Green buildings are structures that have positive impacts on the natural environment and the climate in terms of their design, construction and operation. They actively eliminate or reduce environmental impacts. What’s more, the improve quality of life and preserve natural resources.
What features do green buildings have?
There are many ‘green building’ features. Some of these are:
- Efficient use of water, energy and resources
- Use of renewable energy sources like solar panels
- Measures in place to reduce waste and pollution
- Enabling recycling
- Good air quality indoors
- Materials used are sustainable, ethical and non-toxic
- A design that bears in mind the environment in terms of its construction, design and the way it operates
- A design that considers the occupants’ quality of life
- A structure that is able to adapt to an ever-changing environment
Green buildings can be any buildings: schools, offices, homes, community centres, hospitals or any other building with ‘green’ features. That said, it’s important to recognise that not every green building will look the same or work in the same way. Different areas have different characteristics and different social and economic priorities, for example. There are many different approaches in creating a green building and all are valuable.
How do we make buildings ‘green’?
We’ve mentioned the features of green buildings and many of these go further and are entrenched in the design. Let’s take energy for example. A green building isn’t just one that uses renewable energy sources or is energy efficient. A green building should aim to minimise the use of energy in all stages of the life-cycle of the building from concept and design to demolition and recycling. It’s important to consider how we can educate the occupants of green buildings to be more energy-efficient too. Minimising how much energy is used will not only make a building more comfortable but it will also have lower running costs.
Green buildings need to consider their water supply and use. It’s important for architects and designers to consider how to improve things like the management and efficiency of wastewater and drinking water. There are many solutions whereby water can be harvested for safe indoor use and there are lots of ways designers can minimise how water is used in new buildings.
It’s not only essential to consider the water supply on the inside of the building, designers need to think about the building’s surroundings and how the effects its construction will have on things like drainage infrastructure and storm water. It’s vital that these aren’t put under pressure.
Waste minimisation and recycling
Green builders use materials that are durable and that generate less waste. When choosing materials, designers need to take into account the building’s whole life cycle and plan for its demolition. It’s important to consider how the materials can be recycled or reused after demolition too. Just like with the use of energy, it’s essential for the building’s occupants to engage in recycling too.
Health and wellbeing promotion
A green building is not only good for the environment but it also has a positive impact on its occupants and their health and wellbeing. Good indoor air quality is vital. This is achieved by adequate ventilation and bringing in fresh air. What’s more, the building needs to avoid using chemicals with toxic or harmful emissions.
Natural light is also really important for the building users’ wellbeing and comfort. With light being from a natural source, there will be less demand on energy sources for artificial lighting too.
Sound is something that many building designers s fail to think about in enough detail. Proper sound insulation and acoustics are important in all types of building and can make the difference between an enjoyable space and a stressful one. Good acoustics mean that the environment helps concentration and is a peaceful place to live, study or work.
Comfort is key too. No one likes a space that is too hot or too cool. Designers need to consider passive design to make the right temperatures indoors. Monitoring systems are building management are also important in this as well.
A green environment
When buildings are created to be ‘green’, they need to recognise that they are a part of preserving existing nature. They need to make sure they don’t take over spaces that are breeding grounds or habitats for wildlife. Where possible, these buildings should exist on already polluted land or should incorporate the introduction of more green space to an existing area. Designers can also look at ways in which urban areas can be more productive, for example, considering bringing agriculture into our urban spaces.
Building resilience and flexibility
Designers are much more aware these days of the necessity to adapt structures to our ever-changing climate. Considerations of possible (and likely) events like earthquakes, fires or flooding are necessary if we want to ensure that our structures can be longstanding and, more importantly, that our people are safe.
Spaces that are dynamic and flexible mean that buildings can anticipate how their use might change in time. It means that buildings aren’t built with a sole purpose in mind. With this level of thinking, there isn’t a need to renovate, demolish or rebuild structures when their original use is no longer appropriate.
Connections for people and the community
When new buildings are constructed, they have the advantage in that they can be built to help enhance and connect the existing communities. It is even more beneficial when communities are consulted at the planning stage of green buildings. What’s more, a new building needs to be positioned in such a way that it is easy and convenient for communities to use it. For example, it needs to have good transport links and be easy to access by green transportation like cycling or walking. Finally, green building designers should explore how smart technology can be used in the new buildings. Smart electricity grids, for example, help to transport energy when and where it is needed.