Sustainable architecture is architecture which is designed in an environmentally friendly way. The goal of sustainable or “green” architecture is to create structures which are beautiful and functional, but which also contribute to a sustainable lifestyle and culture. Interest in sustainable architecture grew radically in the early 21st century in response to growing concerns about the environment, but in fact people have been building sustainably for thousands of years, because sustainable projects are often practical in nature.
A truly sustainable building will have a design which addresses a number of issues, including heating and cooling, water usage, environmental quality, and energy usage. Architects can deal with environmental aspects of building construction in a variety of ways, all of which are designed to increase efficiency without being cumbersome or detracting from the function of the building.
Much of sustainable architecture focuses on building intelligently. For example, a building may be oriented towards the south in the Northern Hemisphere so that the building will be warmed through the day by the sun, and a building may be insulated with extra care to minimize heat loss. Plumbing systems may be designed to utilize less water while still functioning normally, and the building might include smart lighting which turns off when people are not around to save energy.
Installing green roofs or living walls is another example of sustainable architecture. These projects increase heating and cooling efficiency, help scrub the air, and look aesthetically interesting, making them beneficial from many points of view. Other sustainable architecture trends include the use of geothermal energy for heating, reclaimed water for flushing toilets, and other innovative techniques which are designed to reduce the environmental footprint of a building.
Many architects build sustainably to show people that it is possible, and to illustrate the fact that being environmentally friendly does not have to make a building ugly. In fact, many of the measures which increase efficiency can make a building more interesting and beautiful to look at, and they can also improve quality of life for users of the building. A courtyard with plants, for example, can be a good sustainability move, and it also creates a pleasant outdoor space for people to use.
Anything from a private home to a towering office building can be constructed with sustainable ideals in mind. Sustainable architecture principles can also be applied to the retrofitting and remodeling of existing structures, because conversion is more environmentally friendly than demolition and rebuilding in most cases. Many governments provide incentives for people who address sustainability issues in construction projects, which has contributed to the rise of sustainable architecture around the world.