How Architecture Firms are Prioritizing Sustainable Building Design


Change needs to occur from the ground up, and that means starting with eco-friendlier approaches to design and building layouts. Construction and manufacturing industries have a role to play in reducing the impact of the built environment. Luckily, there are architectural firms around the world putting sustainable building design first in a bid to make a positive change. 

Energy-Efficient Buildings

How Architecture Firms are Prioritizing Sustainable Building Design

Equinor by A-lab

Energy-efficiency is one of the primary ways that architects are implementing more sustainable building design. Equinor by A-Lab is creating new opportunities for combating climate change, with a building design that draws on construction techniques developed by the oil industry. The steel superstructure of this office building allows for different modules to cantilever up to 30 meters, with four concrete cores stabilizing the structure. The design includes insulation and solar shading to provide an energy-efficient solution without the need for visible fixings to the façade.

Equinor was designed to have a high degree of flexibility for future needs, and to be as cost effective as possible through an air-tight skin that helps the construction reach very low energy consumption figures of just 103kWh/m2/yr. Part of the site has also been turned into a publicly accessible part to minimize the environmental footprint of the building.

Another firm focusing on energy-efficiency is Pomeroy Studio, a Singapore-based practice. Praised for its ability to not only "promote the carbon wellbeing of the environment", their award-winning 'B House' was designed to generate more energy than its residents consume through renewable energy installations. Since the success of B House, Pomeroy Studio has gone on to become an industry expert in what they coin as 'vertical urbanism', particularly for the hospitality industry. Creating designs that are built around renewable infrastructure enables both commercial and domestic clients to make positive changes for their future. 

Reducing Carbon Debt

How Architecture Firms are Prioritizing Sustainable Building Design

Multipurpose Arena at Bentley University by Architectural Resources Cambridge - Image Credit Jeff Goldberg Photography

The building sector generates 40% of all global carbon emissions, and the increase in urbanization means there's more building to come. Sustainable building design is an attempt to reduce this carbon debt that is only going to increase as more buildings are created in the coming years. 

Massachusetts' Bentley University Arena by Architectural Resources Cambridge earned a LEED Platinum certification and became the most environmentally sustainable arena in the US.

Bentley University will reduce over 270 tons of material waste every year. A 40,000 square foot/550kW solar array provides over 40% of the energy needs of the structure, bioswales improve the quality of the water and provide habitats adjacent to the wetlands, while 4,000 square feet of permeable paving on the roof reduces stormwater runoff and pollution.

Innovative Materials

How Architecture Firms are Prioritizing Sustainable Building Design

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Green architects building sustainable properties need to consider the best use of materials, not only to reduce waste but to consider the long-term effects of the materials they use. Recycled content and pre-fabricated materials help architects minimize the impact of their builds, but there are also innovative designers creating more unique materials to combat the effect of building supplies on the planet. 

For example, German brand Made of Air has created carbon-negative bioplastics which can be used not only in interiors and cladding but also in vehicles. It contains biochar, a carbon-rich substance which prevents carbon escaping as CO2.

Similarly, London-based Biohm have used mycelium to form building insulation which is fire-retardant and removes a minimum of 16 tonnes of carbon every month as it grows.

Meanwhile, manufacturing firm Forust have found a way to turn the sawdust produced from timber and paper industries into 3D printing filament. 

Thermal Regulation

How Architecture Firms are Prioritizing Sustainable Building Design

Hot Heart by Carlo Ratti Associati

An increasing trend in the sustainable building movement is architects working closely with engineers to implement high-efficiency solutions to regulate temperatures in buildings without the environmental footprint these appliances have.

Hot Heart, coordinated by Carlo Ratti Associati and designed by Ramboll, Transsolar, Danfoss Leanheat® and Schneider Electric, is based on heat-storing basins. The project is anticipated to be fully implemented in 2028 and will be the largest infrastructural facility of its kind, comprising 10 cylindrical basins which can collectively hold up to 10 million cubic meters of water.

The Hot Heart is designed to function like a thermal battery, where low or negative-cost renewable energy is converted into heat, stored in tanks and withdrawn during the winter for use in the city's heat distribution systems.

Another innovation in thermal regulation comes from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona. They have created hydrogel bubbles to replace the need for air conditioning. These bubbles sit between ceramic panels that can be added to existing walls so that the property can cool itself, absorbing water in the air when it gets too hot. The water then evaporates and reduces the temperature of the room by five degrees so the A/C doesn't need to be blaring all throughout the summer. 

Designing for the Future

With innovation, creativity and an alternative take on traditional building methods, architects around the world are considering the various ways we can design structures to better suit the needs of the future. Climate change is a serious issue in which we all have a part to play, and the buildings in which we live and work are just one of the aspects of sustainability where we can make improvements for a healthier planet and a reduced carbon footprint.

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