Friday, November 6, 2015

Sustainable Architecture: A Sensible Approach for Energy Conservation

By:Kristina Shrestha Hada

According to Wikipedia [1], sustainable architecture refers to architecture which is based on minimizing negative impact of buildings on environment through control and efficiency in the use of resources, energy, and space.

The environment movement started from United States in 1960s. This movement was a foundation of the sustainable development. “For many people, the sustainable design movement started sometime in the early seventies as a response to the oil crisis. For others, it was a decade earlier, coinciding with the publishing of Rachael Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, believed by many to be the catalyst which launched the wider environment movement” [2]. It was the first movement toward conserving the environment. This led to another new movement known as Sustainable Design or Sustainable Architecture or Green Architecture. So, now the question is: can the problem of environmental crisis be solved by making sustainable buildings? After all human beings are responsible for the environmental crisis.

 “In many ways, the environment crisis, it is a consequence of how things are made, buildings are constructed, and landscapes are used. Design manifests culture, and culture rests firmly on the foundation of what we believe to be true about the world” – SIm Van Der Ryn.

How can constructing more buildings solve the environment crisis? Well, the human population is growing rapidly. With growing human population, demand of housing is also increasing rampantly. This ultimately leads to construction of new buildings.  But, if these new buildings could be constructed with the help of sustainable building techniques, it would have less impact to the environment. Can we stop building construction for the environment? I don’t think the building of new construction is stopping in near future. Although we cannot stop new constructions, we can reduce the impact on environment by introducing sustainable design techniques. Designing sustainable building is not a requirement but it is an option. The advancement in the technology has enabled architects with the choice of designing a building which has less impact to the environment. So, if one is given a chance to choose to design a building which can have lesser impact on the environment then what should that person do? For instance, people has been using tungsten bulbs from centuries. It was an amazing invention in the history of mankind. It was a great leap for human to develop tungsten. Now, there is a new light bulbs which are known as CFL (Compact Florescent Light) bulbs. CFL has high efficiency in terms of luminosity and at the same time consumes low electric power and releases low heat. In other words, the CFL bulbs delivers same intensity of light as incandescing light bulbs with lower power consumption. Similarly, the development of LED bulbs made it even more energy efficient. Now, people have to replace their traditional bulb to CFL or LED bulbs in order to save energy. In long term people can save money and reduce energy consumption. As sustainable design is an option, this is also a similar case. In this case, it is a choice of people either to stick on traditional light bulbs or use an energy efficient light bulbs.

The concept of sustainability can be broadly divided into many categories. According to the book “the Philosophy of Sustainability: the Future of Architecture”, Sustainability can be sub categorized into different headings. They are as follows:

                     Respect for the Wisdom of Natural System i. e. Biomimicry Principle
                     Respect for people i.e., The human vitality principle
                     Respect for place i.e., The ecosystem/ bioregion principle
                     Respect for the Circle of life i. e., The “Seven Generation” Principle
                     Respect for Energy and Natural Resources i.e., The Conservation and Renewable Resources Principle
                     Respect for progress i.e., The Holistic Thinking Principle [6]
                     Respect for the Wisdom of Natural System i. e., Biomimicry Principle

Nature has been a guide for human beings and nature can inspire us to create balance. The biomimicry principle deals with the making unique designs which are inspired from nature. “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” [3].

         Respect for people i.e. The human vitality principle
The main purpose of designing a building is to provide space for the people. Therefore, sustainable architecture should respect the need of people and design space accordingly [2].

         Respect for place i.e. The ecosystem/ bioregion principle
A place not only defines the geographic area but also defines the culture, history and the architecture of that place. People from different cultures and geographic areas have their own
distinct architectural style. These buildings have a history and convey the story of that place. These unique buildings were sustainable. They were able to serve people of different generation. It is the people who wanted more comfort and started the trend of HVAC system. The building before HVAC were sustainable. They were guided by the climate of that place. The traditional house of India is far different from that of the traditional house of Nepal.

         Respect for the Cycle of life i. e. The “Seven Generation” Principle
This is one of the important principle of sustainability. Every living creature in this earth are a part of one large cycle of life. It is very essential that human beings understand this principle and respect it [2]. The plants germinate, grows, bear fruits, produce seed and dies. When the plants dies the soil gets nutrients which is used by new seeds. Similarly, water is evaporated and clouds are formed and rain brings the water back to the earth. In nature, nothing is a waste.

         Respect for Energy and Natural Resources i.e. The Conservation and Renewable Resources Principle
Human being should respect the energy and natural resources. The non- renewable energy like coal, and crude oil should be conserved and renewable energy like water, wind, and solar energy should be used for the production of energy [2].

         Respect for progress i.e. The Holistic Thinking Principle
This principle encourages people to respect the process. The new invention takes place with a series of processes [2].

 “Four main climatic factors that need interrelated and integrated treatments to attain comfort dealing with solar radiation through appropriate orientation, building shape, shading of walls and openings, roof treatments special kinds of glazing and using landscape for evaporative cooling, the temperature can be treated for cooling or heating by thermal mass, insulation, partial or total embedding of the building in earth treatments of walls and shading. Ventilation can be attained through enhancement of air movement and cross ventilation, wind catchers, courtyards and daylighting can be abundant through proper positions and sizes of openings and shading” [4].

In conclusion, sustainable architecture has many broad scopes. The use of traditional energy efficient techniques can be use along with high tech sustainable solution to design sustainable buildings. Also, sustainable buildings can help reduce the impact on the environment.

1.      “Sustainable Architecture”,, Accessed on October 26, 2015
2.      McLennan, Jason F., “The philosophy of Sustainability: The future of Architecture”, December, 2004.
3.       “Biomimicry”, what-is-biomimicry, Accessed on October 22, 2015.
4.      “Climate responsive practices in local architecture”,, Accessed on Oct 25, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment