The global environment is under direct threat from the activities of the human race. The World Economic Forum estimates that 38% of all global emissions comes from the construction industry. The sector is responsible for 35% of global final energy use, the total amount of energy use during a year by human beings. Part of the solution to this is sustainable architecture.
Sustainable development in architecture seeks to minimise the negative environmental and social impacts of construction. Our part in this as architects is to use 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 believe in regenerative architecture. We integrate eco-friendly solutions into your projects, discussing with clients the benefits this brings and the results it achieves.
Sustainable building design is not without its jargon though. In this article, we share some of that jargon with you explaining what each term means.
The RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge
After joining the Climate Emergency Declaration in 2019, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launched the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge.
This is a set of guidelines on how to incorporate energy efficiency into the projects for architects. This is our industry’s contribution to the UK government’s goal of bringing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be net zero by 2050.
When designing sustainable buildings, the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge provides targets for the following eight outcomes for buildings of all sizes:
- 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
15 sustainability terms you need to know
1. Net zero
You may have heard this phrase often on television. Net zero targets balancing the carbon emitted and the carbon removed from the atmosphere during the construction of a building and through its useful life.
One way to do this is to incorporate renewable energy sources during construction like solar panels, solar thermal panels and green roofs/walls.
2. Operational carbon
This is the CO2 released as a result of the ongoing operation of the building including power, heating, lighting, and automatic doors.
3. Embodied carbon
This refers to the CO2 that’s emitted during the construction of a building including the CO2 emitted during the manufacture of building materials. This also includes the transportation of building materials including getting the raw materials to the factory in production and the finished products to the building site. Embodied carbon also includes emissions during maintenance, repair, final demolition and disposal of new materials.
This matters because, 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. RIBA states that transport operational carbon emissions are the second highest after buildings.
Sustainable design must incorporate sustainable materials in the building process and beyond. Renewable materials like using hempcrete (made from hemp, lime, and water) instead of concrete should feature strongly in the design process.
4. Rainwater harvesting system
Efficient water usage is a green architecture priority. Rainwater harvesting is part of this.
This means that you collect, store and filtrate rainwater that you use later in other activities. Done properly, rainwater harvesting provides an ongoing source of water for a green building.
5. Greywater recycling
Waste water from showers, sinks, and washing machines can be treated and reused to reduce the over-reliance on freshwater.
6. Sustainable urban drainage (SUD)
SUD is a holistic approach to managing rainwater and surface water. You store, collect and clean surface water before it goes back into the environment using a sustainable urban drainage system. SUDs collect and clean surface water which improves water quality and reduces the risk of flooding.
7. Vertical greening
Retaining existing natural features and enhancing the local flora and fauna is fundamental to sustainable land use and biodiversity. Planting trees around a building is a great use of space and is often found in sustainable planning proposals.
Architects can make the best use of previously inhabited sites by taking these factors into account with the creation of green spaces and incorporating techniques like vertical greening into a sustainable building project.
Vertical green spaces like green façades and walls not only restore green spaces in the built environment but also reduce pollution and high temperatures.
8. Green roofs
Green roofs add vegetation and membrane layers to the tops of buildings which help to insulate them and better manage water. Buildings designed with green roofs benefit from natural pollutant filtering. In addition, they create nature habitats and serve as picturesque amenity spaces for building occupants.
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9. Biophilic design
Sustainable architecture means not just the external fabric of the building. A truly sustainable approach also considers the inside of a building and its occupants.
Biophilic design incorporates natural light, materials and textures into buildings. It’s about creating places and products that imitate or reflect nature and look and feel like the outdoors elicit a positive human response. Consider using as part of your building’s materials wood and other natural materials to help promote occupant good health and well-being.
10. Enveloping design
Building envelopes are the structural barriers between the interior and exterior of a building like the foundation, walls, roof, doors and windows. You might want to use an enveloping design to ensure the inside of your building is protected from the sun and free from moisture. This saves on energy costs associated with heating and cooling.
11. 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.
12. Building life cycle management
By meeting individuals’ needs for security, shelter and health, you create sustainable communities and social value. 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.
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.
Life cycle management is an integrated construction process that coordinates, organises and controls all the information related to a building project. It begins at the very early stages before its design and construction and throughout its entire operational lifecycle right through to demolition.
13. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Life cycle assessments identify and quantify the environmental effects and evaluates the environmental load of your building during its life cycle. It factors in the energy and materials used, construction waste and the resulting pollutants.
They measure the overall carbon footprint of your project including total greenhouse gas emissions.
14. Circular economy (cradle to cradle)
The aim in a circular economy is to reuse products so they stay out of landfills, hence the emphasis on the use of recycled materials in sustainable architecture. This furthers resource efficiency and helps in reducing waste. When planning a building, architects should think about whether future generations can dismantle and reuse the materials recovered.
And last but not least, here’s an infamous sustainability-related term you should be wary of:
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy when companies claim environmental benefits from their operating practices that turn out to be overstated or false. In urban planning, for example, greenwashing might be planting trees on the roof when the energy consumption and environmental impact of the building itself are higher than they need to be.
How we help you turn your building into a truly sustainable project
Decarbonising the economy requires energy-efficient buildings. We can help you there.
We can build in features like natural ventilation which avoids building interiors overheating during summer. This also reduces energy consumption and saves you money when the building is in operation. We’ll select building materials which have the least or no impact on the world’s natural resources.
From the start of your project, we make sure that your environmental targets are achieved during construction and beyond. It’s a passion we share with you.