In response to dwindling natural resources, pollution, and increased environmental consciousness, green building is going global.
It has been said that at its best, architecture connects with the human condition through the use of light, space, place, and time–and like art, surpasses mere function. Green building, at its best, takes the physical, emotional, and social needs of present and future generations of residents into consideration, as well as those of the surrounding community. As we become increasingly more aware of the true extent of our interconnectedness, the entire global community stands to benefit from green building.
In the United States, The New American Home, a program that began 28 years ago, has provided a welcome public platform for presenting sustainable innovations in architecture. The concepts, designs, construction techniques and materials used in this architectural showcase can be replicated for building housing in a variety of price ranges.
Today’s builders strive to accomplish the goal of Emerald status certification, which requires utilizing the latest innovations in green building technology. Those innovations include an energy efficiency package that includes photovoltaic panels, sound-reducing spray-foam insulation, tankless water heaters, hydronic air handlers, intelligent fireplaces and sustainable building materials.
The winning entry for 2017 incorporated elements like indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and increased safety rather than focusing on market value alone.
To conserve water, the irrigation system is weather-sensitive and adjusts water usage according to the climate and temperature. Even the valves used for plumbing and irrigation systems for green buildings have been adapted for use according to improved green building standards. For example, solar thermal power plants require valves that are capable of functioning despite the corrosive nature of the molten salt commonly used for thermal energy production.
The growing prominence of green building also has an international presence. In Australia, green building has become so popular that it has prompted the development of the Green Cities Conference, which will be held in Sydney in March of this year. In 2016, the award winner of the David Oppenheim award for sustainable architecture was Woods Bagot and Tridente Architects for the Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods.
The urban renewal project the first in Australia to earn a six-star Green Star Communities certification award. Rather than demolishing an existing structure that had once served as a Mitsubishi automobile manufacturing plant, architects transformed the eight-hectare structure into usable space that can accommodate social meetings as well as other outdoor activities.
What Is Green Building?
The principles of sustainability are at the core of green building. Those principles include conservation of natural resources as well as preservation of social history. In the case of the Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods, transforming and repurposing — rather than demolishing — the former auto manufacturing plant accomplished both of those lofty goals, alongside water-conserving plumbing design, the use of clean energy technology, natural lighting, and passive ventilation are all elements utilized in that transformation.
As the definition of green building continues to expand, there are other factors to consider when awarding green building certification. Two of those factors are the size and location of the building. Including interconnected cycling and walking paths and accentuating access to public transportation are some of the ways that green building is addressing.
Another factor in green building is reducing the toxicity of building materials. Wellness Within Your Walls won the National Association of Home Builders Global Innovation Award for their efforts in educating the public on ways to increase indoor air quality. The company was commended for their environmental education program and positive impact on the building community. By partnering with manufacturers, builders and consumers, their continued goal is to reduce the number of potentially toxic substances still present in far too many homes. They provide a list of preferred vendors whose products and building materials contain fewer potentially unhealthy chemicals. Offering certification programs for builders, products and homes, they are among many organizations devoted to making homes healthier.
By preserving natural resources through repurposing materials, reducing pollution, and increasing our use of clean energy sources, we can build a sustainable world for future generations. Technological innovations continue to provide inspiration as well as opportunities for practical application. Today’s architects are creating the wonders of the world of tomorrow.