What is sustainable architecture?
Architecture that has a minimal effect on the environment is what sustainable architecture is. It is homes or buildings designed to reduce humanity’s impact on the local environment.
Sustainable house design is not just about the visual image and building plans. It considers every part of the planning and construction process – from the materials used to the orientation of the home and the available water supply.
Principles of sustainable architecture
Sustainable architecture must follow specific design principles. We have unpacked each of these principles to help you plan your sustainable new build or to help understand how you can renovate an existing property or building to be more environmentally sustainable.
When selecting a site to build on, consider the environment surrounding it and the ecosystems your build may affect. Geographic factors can also offer sustainable advantages, such as the area’s natural resources. When planning the orientation of your home, be sure to maximise the use of natural energy provided by the sun.
Limit non-renewable energy resources
Non-renewable resources are also known as fossil fuels. As the latter name suggests, they come from the earth and originate from plant and animal matter combined with carbon and hydrogen that existed many years ago and cannot be replenished. The three primary non-renewable resources are coal, oil and gas. These resources release greenhouse gases which negatively contribute to global warming, damage the environment by the way they’re mined and cost countries more than money. Wars have erupted and continue to erupt because of disagreements over non-renewable resources.
Environmentally friendly materials are essential for sustainable architecture. What makes a product environmentally friendly are products made with minimal effect on the environment throughout the production process and product lifecycle. Today, environmentally conscious products are available for everything from building materials to dishwashing liquid, so when discussing your house design with your architect, be sure to choose sustainable materials.
Rainwater harvesting was only standardised in Australia in the late 90s and early 2000s. Conserving water saves energy, so using harvested water for household use avoids needing to filter, heat or pump water throughout the home, reducing the carbon footprint. Using less water also helps maintain water levels in natural ecosystems too.
Interior environmental quality
Fortunately, with the advanced technology available today, installing sustainability tools in the home, especially as a new build, is not only a good idea but is also encouraged by the government with financial rebate benefits.
Installing devices or systems optimising energy saving even after purchasing your home has become more accessible and affordable. Lighting, thermal conditions and ergonomics within the home all define the interior environmental quality of a home. Air quality is also a significant component. According to the CSIRO and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (AWE), poor indoor air quality in Australia costs around A$12 billion per year.
Maintenance and self-sufficiency
Building or renovating a sustainable home will be deemed ineffective if not maintained with sustainable products and solutions on an ongoing basis. Regular system tests and proactive behavioural changes that reduce carbon emissions and improve a home’s sustainability score are vital in a home that’s considered ‘eco-friendly’.
Read more articles on what architects do.