How to Achieve Sustainability in Architecture

Sustainable architecture refers to buildings designed to limit humanity’s use of resources. This eco-friendly approach is reflected in the choice of building materials, the design and implementation of heating and cooling systems, and more.

In this article, our experts share the importance of sustainable architecture, the ways to improve sustainability in architecture, and projects to look at for inspiration. In the end, you’ll see how architects are designing with environmental awareness in mind.

The Demand for Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture reduces the negative effects of construction.

The UN Environment Programme reported in 2022 that the buildings and construction sector accounted for over 34% of energy demand and around 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions in 2021.

To achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that buildings sector CO2 emissions should fall 8.3% per year over the 8-year period.

Additionally, sustainable architecture reduces household electricity bills.

Clean electricity nonprofit organization Rewiring America estimated each US household will save $1,800 per year if they install solar panels, install electric heat pumps to heat and cool their air and heat their water, and replace a gas car with an electric vehicle (EV).

5 Ways to Improve Sustainability in Architecture

Here are 5 ways to improve the sustainability of architecture.

Use Green Building Materials

Earth bricks, concrete, and wood continue to be used in everyday construction. As such, trees are cut down, and resources are mined. Green building material alternatives are used in construction today. Some of these are:

  • bamboo,
  • composite roofing shingles,
  • cork,
  • precast concrete slabs,
  • reclaimed or recycled steel,
  • reclaimed wood,
  • recycled plastic,
  • sheep’s wool,
  • straw bales,
  • and terrazzo.

Restrict Solar Heat

Residential HVAC systems are responsible for nearly 441 million tons of CO2 annually.

Using light-colored or reflective roofing materials is a construction technique that restricts solar heat absorption. Sunlight is deflected rather than absorbed into the roof, minimizing the air conditioning’s energy usage.

Install Renewable Energy Systems

Architects can also install renewable energy systems to minimize the carbon footprint of residential properties.

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource. It can even be harnessed in cloudy weather. Photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels absorb the energy from sunlight and create electrical charges.

Wind energy harnesses the energy of moving air. While average wind speeds vary by location, many parts of the world have strong wind speeds. The wind turns the blades of a wind turbine around a rotor, which spins a generator, creating electricity.

Geothermal energy uses accessible heat energy from the earth’s interior. Whereas a conventional heat pump gathers heat and removes heat through the outside air, geothermal heat pumps transfer heat through long loops of liquid-filled pipe buried in the ground.

Add a Rainwater Collection System

Rainwater harvesting, which dates back thousands of years, is now a feature of sustainable homes. The concept is simple; you catch rainwater from the roof or ground and store it for later use.

Roof catchment systems collect this water by routing it through a system of gutters and pipes into a rain barrel. Some roofing materials contaminate the water, so avoid use on cedar shake, copper, and lead roofs.

With a ground residential rainwater collection system, water is collected by drain pipes or earthen dams and stored above or below ground in tanks. The water quality may be lower and suitable for landscaping needs only.

Install Smart Appliances

Adding smart appliances to the home helps to increase its energy efficiency. Common smart appliances on the market are:

  • automatic vacuums,
  • clothes washers and dryers,
  • coffee makers,
  • dishwashers,
  • door locks,
  • light bulbs,
  • microwaves,
  • ovens,
  • refrigerators,
  • security cameras,
  • televisions,
  • and thermostats.

For example, smart ovens, with their cameras and internal thermometers, deliver information directly to a smartphone. Smart washing machines have water-saving features and smart LEDs use less electricity and last longer.

Plus, smart thermostats decrease HVAC emissions by connecting to a home’s control system and adjusting indoor temperatures based on the weather and its occupancy.

Sustainable Architecture Projects

Look at Mitchell Wall Architecture and Design’s sustainable architecture projects for inspiration.

The Energy-Efficient Home in Clayton is state-of-the-art in green technology. Traditional in style, the appearance of the cottage blends with and enhances the older neighborhood.

The home includes:

  • ample natural light to reduce the use of artificial lighting,
  • an outstanding insulation package,
  • an underground stormwater detention system,
  • enjoyable outdoor spaces,
  • geothermal heat pumps,
  • native plantings and vegetation,
  • regionally manufactured bricks,
  • and solar panels.

Other homes by Mitchell Wall Architecture and Design have elements of green technology. The California Modern House has a rooftop solar PV (photovoltaic) system.  The Ladue on Rolling Rock House uses recycled hardwood floors and ceiling beams. Plus, the gathering room has a floor-to-ceiling fireplace made from local stone.

Reach Out to The Experts

The team of experts at Mitchell Wall Architecture and Design know the importance of sustainability and work with clients to create the best solutions for them.

We are here to create your vision. If you’re interested in creating custom-home, commercial space, or another type of beautiful architecture, contact us today!

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