Green architecture involves an environmentally aware approach to designing and building homes that aims to alleviate the burden on the natural world. This entails incorporating eco-friendly building practices, materials, and appliances into the construction and operation of the house. These sustainable building practices help to mitigate the negative impact of home construction on the environment, create more efficient and effective homes, and make the most of renewable resources. In green architecture, environmental considerations hold equal importance to other aspects such as cost or aesthetics. Below, you can explore the guiding principles of green architecture in greater detail.
The growing awareness of diminishing resources, a desire to live more sustainably, and the effects of climate change have brought environmentally conscious building to the forefront. However, the concepts behind green architecture have ancient roots, dating back to the times of ancient civilizations. Even before the advent of glass windows or HVAC systems, living spaces were designed to promote natural airflow, utilize natural lighting, and rely on natural means of heating and cooling.
In the present day, there are a plethora of natural and technological options available to make sustainable choices, both on a large and small scale. Mary Homa, a vice president and design consultant at P.E.A. Builders, a company specializing in sustainable building, highlights five broad principles of green architecture that underpin its design philosophy.
1. Pay attention to property detail
When planning a house construction, it’s important to evaluate the topography of the land. One should determine whether the house can be built in a way that leverages the natural features of the site. It’s also important to ensure that the house is constructed while minimizing negative impact on the natural habitat. This involves designing the house to maximize the benefits of the sun’s orientation, particularly for the placement of windows and solar panels, to capture the most heat and light possible.
2. Material selections
Selecting green building materials involves two key considerations. Firstly, it entails choosing the most suitable materials, such as those that are durable and can withstand wear and tear over an extended period of time, like hardwood floors or well-built cabinetry that will not require replacement in a few years. Alternatively, materials that help to protect the home, such as cool roof shingles that reflect heat in particularly sunny regions, can be used. Secondly, it is important to source materials from local suppliers whenever possible, in order to minimize energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, and limit packaging waste resulting from transportation.
3. Maximize the space
An essential aspect of green architecture is a carefully planned floor plan that optimizes the use of space. An efficient layout can be heated and cooled more efficiently, leading to long-term energy savings. Additionally, building a home that is appropriately sized (rather than being excessively large) can help reduce the need for building materials and energy during the construction phase. Moreover, the floor plan should be designed to last, incorporating universal design principles to avoid the need for extensive renovations in the future.
4. Tight building envelope
The building envelope of a home is an essential component of green architecture. It includes superior exterior wall systems, energy-efficient windows, and ample insulation. For optimal energy efficiency, we recommend using triple-pane fiberglass windows (or double-pane composite for those on a budget), as well as high solar heat gain glass (or SHGC) on south-facing windows in colder regions.
Nevertheless, the benefits of new and efficient windows can be undermined if the rest of the house lacks adequate insulation, and the same goes for energy-efficient HVAC systems. It’s crucial to ensure that the entire house is properly sealed to prevent energy loss due to air leakage into or out of the home. This principle aims to maximize climate control while minimizing energy waste.
5. Green Technology
Green architecture extends beyond the use of natural materials. It also involves incorporating technologies such as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, radiant flooring, and geothermal heating and cooling systems into the home’s design. Additionally, car chargers are another emerging element that classifies in this category, too. In many cases, the incorporation of green technologies aims to prioritize the use of renewable energy sources and make these resources readily available to the home, both in the present and the future.