9 Unique Sustainable Methods to Incorporate in Your Design

None of us can deny that sustainability plays an important role in building design. As the desperation for a better world takes center stage, the value of sustainable living practices gains more traction by the day.

The Urban Ecosystem faces new challenges every day due to climate change. And simple sustainable solutions and sustainable materials for these problems are around us, everywhere.

Why Sustainability?

It is important that we are a part of the solution and not the problem. Learning to apply sustainable principles right from our initial design projects at college will be good practice for when we begin to design for the real world. 

It is evident from the ancient Indian Stepwells to Roman Baths that sustainable practices don’t require fancy mechanisms to be effective. 

Sustainable methods you can apply in your design projects

  1. Sticking to locally available materials
  2. Preferring natural lighting and shade
  3. Preserving vegetation
  4. Profiting from renewable resources
  5. Utilizing water consciously
  6. Exploiting technology 
  7. Going Passive
  8. Taking a minimalistic approach
  9. Keeping track of consumption

Buildings through time have incorporated these simple sustainable methods with interesting variations to suit their design. Taking inspiration from the existing methods, we can find the right ones to suit the needs of our own design. 

list of sustainable methods of construction
Sustainable methods of construction in architecture

What’s in the Surrounding?

By simply observing what’s around us and their characteristics, we can produce efficient and sustainable design solutions.

Locally Available Materials

By discovering locally available materials around the site, vernacular building practices can be encouraged along with other added benefits.

  • The energy wasted on transportation is reduced.
  • Employment of the locals in construction reduces the carbon footprint of travel.
  • The consumer will be in direct perception of the effects of the rate of resource consumption.
  • Reuse and recycle materials available close to the site
The House of the Pink Spot – Frankie Pappas

This Urban Design initiative was taken to provide a safe haven in the more unsafe parts of the city for all. Materials are locally sourced from Orange Farm. Seating made of bagged brick and structure made of telephone poles are some strategies they incorporated.

Natural Lighting and Shade

Maximum exploitation of natural lighting and shade can be cost-effective and sustainable. Compensation for the loss of lighting and ventilation with artificial means can be avoided with the right construction practices.

  • By monitoring the light and shade of the site, maximum effective shades for windows and openings can be devised.
  • Use of daylighting devices such as skylights, sensor activated lighting and conscious design of the interiors.
  • Effectively orientating the site to make the most out of the site’s natural lighting and shade.
  • Analysing the climate to observe the daylighting levels and needs of the building.
Kandarp Hosue by Aangan Architects

Incorporation of natural light through skylights in the living area of the residence reduces the need for artficial lighting in the commonly occupied spaces of the residence.

Ventilation

By incorporating sustainable natural ventilation techniques, not only will you be increasing your building’s energy efficiency, but also cutting down on overall expenditure.

  • Minimize heat loss by improving air tightness of the building.
  • Cross ventilation to allow effective air circulation.
  • Placement and the size of openings must be customised to make the most out of the wind direction of the site.
  • Stack ventilation to draw cooler air and vent out warmer air.
  • Night purge ventilation in hot climates by keeping windows closed during the day and open during the night.
Casa Nica by Messina | Rivas
Casa Nica by Messina | Rivas

Openable windows and low height windows are incorporated to let in cool natural breeze into the building at all times.

Vegetation

Existing vegetation in and around the site can prove to be extremely resourceful, especially in order to create an energy efficient design.

  • Designs can be proposed building around the natural shade and oxygen-providing elements of the site. 
  • Increasing the vegetation in the site to reduce the need for artificial shading, lighting, and ventilation systems.
  • Can be used to buffer external noise as well as sunlight from entering the building.
  • Aesthetically pleasing and can be landscaped to provide a beautiful sight.
Casa Azucar by Studio Saxe

The residence richly incorporates vegetation in every nook and corner of the site and building for both functional and aesthetic purposes.

Renewable energy

When we’ve got naturally replenishable energy that has no means to harm the environment, we must suck the most potential out of it. 

  • Solar power from the sun : Solar panels
  • Wind power from the atmosphere : windmills
  • Geothermal power from the earth : Ground source heat pumps
  • Hydro power from waves and tides : Hydroelectricity
Atal Akshay Urja Bhavan, New Delhi, India by Edifice Architects
Atal Akshay Urja Bhavan, New Delhi, India by Edifice Architects

Climate responsive strategies to shade the west facade are incorporated in an interesting manner.

What can we do?

Beyond what’s available, there are certain choices we make that affect just how sustainable our building is.

Water Efficiency

Rethinking the drainage and water supply system of all buildings has become a growing need. There are several methods to improve water efficiency in your design.

  • Installation of grey water plumbing systems helps re-use lesser contaminated water inside. This reduces the need for freshwater, resulting in the ideal management of water.
  • Installation of stormwater management systems to manage large quantities of water redirects water for efficient utilization. This is essential in the urban landscape where there is a risk of increased run-off due to surfaces being impermeable.
  • Reduce direct evaporation of water by designing water sources with enclosures and avoiding mid-day sprinkling.
  • Installing water leak detectors in commonly used water sources for detecting and repairing leaks.
  • Implementing rainwater harvesting systems for the restoration of groundwater.
Ahmedabad University Center by Stephanie Paumier
Ahmedabad University Center by Stephanie Paumier

The university gathers all sewage water from the whole campus and uses it for various other purposes like irrigation, cooling tower water, toilet flush and so on.

Technology

Monitoring of our day-to-day energy consumption rate can be performed with ease, thanks to modern technology. There are several energy rating systems that you can follow as well.

  • Integration of sensors in our building systems that automatically adapt to provide the most sustainable output can prove very effective.
  • The use of technologically advanced utilities play a major role in sustainable living. SmartGrid refrigerators, water saving shower heads and so on.
Casa T by Olalquiaga Arquitectos
Casa T by Olalquiaga Arquitectos

The building incorporated technology advanced automated central system for temperature control, solar protection and so on.

Passive Techniques

Active strategies that are a part of these unconventional solutions are often more expensive. But the same result can be achieved through simpler and cost-effective passive strategies.

  • Use of thick walls for insulation against cold.
  • High ceilings for better air movement.
  • Skylight for natural light.
  • Use of landscapes, shade of trees and water features for cooling.
  • Meaningful building orientation (typically longer axis of the building on the North-South direction)
  • Using louvres for shading and ventilation.
  • Addition of courtyards to maintain thermal comfort.

To know More:

Passive Design Strategies for Cold Climate

Passive Design Strategies for Hot Climate

That Old Chestnut House by FIGR Architects
That Old Chestnut House by FIGR Architects

To avoid the lack of natural light due to the construction of a twelve-story building nearby, the architects maximized solar passive design by giving multiple skylights and opening the entire building into natural light.

Minimalistic construction

A building cannot be considered sustainable if it has been built as a result of the consumption of materials in amounts more than necessary. 

  • Conscious and functional use of materials.
  • Maximum utilization of available spaces. 
  • Opting for quality over quantity.
  • Designing for low maintenance in the future.
AA Villa by The Arch Lab
AA Villa by The Arch Lab

Keeping furnitures at a minimum and use of materials sparingly helps create a more efficient, functional and low-maintenance space.

Monitoring Consumption 

By keeping track of the annual consumption of energy in buildings, methods can be implemented in the future to maintain or lower energy and expenditure.

  • Comparing energy consumption outcomes of the buildings with the standards using the Cumulative Sum (CUSUM) technique.
  • Using smart sensors such as current transducers(CT) that give accurate energy consumption data at set intervals.

The sustainable practices mentioned in this article are just a few among the countless many. And it’s not always about implementing as many techniques of sustainability in a building. It’s choosing the right ones that affect the efficiency of the building positively.

Check out our other sustainability articles that might prove to be helpful to you:

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