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Self- Sustaining Buildings

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Today, it’s not enough for the buildings we live and work in to be big and bold. With climate change evolving a threat and a need for renewable energy sources pressing more, skyscrapers, commercial blocks and residential apartments need to be green too. Earth’s urban population is expected to increase by 84% by 2050. With the current rate of expansion into the world’s biggest cities, it is becoming important that we focus more on how sustainable our buildings will be in an urban setting.

Any average modern skyscraper does not have any on-site renewable power sources that allow day-to-day energy consumption, taking advantage of natural lighting, and deliberately wastewater every day. Due to a lack of foresight and care for sustainable design, most of the buildings in the cities release huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Buildings across the globe are adopting sustainable operational and constructional strategies accruing from increased awareness about climate change but green buildings actually offer significant cost savings. A green building is aimed at minimizing the use of water, energy-efficient, low waste management, conservation of natural resources offering the occupants a healthy environment to live and work in.

What makes a Building ‘Green’?

The Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and natural environments. A Green building is also often referred to as being sustainable, or environmentally friendly, meaning that the design, construction, and materials used for construction incorporate strategies that make a building more energy-efficient, healthier and don’t deplete natural resources.

  1. Protecting occupant’s health and improving the employee’s productivity.
  2. Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources.
  3. Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation.

The concept of Green building gains importance in various countries ensuring that the waste is minimized at every stage during the construction and operation of the building, resulting in low costs. Following examples can be considered for making a Green building:

  1. Green buildings incorporate sustainable materials in their construction (for example, reused, recycled content, or made from renewable resources).
  2. Creating healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants like reduced product emissions.
  3. Featuring landscape that reduces water usage by using native plants that survive without extra watering.
  4. Minimizing energy use in all stages of a building’s life-cycle, making new and renovated buildings more comfortable and energy-efficient.
  5. Integrating renewable and low-carbon technologies to supply the buildings’ needs with maximized natural efficiencies.
  6. Using fewer, more durable materials and generating minimum waste, as well as accounting for a buildings’ end life stage by waste recovery and reuse.
  7. Ensuring people are comfortable in their everyday environments, creating correct indoor temperature through passive design or building management.
  8. Recognizing the urban environments that preserve nature, and ensuring diverse wildlife and land quality by remediating and building on polluted land or creating new green spaces.
  9. Incorporating natural light and views to ensure the user’s comfort and enjoyment of their surroundings, and reducing lighting energy needs in the process.
  10. Adapting to our changing climate, ensuring resilience for climatic events like flooding, earthquakes or fires so that our buildings stand at the time of the crisis.
  11. Designing flexible and dynamic spaces, anticipating changes in their use over time, and avoiding the need to demolish, rebuild or significantly renovate buildings to prevent them.
  12. Seeking to lower environmental impacts and maximize the social-economic values over a building’s life cycle.
  13. Bringing fresh air inside, delivering good indoor air quality through ventilation, avoiding materials and chemicals that tend to create harmful or toxic emissions.

Self- Sustaining Buildings:

The advancements in building envelope through Biophilic and Biomimicry design concepts integrate nature into the built environment this explores the potential benefits of this type of synergies relationship. Organic buildings that breathe and react are becoming a viable reality as engineers, scientists and architects call it ‘triple net-zero’, meaning buildings and homes produce almost zero energy, zero emissions, and zero waste.

  1. DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office, Arizona: The project was awarded Net Zero Energy Building certification and the LEED-NC Platinum Certification. The award was achieved by incorporating 87 windows that open and close depending on the necessary indoor insulation and humidity, 87 ft zinc-clad solar chimney to draw in cool air and push out warm air from the buildings, 82 solar tubes and ‘vampire’ shut off switch to turn off the energy when no one in the building.
  2. Manitoba Hydro Place, Canada: It is a passive design and natural ventilation, making it North America’s most energy-efficient office buildings. The building uses a geothermal system to heat and cool the building, roof gardens, and triple-glazed windows, saving 60% of energy savings.
  3. Shanghai Tower, China: One of the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower is a Shell Platinum and LEED Core certified. The construction of the tower was done from locally sourced materials, some of which included recycled materials. The double skin facade further allows additional insulation, topped with sky gardens, vertical wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, black water treatment and more. Wind turbines located near the top of structure power it’s outer lighting with park areas while, inner and outer ‘skins’ allow natural light to flood the building, cutting down the need for artificial lighting. Smart controls monitor everything from ventilation to heating and lighting, helping to cut energy bills.
  4. Bullitt Center, Washington: It is located in Seattle building was the first of its kind to receive Living Building Certification from International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. It features 575 solar panels, generating 60% of the energy requirement of the building, a 56,000-gallon cistern for rainwater collection that is thereby treated and supplied for the building’s water needs.
  5. Powerhouse Kjorbo, Norway: The powerhouse comprises of two buildings near Osla that demonstrated the existing buildings can be renovated to become self-sustainable and green. The building incorporated 100% energy savings by using solar panels, environment sustainable raw materials for construction and 10% water savings along with aiming to have a zero carbon footprint by 2070.

The key to a successful project is achieving an Eco-efficient standard that is more than just a carbon equivalent (CO2) assessments of buildings in operations or embodied energy. It also integrates qualitative and quantitative considerations in the design approach and specifications of building elements from ‘cradle to cradle’.

Following are some examples of incorporating self-sustaining attributes while designs:

  1. Thermal mass: Choosing the most appropriate materials to absorb and store heat energy is important to regulate the internal temperature of the space.
  2. Stack effect: The stack effect can either be a problem or an opportunity as it is mainly the generator of draughts and loss of hot air, often the largest single cause of heat loss in a house.
  3. Orientation: Contribution of the sun to a building’s internal heat is the solar gain.
  4. Embodied Energy: To reduce the total environmental impact of a building, we shall consider the impact of materials that have gone into its construction.

To know more about Architecture Technology, Stay Tuned. 

Previous Coverage:

  1. Green Building Trends: Passive House
  2. A.I. & Robots Revolutionizing the Construction Industry
  3. Towards Regenerative Development
  4.  Augmented Reality Transforming Cities
  5. Coastal cities at the highest risks?
  6. Co-Living, A buzzword of 21st Century!
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