SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE: A ‘BUILDING BLOCK’ FOR A GREENER WORLD

This is what Ciccozzi Architecture can do for you

October 17th, 2017
Over the next few weeks, we’re discussing how architecture plays in to sustainable development and how it supports the movement towards a greener future. Part II >> Part III >>Introduction Last week, on September 21st, people worldwide linked arms in observance of International Day of Peace. Established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly, this day exists to honour and fortify the global vision of non-violence and peace for all nations and peoples. Each year welcomes a new theme to advance this mission and for 2016, the focus is one we embrace wholeheartedly. “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace” initiative endeavours to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals created by the UN, and to begin forward momentum towards a 2030 agenda. The UN calls each goal a “building block in the global architecture of peace” and we’re proud to do our part within that infrastructure. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing how architecture plays in to sustainable development and how it supports the movement towards a greener future. What is Sustainable Development? Sustainability is the conservation of our planet’s natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity in equilibrium with human life today and for the future. It’s the ability of our society to function in unity with and in support of each other and our earth. Sustainability recognizes that the human race and the natural environment are not two separate things—they are inextricable, co-existing organisms that affect and influence the other.

Sustainable development, then, is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (as defined by the UN in Our Common Future). It unites environmental, economic, and social needs under a shared vision for global sustainability in all its forms.

What is Sustainable Architecture? According to Sustainable Buildings Canada, buildings (residential and commercial combined) account for 31% of total energy consumption. That’s more than transportation (30%) and not much less than industrial energy use (37%). Buildings also represent 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

sbc_distribution_energy_use_sector So how can a structure that typically has such a negative impact on the environment contribute to a sustainable future?

Sustainable architecture has eco-mindfulness built right into the design. Also called green building, this is the architecture designed to have the least negative impact on citizens and the environment, both during construction and for the future. It uses energy efficient and ecological practices to limit the use of materials, energy, and development space through every stage of the building life cycle. In short, it is the balance between the natural and the built environment.

Green building incorporates eco-friendly alternatives such as: solar panels; wind power; low VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials; the use of efficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems; and more.

Benefits of Sustainable Architecture As we’ve discussed, sustainability addresses more than just the environment; it considers economic and social issues as well. While it’s easy to recognize the direct benefits on the natural world, we sometimes overlook the positive effects that enviro-conscious building can have on occupants and our economy. Here’s a breakdown of the three-pronged benefits of sustainable architecture:

benefits_sustainable_architecture_infograph How Sustainable Architecture Supports the SDGs Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are ambitions to combat poverty and inequality, conserve our climate and resources, and foster health and well being for the human race. Though all of the goals are linked by a common vision, with our emphasis on sustainable architecture, we will focus on three specific objectives: e_sdg-goals_icons-individual-rgb-07 e_sdg-goals_icons-individual-rgb-09 e_sdg-goals_icons-individual-rgb-11 The first promises “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” The second strives to “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” And the third, to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Sustainable architecture addresses these needs directly and there are many programs in place to make reaching these goals possible. The ones we’ll be looking at are: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Canada Green Building Council Built Green Canada Green building systems like these provide a framework for sustainable architecture and ensure that buildings meet the standards required to maximize sustainable outcomes.

Building Towards a Greener Future Swapping plastic water bottles for stainless steel. Walking to work instead of driving. Choosing organic food over conventional. Changes like these go a long way in aligning human life with the natural world. But every choice is not for every person— it’s one thing to vow to go vegan but if that lifestyle can’t be kept up, then it’s simply not sustainable living.

The true definition of sustainability often gets lost within its ‘environmental’ prefix and we forget the simple and obvious fact that, in order for something to be sustainable, it must be able to be sustained.

Green building, though, is something we can sustain (and is arguably easier than veganism!), and our province is fast becoming a global leader for sustainable architecture. Let’s continue the conversation and further the mission for a “global architecture of peace.”

In our next post, we’ll delve deeper into LEED in Canada and show you why this program is the gold standard for green building.