Sustainable luxury

Sustainable architecture 101: 15 sustainability terms you need to know

Sustainability is all about developing the capacity to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future of the next generations will ensure the survival of the human race.

Sustainable architecture seeks to minimise the negative environmental and social impact on the built environment. And as architects, we combine strategic design methods, materials and technology to develop projects that have a positive impact on the surrounding ecosystem and do not jeopardise the health of the inhabitants. 

We are advocates of integrating eco-friendly solutions into your projects, and we discuss with our clients the benefits of doing so and the results that can be achieved.  We aim to make high-tech sustainable architecture easy for you.

Certain terms related to sustainable design and architecture are often overused. You may have wondered what they mean and how they would translate into your building project. Read on to find out.

JUMP TO

  1. What are the RIBA sustainable outcomes to be delivered on building projects?
  2. 15 Sustainability terms you need to know
  3. How we help you turn your building into a truly sustainable project

What are the RIBA sustainable outcomes to be delivered on building projects?

After joining the Climate Emergency Declaration in 2019, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launched the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, an initiative providing a series of guidelines for the architectural industry to contribute to the UK government’s goal of bringing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be net zero by 2050.

To achieve this, the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge presents key sustainability targets serving as a guideline for chartered practices to move towards sustainable design and construction within a climate-conscious trajectory. 

The following 8 sustainable outcomes are measurable and attainable for buildings of all scales:

  • Net zero operational carbon
  • Net zero embodied carbon
  • Sustainable connectivity and transport
  • Sustainable water cycle
  • Sustainable land use and biodiversity
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Sustainable communities and social value
  • Sustainable life cycle cost

 As we present these outcomes, we’ll explain sustainability terms related to them.

15 Sustainability terms you need to know

The first two sustainable outcomes refer to net zero operational carbon and net zero embodied carbon. Let’s take a step-by-step look at what these terms mean.

  1. Net zero 

You may have heard this phrase often on television. It’s about reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by balancing the carbon emitted and the carbon removed from the atmosphere. 

  1. Operational carbon 

It’s the CO2 released as a result of the ongoing operation of the building, including power, heating, lighting, and automatic doors. 

  1. Embodied carbon 

This term refers to the CO2 emitted during distinct processes leading to the construction of the building, such as the manufacture and transportation of materials. Embodied carbon also includes emissions during maintenance, repair, final demolition and disposal.

Why should all this matter? Currently, 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions come from buildings, according to the World Green Building Council. Operational emissions account for 28% and the remaining 11% comes from emissions related to embodied carbon,  mainly due to the structural materials used. 

According to RIBA, transport operational carbon emissions are the second highest after buildings. Thus, architects and engineers should collaborate and apply sustainable design principles to reduce these emissions to net zero by 2050, as expressed in the sustainable connectivity and transport outcome.

Another key consideration to bear in mind when working on sustainable architectural projects is the use of water. There is no doubt that a sustainable water cycle is one of the most crucial and immediate outcomes. As architects, we can help you reduce potable water use for non-drinking purposes as part of your building project. Greater use of recycled rainwater and wastewater are strategies to achieve this.

  1. Rainwater harvesting system 

It allows you to collect, store and filtrate rainwater that can later be used in other activities. If done correctly and depending on the geographical location, rainwater harvesting can provide an ongoing source of water.

  1. Greywater recycling 

Depending on its composition, wastewater from showers, sinks, and washing machines can be treated and reused to reduce the over-reliance on freshwater.

  1. Sustainable urban drainage (SUD) 

SUD is a holistic approach to managing rainwater and surface water. You can store, collect and clean surface water before it goes back into the environment with the help of sustainable urban drainage systems. SUDs will collect and clean surface water, improving water quality and reducing the risk of flooding.

Retaining existing natural features and enhancing the local flora and fauna is fundamental to sustainable land use and biodiversity. Architects need to make the best use of previously inhabited sites for development while taking these factors into account. The key principles related to this target recommend the creation of green spaces, such as:

  1. Vertical greening 

 Vertical green spaces, including green façades and green walls, are often utilised as a sustainable method to restore green space in urban areas and reduce pollution and high temperatures.

  1. Green roofs 

A system that combines vegetation and membrane layers on a building to help insulate and manage water. This strategy also helps filter pollutants, creates habitats, and it can serve as an amenity space. 

What about the outcome of good health and well-being? Your architectural project should consider indoor health, sensory and thermal comfort, and occupant well-being.

  1. Biophilic design 

Including elements of nature in the building design, such as the incorporation of vegetation, will contribute to the occupants’ connection with natural environments. But biophilic design is not only about plants, it’s about natural light, natural materials and textures, organic shapes of furniture, and other interior pieces. Places and products that imitate or reflect nature, and look and feel like the outdoors elicit a positive human response.

  1. Enveloping design 

Also known as building envelope, this term refers to the structural barrier between the interior and exterior of a building. It considers the characteristics of the foundation, walls, roof, doors and windows in a building to maintain climate control indoors. For instance, an enveloping design can ensure the interior of the building is protected from the sun and free from moisture. This strategy can help you save energy in heating or cooling services.

  1. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) 

IAQ measures the safety of a building’s interior spaces by testing the air for pathogens and pollutants and determining the rate of fresh air circulation.

Sustainable communities and social value also address the well-being of individuals, including meeting their needs of security, shelter and health. At WindsorPatania, we design projects that meet the needs of end users and help create a sense of community with the inclusion of modern amenities and meeting places. 

The last outcome, sustainable life cycle cost, is an integral part of the financial management of construction projects worldwide. Life cycle cost includes the initial capital, operations, maintenance, renewals, upgrades and disposals. 

  1. Building life cycle management 

It refers to an integrated process for coordinating, organising, and controlling all the information related to a building project before its design and construction and throughout its entire lifecycle, including operation and demolition.

  1. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) 

This method identifies the environmental effects and evaluates the environmental load of your building during its life cycle. It considers the energy and materials used and the waste and pollutants produced. A life cycle assessment will measure the carbon footprint of your project  (the total greenhouse gas emissions).

  1. Circular economy (cradle to cradle) 

These terms refer to an economy that encourages the reuse of products to keep them out of landfills. The circular economy aims to eliminate waste. Architects should design buildings that future generations can dismantle and reuse. The use of remanufactured materials and the recovery of materials from local construction sites are some measures that can make this possible.

And last but not least, here’s an infamous sustainability-related term you should be wary of:

  1. Greenwashing 

This practice uses sustainability as a marketing strategy by presenting environmental benefits in an incomplete or even false way. For example, greenwashing would be claiming that a building is sustainable just because plants and trees have been placed on a couple of floors when its energy consumption and environmental impact are high.

How we help you turn your building into a truly sustainable project 

Decarbonising the economy requires energy-efficient buildings. Building efficiency is a step you can take towards sustainability as a building owner or developer. We can offer you ecological solutions to make your building produce more energy than it consumes and reduce the environmental impact of your building to a minimum. 

Our projects include natural ventilation to avoid overheating and save energy during the summer. Biophilic views, preserving local wildlife, fostering a human connection with nature and promoting green mobility are some aspects that we love to include in our work.

We’ll always carry out the necessary research and mathematical calculations to ensure that your building project meets the expected carbon emissions and energy consumption data, among other sustainable requirements. 

If you want to know more about WindsorPatania Architects, our people-centred approach and our sustainability mindset, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Ryan Windsor

Ryan Windsor

(Development Direct, Co-Founder at WindsorPatania Architects) Ryan Windsor is a property developer and entrepreneur who has invested in the industry for 15 years. Graduated from Cambridge University Judge Business School, currently advising on large capital projects and consulting over 730 projects. Ryan is passionate about social entrepreneurship, mentoring, and founding adviser for multiple start-ups. His experience gives him the expertise to guide you through your development journey.

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Sustainable architecture 101: 15 sustainability terms you need to know

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