U.7 Architecture as sustainability

What Is Sustainable Architecture and Why Is It Important?

Sustainable architecture defines a building designed and built to significantly reduce the damages inflicted on the health of its inhabitants and the environment. A sustainably designed building is important because it uses substantially less energy and water long-term and it’s built using fewer chemically toxic materials.

Characteristics of Sustainable Architecture

  • Overall focus on reducing human impact on the environment

  • Minimal wasteful, harmful energy consumption thanks to the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and natural heating, cooling, and ventilation systems

  • Buildings that produce at least as much energy as they consume for a net zero effect

  • Water conservation systems, such as rainwater collection and recycling gray water

  • Seamlessly blending and integrating architecture into the surrounding landscape

  • Use of renewable materials, such as bamboo, hemp, cork, flax, and soy

Examples of Sustainable Architecture

Wood might be an ancient building material, but cross-laminated timber, made by gluing layers of lumber together, has become a sustainable alternative for city towers and prefab houses in Europe and the U.S. If the 20th century was defined by the steel and glass skyscrapers of cities like New York, the 21st century might come to be defined by the timber skyscrapers like Mjøstårnet by Voll Arkitekter in Brumunddal, Norway.

Even recycled materials can become the building blocks of structures large and small. Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban uses recycled cardboard tubing to build emergency shelters. He utilized the same material to create his world-renowned Transitional Cathedral, built in 2013 in Christchurch, New Zealand.