Sustainable building design, construction’s newest trend, represents a new attitude in architecture, with an emphasis on materials and designs that are environmentally friendly, and with natural features that inspire the occupants of the building. Unlike many previous types of construction, sustainable buildings are geared toward energy and water conservation and are designed to minimize the need for repairs.
The Benefits of Sustainable Materials and Designs
Sustainable building design is efficiency-minded. Builders want “green” materials and appliances that use less energy and offer incentives such as rebates and state tax credits. Often, such materials are made to last for a long time and are less irritating to occupants with allergies. Trade-offs include high cost and the fact that these supplies may not be locally sourced.
Trends in Sustainable Building Design
Trends are based on data that show the architecture makes a significant change in the experience of occupying and operating the building. Energy-efficient trends include:
- Maximizing the use of sunlight and solar energy
- Purifying water on-site and minimizing water use
- Including motor sensors and task lighting in lighting systems
- Using innovative building materials such as loam on inside walls to absorb and release heat
Experience-related trends include:
- Installation of green walls, gardens and green roofs
- Selection of sites close to public transit, with space to park bicycles, scooters or skateboards
- Buildings designed to resist severe weather and the effects of moisture, including mold and mildew
Technologies That Aid in Green Design
Technologies for sustainable building design vary from drywall panels that are specially treated to HVAC systems that allow air flow to drop more than is typical on standard settings. Because green building materials can be costly, the best way to determine what technologies to install is to brainstorm with your clients or current occupants about what needs are highest on their lists. If they value installing photovoltaic or solar cells, this takes priority over adding more window openings. If the owners-to-be want a cooling system that supports multiple tenant configurations, this will be more important to them than creating a drought-resistant footpath between buildings on the property’s campus.
Working with your clients and occupants is the best way to determine what elements you should incorporate into a new project. You can design a building that fits their needs as you learn what characteristics they appreciate most, and then you can integrate these elements effectively into the project.