also means that materials on site do not need to be removed from site or sent to landfill, which is both costly and often unnecessary
While we live in a coastal wet climate, water use and water supplies will become major global issues as the climate warms, and weather systems shift. Reducing our personal water use is the one element we have in control of in our homes, turning off taps and not wasting water is the biggest contribution most people can make to water consumption.
- Rain Water collection – known as dual plumbing systems, they use a combination of collected and recycled water, “grey water”, to carry out the flushing toilets and other non-potable water requirements
- Reduce water consumption by use of dual and low flush toilets, provide flow restrictors on bathroom taps and showers
- Central heating systems should be recirculating systems
How Can The Construction Industry Make An Impact?
There are many contributing factors and industries that are impacting on the environment and global warming. There is however no denying the effects that the built environment has on the global issues of resource use and carbon production. The construction industry and indeed designers, are a large part of this issue, we shouldn’t be talking about Green Architecture, as all architecture should be environmentally designed. The cost, knowledge and availability of products are all factors as to why it is not a primary driver in building design. Governments and local authorities sign global and national agreements for the reduction of greenhouse gasses and the environmental impact that industries have. It does seem that these agreements, dates and requirements are reduced, moved or disappear entirely when the name of schemes are changed during government reshuffles.
While there are long term government goals for regulation changes the cynical will say that there is no fixed date for zero carbon homes. It was supposed to be 2012 and then it was 2016 and now it may be 2020, with a future target date of 2050 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of the level that they were at in 1990. Is 2050 to late? Given the last few years of global weather events associated with changes to sea currents and meandering Jet stream, the damage could be done. Many parents worry about the financial security of their children, however few worry about the world that they will be leaving their children. British standards for construction set out minimum standards for all aspects of construction and their environmental requirements. The extent that a designer goes beyond these depends on the clients desires, we always aim to make marginal improvements but it is possible to design buildings that in real terms mean that you would never need to pay for another utility bill again.