Sustainable architecture, really?

December 7, 2017

Globally, the construction industry is a major contributor to the socio-economic development and also the largest consumer of energy and natural resources, with buildings and infrastructure construction services liable for around a half of total energy consumption. Construction is one of the largest industries in both developing and developed countries in terms of investment, employment and contribution to GDP. (Unher, 1999).

The importance of energy consumption and greenhouse gases(GHG) attributable to building operation is well recognized, nevertheless despite that knowledge, energy is also consumed during the manufacture of building materials, transportation and assembly into buildings maintenance and demolition, until disposal and recycling. (Gheeeala & Kiofworala, 2009).

It is widely accepted that building must use less energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to help mitigate global climate change ( Da Silva & Da Almeida, 2010). At the same time buildings are for people; to succeed they must also provide an environment that suits their intended occupants (Roulet, 2006). Thus, Building performance should compound both energy use criteria and occupant comfort, which is the main purpose of a building (Dili & Varghese, 2011). 

Furthermore, building, space or place is considered well designed if it does contribute to environmental, social and economic sustainability. Conversely, no building, space or place can be considered sustainable if it is not well designed. Design quality and sustainable design are one issue, and so are the questions of aesthetics and the technical solution to the problem of reducing energy consumption. Sustainability and good design are mutually reinforcing. So building design quality is not just defined by how it functions, but also by how it meets the social economic and environmental needs of the tenants it serves, and how it can be managed and adapted as those needs change over time (Roulet, 2006).

 Considering one building form to another, whether it is sustainable, is the idea to assess the environmental performance of the building; from the master plan as one part of assessing its design quality, in the framework of the economic and social sustainability of the place in which it is located, in other word to think in an integrated way about longevity, flexibility and efficiency of buildings within the wider environment; linking together, from the planning, design process to the management and maintenance of the buildings, spaces and places. This implies multi-criteria analysis, where the site and climate should be integrated into the assessment holistically and not each building analyzed in isolation.  A building design has the ability to satisfy all the levels of need in a unique position in more proactively consideration of global environment together with local climate and tradition (Oktay, 2002).

A Building, especially large-scale infrastructure has an impact on overall city thermal performance, its economy, the health comfort and consumptions of its residents, and the community stability. Once a site is selected and developed, it will be an irreversible action. For instance; city decision on building orientation, has an impact on the degree of sun exposure of neighborhood infrastructure, on energy consumption, land use, air movement and its street design (Golany, 1995). Thus overlooking the importance of the local green assets or green infrastructure is first to neglect ecosystem services, critical for city resilience. Second, the lapse to pay attention to how urban green assets function as an economic driver by means of community social networks is falling shorts to assess how the environment is or not being counted as an asset worth maintain (Schaffler & Swilling, 2012).

In addition, building site biodiversity and the functionality of green infrastructure is contingent upon how well and environmental integrated residential or commercial areas are designed and managed (Hostetler, Allen, & Meurk, 2011).

Although the widespread debate about architectural toward sustainability in search for some kind of consensus around common best environmental practice, universal agreed solutions remain elusive. However, the transition toward buildings which harmonized with healthier and happier lifestyle, encourage the less harmful relationship to nature, in addition to less energy usage and carbon-intensive are widely shared amongst architects, planners and citizen alike. Within that perspective, there is still huge difference of opinions regarding design approaches and an attempt to clearly define architecture sustainability from both technical and ideological point view is virtually difficult because of heterogeneity of design strategy: whether smart technologies make buildings more efficient, if local community input and direct relationship is essential and what is the most suitable material to employ (Guy, 2011).

Certainly, there has been considerable literature published on the subject of Climate and single building IEQ, stormwater management or Life Cycle cost but there is very little literature about holistic studies of a single infrastructure as it relates to city locale climate, environmental, social and economic impacts. This deficiency is becoming more apparent. Architects and building designers are called to integrate realistic studies on the impact of a development project on the city morphology, the environment, and even the social and economic impact that is required to sustainable development.



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