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Green Architecture 101

Green Architecture

With the onset of capitalism since the Industrial Revolution, economic development has been fast paced, however this has been at the cost of the overconsumption of the natural resources that planet Earth provides for us. We have indeed created a massive energy-powered civilization, lording over everything that our planet is capable of providing, yet somehow forgetting our sworn responsibility to it as its inhabitants. Global warming is a looming threat on the horizon, and unless we stop indiscriminate exploitation of the natural resources and focus our energies on their conservation, an apocalypse is inevitable. Sustainability movements have lately been making themselves known since the 20th century, in sectors popular and unpopular, fashion being the forerunner amongst them. While we all have heard of fashion brands adapting eco-friendly fabrics, production processes and upcycling; did you know that the Green Architecture movement has been gaining momentum since the 1960s, and today it has become the need of the hour? Before we delve deeper into the history and future prospects of this discipline, let us first understand what it is.

What is Green Architecture?

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that almost half of the world’s resources are engaged in creating and maintaining buildings – an estimated 16% of the freshwater, up to 40% of the energy and 50% the minerals mined from the depths of the earth by weight. By definition therefore, green architecture is the discourse of building sustainable structures, which help the environment by either conserving it or aiding it in its growth. Structures which are identified as green architecture possess at least one or more of the following characteristics –

  • Efficient heating and cooling through a well designed ventilation.
  • Systems to harvest rainwater and reuse greywater.
  • Using alternative sources of energy – the most common of which is solar.
  • Making amends for the local flora to grow on the building surface.
  • Renovation of old buildings instead of creating one from scratch.
  • Furnishings and support structures made out of responsibly harvested wood.
  • Installation of energy saving electrical appliances and lights.
  • Local sourcing of raw materials, leading to a smaller carbon footprint as a lot of emissions can be prevented by cutting down on transportation distances.
  • Using non-synthetic and non-toxic materials.
  • Creative use of architectural salvage.

For those of you who have been to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, let us inform you that it is one of the largest architectural marvels to have been certified as green in India. The airport has water saving designs in place and has used local flora for its landscaping. Suzlon One Earth situated in Pune (India) is one of the greenest corporate working spaces in the world. It was designed by Christopher Charles and received the LEED platinum rating in 2010. It is completely powered by renewable energy sources and is designed in such a way that daylight reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day.

Certain architects use nature as a guiding force, using biomimicry in their designs. The Expo 2000 Venezuelan Pavilion uses artificially controlled petal-like awnings to regulate the internal environment, just like a flower would. If all these examples fail to inspire you to envision a sustainable structure, I am certain that those of you who are architecture enthusiasts would have at one point or the other come across modern homes made out of shipping containers.

Note: LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is essentially a rating system introduced by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the sustainability potential of a building. The rating system is recognized worldwide.

A brief history of green architecture:

In the early 20th century, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was already talking about building with nature, rather than by destroying it. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is arguably the pioneer of the movement and the one, which introduced the concepts of eco-friendly architecture. During this period, rebellious youth in the United States, having witnessed the effect of urbanization on the environment, started living in tents as a form of protest. This rebellion has now taken the shape of a new kind of design philosophy.

The future of green architecture:

 LEED is encouraging the construction of smaller and more efficient buildings, innovative energy saving solutions and judicious use of space as escalation of urbanization has made land a rare and valuable commodity. Architect Edward Mazria established a nonprofit organization, Architecture 2030, which aims to create architecture carbon-neutral by 2030. Richard Hawkes, inspired by this, has designed the first completely carbon-neutral home of the United States. This experimental structure is called the Crossway Zero Carbon Home.

For students aspiring to be architects, it is important to note that green architecture is the future of the building sector. Following are the Universities offering courses in the discipline:



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