3 Buildings Leading the Way in Sustainable Architecture
As the popularity of “green” living continues to grow, sustainable architecture has received greater attention. It’s relatively simple to make eco-friendly decisions throughout the day, but how do you make a large-scale investment in sustainability? How do you integrate those eco-friendly principles in modern buildings?
Architects and design professionals have grappled with this question for many years. The massive amount of carbon emissions and waste from the commercial and residential building sector is a pressing problem. Sustainable architecture represents a solution, and it’s more accessible than many believe.
Homeowners can improve their sustainability with an investment in energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, and similar technologies. Professionals who are actively engaged in planning can incorporate these same systems and eco-friendly materials into their build — often to incredible effect.
With that in mind, we’ll explore the value of sustainable architecture with examples of today’s most impressive structures. Here are three incredible buildings leading the way.
1. Shenzhen Energy Mansion
The Shenzhen Energy Mansion resides in the cultural, political and business center of China’s “Silicon Valley.” Danish architects, Bjarke Ingles Group, designed it as a green landmark and model for modern skyscrapers, though “modern” isn’t exactly accurate. It’s far more futuristic in its application of green technologies.
An undulating building envelope helps to maximize the building’s performance and workplace comfort. Elegant, pleated structures accommodate a passive energy reduction strategy, with a rippled skin that serves as a superior alternative to the conventional glass curtain wall facade familiar to many office workers.
Concerning the success of the design, the Shenzhen Energy Mansion’s sustainable facade system decreases its total building energy consumption by up to 30%. It’s an example of “engineering without engines,” where a building manager can reduce their dependence on machinery and let the architecture fulfill its purpose.
2. The R.W. Kern Center
The R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College is the 17th certified “Living Building,” meeting the criteria for the world’s most advanced green building standard. An impressive example of sustainability, it produces its own electricity, collects its own water and includes no “red list” chemicals in its composition.
As context, the R.W. Kern Center is part of a larger initiative by Hampshire College to make its campus operations carbon neutral. Beyond the 17,000-square-foot center, Hampshire plans to transition to 100% solar power, an admirable goal which will set an important precedent for other universities across the country.
Presently, the center serves as a living laboratory where students and the general public can study its systems and performance. They’re able to see how the structure earned its credentials as a “Living Building.” In doing so, they can take their insights and apply them elsewhere for similar sustainability initiatives.
3. Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
The Ng Teng Fong General Hospital is similar to other buildings in Singapore. It incorporates green roofs, vertical plantings, and parks throughout its campus, providing a pleasant, refreshing experience for patients. What makes the hospital different is its dramatic deviation from local trends in healthcare.
Unlike most hospitals in the city-state, it offers direct access to fresh air, light and outdoor views to aid in recovery. Around 70% of the facility depends on natural ventilation and cooling from fans, exterior shading, and cross ventilation — features which reduce the stress on the region’s water resources.
In terms of savings, the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital uses 38% less energy than a typical hospital in the area. Its high quality of care for patients, progressive design and successful application of green practices make it one of the leading examples of sustainable architecture in its category.
Recurring Elements in Green Construction
The buildings above are all remarkable, but they’re not exactly the standard for sustainable architecture. Architects and design professionals can work toward sustainability in more subtle ways, integrating eco-friendly building materials in the early stages of development. To that end, they have many options.
For example, architectural wire cloth allows for the free flow of air and light while securing the safety of a building’s occupants. With a reduction in energy consumption and minimized internal and external pollution, it’s one of the top solutions for sustainability. Architects and design professionals can also turn to timber framing and insulated concrete formwork if they’re working on the structural system of a building. Among the many elements of green construction, its structure is integral to reaching high levels of energy efficiency and achieving the desired certification.
After the shell design is complete, eco-conscious builders can implement a range of renewable technologies. Of their many options, they can choose photovoltaic panels, solar thermal panels, and ground-source or air-source heat pumps. A combination of these systems and green materials will help them meet their goals.
The Argument for Sustainable Architecture
Traditional techniques for construction are wasteful, harming the Earth and draining its resources. Now more than ever, we have to redouble our commitment to conservation and adapt to higher standards of sustainability. In doing so, we can adjust our current trajectory and restore environmental harmony.
This may seem like an enormous responsibility, and it is. But the Shenzhen Energy Mansion, R.W. Kern Center and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital have all shown that we have the means to effect change. With motivation, that change can spread across the world and make it a better place to live for generations to come.