Buildings worldwide account for almost half of the global carbon footprint and this must push architects and other built environment professionals to the very forefront of efforts to develop and encourage more sustainable thinking generally.
Many effective sustainable design strategies have been in existence since buildings were first constructed and as architects we are well aware of their value. Much can be achieved through the simple process of intelligently orientating a building, an understanding of local climatic conditions, allowing for the various seasonal changes in the intensity of sunlight when considering façade treatments, the judicious use of roof overhangs and the consideration of effective insulation through the specification of suitable material.
These are just some of the many ways we can begin to address the problems of inefficiency in design and all of them are currently considered simply good building practice. All of them in some way reduce the need to excessively heat and cool our buildings, decreasing the burden on power supplies.
Recent legislation in the form of environmentally-based building regulations has mandated many of these issues and is set to deal with many more in the near future. This will undoubtedly assist in addressing a general business trend, which tends to avoid any change, which has even a perception of additional costs.
Further strategies can begin to address even larger social and cultural issues. Ideas around the use of recycled materials, locally sourced materials and even the encouragement of local manufacturing of these materials could see large shifts in economic patterns, reducing the staggering amounts of energy required to transport these materials all over the world. Planning our cities and buildings with a view to much easier connectivity could reduce the impact of private cars on our environment as well as reducing inefficiencies in spatial planning. This would create both vibrant public spaces and more time to enjoy them.
It is clear that people will never be scared into living more sustainably. We have to, in our role as architects, demonstrate just how dynamic and aspirational such a world could be. We need to pool our considerable knowledge and work collaboratively to clearly articulate this vital message.
As environmentalist and author Jonathon Porrit succinctly states “The future will be green, or not at all.”