As more and more people become interested in the effect they are having on our environment, the ability to design and construct buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly is becoming more important. This area of design is called green architecture and is a growing trend amongst those wanting to live in harmony with their environment and those wishing to conserve traditional energy resources.
Green architecture aims to work in harmony with the natural features that surround the location of the project, to use construction materials that can be easily grown or that have been recycled and to maximise the energy efficiency of the building. This has benefits for both the environment and for the occupants of the building.
Green architecture should use the natural ecology of the planet as a macro model and green architects should always keep the environment in mind when designing. Listening to a client and transforming their needs into a workable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly design is a skill and one that you should ensure your choice of green architect has.
A building designed using green architecture will reduce energy bills, use less water and will reduce the amount of waste being added to landfill sites. There are a variety of ways through which these savings are achieved.
One of the best known methods of reducing energy bills is to have solar panels installed. There are many benefits to using solar panels ranging from low maintenance and versatility to it being non-polluting and a renewable energy source. After the initial installation, there are relatively few ongoing costs. No moving parts mean low maintenance and the heat and light from the sun is free!
Another method used in construction of green architecture is thermal mass. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) produce a framework when locked together much like Lego bricks. This framework forms a permanent and integral part of the building and is pumped full of concrete that has been composed and cured to reduce its thermal conductivity. This produces the thermal mass required to reduce the effects of outside temperature fluctuations on the ambient temperature inside the building thus reducing energy bills.
The use of recycled materials is becoming increasingly popular, as is the use of green materials. Recycled materials include glass, plastic and tyres while green materials include wood, stone and earth. Using these recycled resources helps to reduce the waste being sent to landfill sites and the use of the green, more natural resources helps our buildings blend more harmoniously with their environs.
These techniques are just some of the ways that green architecture is helping to make our buildings much more sustainable and environmentally friendly. For example water, mud, rammed earth and logs can all be utilised to provide thermal mass to a building instead of ICFs. Which one is right for your project should be determined by the environment around the location of the building and the immediate ecology of the area. Discussions with your green architect will help you decide how to proceed.
Other techniques involved with green architecture are maybe not so well known generally but your green architect should mention them as they all help to add to the energy efficiency of a project, for example:
Using locally sourced materials reduces the cost and use of fuel for transportation and if trees are felled to make room for your project then this wood could be put to good use in the construction.
Recycling grey water (waste water from baths, showers and wash hand basins) can be captured, stored and treated to a standard suitable for WC flushing.
Rainwater harvesting can be as simple as a water butt under a downpipe or a more complex over or underground tank depending on your use for the water which can be anything from watering your garden or cleaning your car to flushing your toilet or having a shower.
Small scale wind turbines can be used to generate energy to charge small batteries with applications such as lighting and electric pumps.
Many opportunities exist for all of us to start living in a way that is more in harmony with our surroundings. Whether you want to light your garden using solar power, generate wind energy to light your caravan or build a home from scratch that is environmentally friendly, energy efficient and at one with nature we can all add to the conservation of our planet.
Green architecture is the way to release ourselves from the grip of fossil fuels into the hands of renewable energy, green architecture is the future of us and of this planet.