What is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable architecture explained.

Sustainable architecture means exactly what it sounds like - architecture that allows for buildings to be erected which both use sustainable or reused materials in their construction, and are energy efficient to limit both carbon emissions and fossil fuels used to fuel the building’s everyday functioning. A few architects have found great ways to meet the challenge of creating beautiful and sustainable buildings.

Arizona State University’s student health center was revamped using materials from the previous center, while creating a beautifully designed LEED Certified building. This building is one of the most energy efficient buildings on campus.

In Portland, Oregon, a project to end homelessness lead one architect to create a space for a homeless shelter and temporary homeless housing that is both beautiful, and energy efficient – a great example of sustainable architecture. The building features a design aesthetic that will ideally make finding help for the homeless seem less institutionalized and more based on individual needs. The warm and inviting feeling inside the building does make it seem more homey than your typical homeless shelter or services center. Additionally, the building also boasts graywater recycling (reusing water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks, and washing machines for other purposes), solar water heating, and many other features contributing to an overall energy efficient and sustainable building.

Also in Portland, the Edith Greene-Wendell Wyatt building has received much more than just a face-lift. The aging building was revamped (but not rebuilt) to become one of the most energy efficient buildings in the country, and certainly one of the most energy efficient government buildings. Solar panels on the roof as well as sunshades on the glass exterior help to bring this building its great reputation.

The Sustainability Treehouse, created in a reserve forest in West Virginia proves that beautiful design and a sustainable footprint can go hand in hand. This beautifully engineered building is built to be energy self-sufficient using solar panels and wind turbines to power itself. The sustainable building’s purpose is to teach others about eco friendly homes and buildings, and this project certainly practices what it preaches, boasting a net-zero energy efficiency - meaning the building makes as much energy and is consumes.

The movement toward sustainable architecture is here to stay. Using natural and energy efficient materials is of the utmost importance in these designs. Incorporating new technology to help these buildings be as efficient as possible means that the only direction to go is up. As more technology emerges, and we discover new, more efficient building materials, the future of sustainable architecture is a positive one.

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