Architectural Theory, Building Design, Design Guide, Design Theory, Sustainability, Sustainable Methods

7 Latest Sustainable Building Techniques in Architecture

Just like every other field out there, it is important for the architecture and construction sector to also evolve and adapt to the flow of time. Adding greenery is no more the only way to make your designs sustainable. In fact, due to the explosion in population and less space, there is increasing difficulty to comfortably add vegetation on site.

There are already several methods in which this is being achieved, although at a very slow rate. Some of them are:

  1. Biomimicry
  2. Prefabricated architecture
  3. Sensors
  4. Arcology and vertical cities
  5. Photovoltaic devices
  6. Virtual reality
  7. 3d printing

Although these techniques and materials have proven to be extremely effective, the availability and lack of skilled labor make their implementation expensive.

1. Biomimicry

Biomimicry is a method of construction wherein buildings mimic the natural forms or processes that are followed by organisms in the area. After years of evolution, these organisms have adapted to their environment in order to function with utmost efficiency. Hence, mimicking them will naturally make buildings highly sustainable and efficient.

Benefits

  1. Self-sufficient and hyper-efficient: Biomimetic buildings aim for zero wastage while not depending on other means to get energy. That means, energy like electricity and fuel is not received from outside but generated within the building itself based on requirements.
  1. Use of vernacular resources: An organism from a tropical region has a different body type and structure from one in the desert region. Similarly, the form and materials used in construction should also depend on the local climate and resources.
  1. Climate responsive: One of the defining features of biomimetic buildings is the fact that they make use of the local climate to reduce energy consumption while not compromising on individual comfort.

Examples

i. Beijing National Stadium, Beijing

The structure of the building resembles an upturned nest made of steel bars with ETFE stuffing inside. Just like how a nest is kept warm by stuffing in between twigs, the ETFE in between the steel bars allows thermal insulation for the users.

ii. Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin

The building has movable sun screen panels which resemble the flapping of wings of a bird when it opens and closes.

2. Prefabricated Architecture

Prefabricated architecture is a method of construction where components or the entire building itself are built beforehand off-site. The units are then transported and assembled on-site.

Benefits

  1. Cost and time effective: Since the components or building units are manufactured in factories beforehand, only the assembling is done on-site. This reduces the need for labor, machinery, and shuttering, reducing both the construction time and budget.
  1. Reduces errors and wastage: Since the components are manufactured in factories by approved technology and experienced labor, the errors and wastage of raw material is close to zero.
  1. Safety and health: Except for assembly, construction barely takes place on-site. This eliminates the chances of construction hazards and health risks due to noise and dust particles for the laborers and nearby residents.

Examples

i. Pa I’mrk Harumi, Tokyo

The semi-outdoor building is made of CLT panels, which are strategically placed to allow natural light and ventilation into the structure.

ii. Diego Portales University, Santiago

The building facade of the university is made of concrete and stained glass.

3. Sensors

A sensor is a device that detects input like motion, sunlight, water, etc. to enable certain functions and outputs. 

Benefits

  1. Efficiency: Sensors can be used to turn on or off other machines like lights and water recycling systems after sensing movement and water, to save energy.
  1. Safety: Sensors can also be used to detect hazards like fire and smoke to prevent damage to life and property.
  1. Accurate regulation: Using sensors can not only help reduce but also monitor energy usage in order to make us more conscious of energy expenditure.

Examples

i. National Library, Singapore

This library has motion sensors to switch on lights and rain sensors to water the vegetation inside.

4. Arcology And Vertical Cities

These buildings emphasize one thing- height. In a basic sense, arcology and vertical cities expand upward instead of horizontally. 

Benefits

  1. Solution To Overpopulation: Since the population is increasing exponentially, in no time, there won’t be any space for horizontal expansion. This problem can be solved by building high-rise structures that can house hundreds of people.
  1. Reduce Fuel And Transportation: Vertically tall buildings and mini-cities will not require transportation. Since vehicles use the most amounts of fuel and are one of the leading causes of pollution, eliminating their usage impacts our planet positively.
  1. Self-sustaining: Arcologies and vertical cities aim to be self-sustaining. This means, they generate and store energy for the requirements of their inhabitants.

Examples

i. Arcosanti, Arizona

Arcosanti is an arcology that is still under construction. It is self-sustaining.

ii. Interlace, Singapore

The interlace is a 1040-unit apartment that looks like blocks stacked on top of each other.

5. Photovoltaic Devices

Solar power is one of the most abundant sources of power which is also renewable. Photovoltaic devices like solar panels make use of this power to generate energy. 

  1. Never-ending source: Solar power has no limit. As long as the sun’s rays fall on the device, it keeps generating energy.
  1. Flexibility in placement: PVC can be placed in all types of buildings, regardless of its type and area. 
  1. Variety of applications: Be it an electric fan or a high-rise building, photovoltaic devices of different sizes and structures can be used to power them to keep them self-sustaining.

Examples

i. The Edge, Amsterdam

The north facade and the terrace areas of the building are dotted with solar panels which support the building’s power requirements.

ii. Mesiniaga Towers, Petaling Jaya

The tower has louvers with solar panels which are strategically placed to face the sun as well as facilitate ventilation.

6. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality or VR is a computer-generated environment, which makes the users feel immersed in it.

Benefits

  1. Help understand design better: Designers can get a better understanding of the placement of space and the consequences of their designs before the construction even begins. The clients can also understand the project better.
  1. Reduction of errors: Sometimes models and renders are not enough to communicate the design intent to the construction workers. This sometimes leads to errors in design. These errors can be minimized using VR where even the laborers can be made aware of the designer’s intentions.
  1. Cheap: Compared to other advanced technological tools, VR is cheaper to buy. It can also be set up easily.

3D Printing

3D printing is the process of construction of 3D models based on ones designed in software.

  1. Flexibility in design: Any shape and raw materials can be used to make these models. The design and properties of the models are entirely decided by the designers. It can be made heavy or lightweight, for example. 
  1. Reduced wastage: 3D printing accurately uses the raw materials supplied to make the models, without much wastage.
  1. Cost-effective and ease of availability: Once the equipment is set up, no other major expenses are needed.

Example

i. Titanium

This material is preferred for its strength

ii. Alumide

Alumide is a mix of polyamide and gray aluminum, used for its strength too. 

Technology is advancing faster than ever and architects should make use of this development to combine it with architecture in order to design environmentally conscious structures which have less impact on our planet.

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