Construction and the environment
50% heating, lighting and ventilating buildings
25% transportation of goods and people
20% industry and agriculture
5% building construction activities
The extraction of minerals and materials
Processing and refinement of materials
Off site fabrication of building elements
Transportation and distribution of goods
On site construction of buildings
Operation of the building after construction
Decommissioning and recycling
Or refurbishment of the building
Improving the performance of our buildings will in turn reduce the requirements for energy for lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling. Areas to consider are the discovery and development of new materials and technologies that will provide an increased energy performance. The reduction of carbon emissions from building operations should also be considered when approaching design.
There are a finite amount of raw materials on the planet. We must endeavour to control the use of raw materials by engaging in a more comprehensive approach to material selection and use.
When dealing with the issue of waste material we must consider the following:
- Making sure a design avoids using unnecessary material
- Where possible reuse any materials without having to send them back through the manufacturing process
- If materials can’t be reused they are recycled into new products
- If waste cannot be recycled energy can be extracted from incineration
Other areas to consider with the specification of materials is to ensure they originate from sustainable sources. This is known as a chain of custody, where the entire supply chain is checked and monitored to ensure the materials have come from the original supplier through the distribution network, with certificates to authenticate.
As the problem of global warming progresses, water scarcity is becoming an increasing issue. Much can be done as designers to implement water saving schemes, along with flood reduction schemes.
Sustainable design also looks at creating healthy spaces that are sensitive to social needs. It also looks at creating a balance between the needs of the humans and the wider surrounding environment.
Architects have a key role in helping to manage climate change. They can play an active role in reducing the consumption of energy in existing buildings and helping to develop buildings of the future with the design choices they make.
While I won’t go into the intricate details and data associated with environmental science in architecture (there are many books you can turn to for that) – we will look at a selection of relevant issues that will try to simplify and inform, to allow for a more sustainable approach for architectural design. Over the coming series of articles, we are going to look at many of the factors relating to environmental architectural design, sustainability, green architecture, and much more. These topics range from materials, renewable energy, internal environment, site planning and more.