What is Green / Sustainable Architecture?
Green or Sustainable Architecture may mean different things to different people. To many, Green Architecture is a term that describes economical, energy-saving, environmentally friendly, sustainable development. Some define sustainability as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
The word sustainable refers to efficiency, alternate energy, minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources and toxic, out-gassing materials. It emphasizes materials that are responsibly constructed, made of recycled content, are reclaimed or can themselves be recycled at the end of their lifetime. It strives for construction without excessive destruction.
Sustainability also refers to practicality. Many architects have lost touch with the basic tenants of design- the path of the sun and its ability to warm, the ability of the wind to cool, the ability of landscape elements to block wind, the ability of trees to provide shade in summer and sun in winter. If you ignore all these good things that nature provides, then you have to overcome them. The green approach integrates environmental awareness into the basic design.
Sustainability can also refer to durability, flexibility and ingenuity. It may mean using long-lasting materials. Or it may mean designing a floor plan to accommodate future occupants or easily accepting an addition. Over time, a structure that is attractive, efficient and timeless is more likely to be cherished and respected rather than demolished.
Sustainability becomes a way of thinking. It's not just about using green products but about viewing the design and the construction process in a different light. It's about solving problems in different ways, which encourages one to step outside the box.
Building green doesn't have to cost any extra. It's all in how you approach the design and work together as a team to integrate sustainable measures from the beginning rather than as an afterthought. And if you look at the entire life cycle of the building, it will end up costing less to build sustainably.
Architects have a responsibility to leave their mark on the world while respecting both nature's ecological systems, and human health and well-being. Happily, such a sustainable approach is no longer a niche phenomenon, but is swiftly becoming mainstream.