During its early years as a hunter-gatherer society, humankind required little from the planet beyond food, water and shelter. When the population grew and began to develop new technologies, its hunger for natural resources expanded in parallel. Sadly, we have continued to plunder those finite supplies to meet our immediate needs with no concern for those of future generations. More recently, events like widespread deforestation, atmospheric pollution and water shortages prompted the United Nations to set some sustainable development goals.
Every industry has been allocated a set of goals based on its activities and their impact on vital natural resources. The construction industry and, by association, architects have made significant progress in adopting more sustainable practices. The industry has the distinction of being both a major energy consumer and one of the biggest contributors to global pollution. Consequently, today’s architects now face a twofold challenge. In addition to striving for excellence in form and function, they must now integrate these with the sustainable development principles required to address increasingly pressing environmental issues. They must focus on designs that create healthy living conditions while simultaneously minimising adverse environmental impact and energy utilisation.
To conform to these requirements, architects around the globe are implementing several strategies. The most basic of these is to pay more attention to issues like local climate and the sun’s path when deciding how best to orientate a building. For example, applying more thought to window placement to maximise daylight can substantially reduce the occupant’s energy consumption. Native landscaping is another simple but impactful sustainable development trend in architecture. Using vegetation native to the construction area, such as grasses, plants and trees, can help reduce irrigation requirements and unnecessary potable water usage. In addition, positioning trees to shade roofs and windows during peak summer temperatures will reduce solar heat gain inside the building. Trees are the planet’s lungs. Rather than removing them, they can become desirable design features.
However, while these activities all provide significant benefits, such passive actions alone are insufficient. Architects must also implement more active strategies to fully leverage the vast potential of sustainable development in the construction industry. Using recycled materials or ensuring they are purchased from manufacturers that use environmentally-friendly production techniques is a green building strategy that is gaining traction. In addition to promoting renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, designers are consulting with engineers to implement technology to minimise the environmental footprints of electrical and HVAC systems.
A feature of construction that has been frequently overlooked is a project’s negative impact on the water table. Parking spaces, pavements and access roads are impervious to rainwater, diverting it into storm drains. To comply with sustainable development principles, planners should consider ways to improve stormwater management. Many designs now include pavements made from porous materials and retention ponds. Together, they capture the runoff and return it to the ground.
At JK Designs, we continue to pursue elegant and creative yet functional structures while fully supporting the importance of sustainable development strategies in the construction industry. If you would like to learn more about our comprehensive design and project management services or green architecture strategies, please don’t hesitate to contact us.