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sustainable architecture
27 November 2018
Kuldeep Bwail

Key Features of Sustainable Architecture

Green design is also known as sustainable development, eco-design, eco-friendly architecture, and some even throw the term ‘arcology’ around. Whatever it’s called, sustainable architecture promotes nature and organic practices in architecture. Architectural design for sustainable buildings strives to incorporate structural design and MEP systems design into the architectural framework to produce a building that enriches its surroundings. A few features that further this goal are:

Green Roofs

A green roof or rooftop garden, lawn or space hosting a variety of trees, plants and grass can lower the temperature in an entire building, improving air quality. They create urban lungs and can be lovely enough to attract birds.

Creating a Green Roof
  • Lay a waterproof barrier on the roof.
  • Top it with material for drainage.
  • The topmost layer consists of soil and low-maintenance plants.
Solar Panels

Innovative concepts, such as solar shingles, are special kinds of solar panels. Solar shingles are part of the roof, not separate panels, and power the building. They are wired into the electrical system and must be at the correct angle to absorb optimum levels of sunlight.


Cob, or wet earth mixed with straw and rolled into brick-like pieces, can be stacked together to construct homes that maintain a low carbon footprint. Once stacked, the cob material is used to hand-mould the walls. This process results in curving structures and houses can have built-in shelves, nooks and furniture, such as couches and tables.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting systems are connected to underground containers that collect, store and use the harvested water to irrigate gardens without marring the landscape.

Shipping Containers

Old shipping containers can be used as prefabricated structures equipped with electrical, plumbing and even central heating or ventilation systems. These containers can be stacked on top of each other or side by side to create both residential and commercial buildings.

A ‘green’ architect strives to create building design that improves building performance and minimises long-term environmental impact and cost. Full sustainability in green buildings can be achieved as follows:

Key Features of a “Green” Building

  • Ventilation systems – efficient heating and cooling design
  • Lighting and appliances are energy efficient
  • Large, intelligently placed windows bring in natural light
  • Plumbing fixtures are designed to save water
  • Rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse
  • Open rainscreens allow air in through sidings, remove stagnant air
  • Wooden slats on pool decks allow water to drain naturally
  • Landscaping includes native vegetation
  • Maximum possible solar energy collection and use of wind power
  • Natural, non-toxic material used for interiors and exteriors of building
  • Locally obtained wood and stone, reducing long-distance transport
  • Innovative use of old structures
  • Recycling of architectural features
  • Positioned on site to maximise sunlight, winds and take advantage of natural shelters

Though the designs may be visually unappealing and involve added initial expenses, sustainable architecture is a growing trend that is bound to ultimately benefit people and surroundings.