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One of the trendiest words in this millennium, sustainable, is often attached as the preferred modifier for almost everything these days. Compared to architectural styles in the past, sustainable architecture is based on some different elements. Considering the multiple concerns for the planet and its residents, it has become the byword for those who want to pursue conscious and conscientious living.
To live a sustainable life, you have to start at home where you meet your most basic needs. Keeping this in mind, it is ideal for your dwelling to have been built and designed to allow you to be as environment-friendly as possible.
What is a sustainable home? There are three main elements involved in creating a sustainable home. You have the structure of your home itself, the interior setup, and the lifestyle of the inhabitants. The structure should have been designed and built with the most minimal environmental impact in mind.
Sustainability isn’t limited to its eventual use. The concept should be adhered to even during the design and construction stage.
The objective, of course, is for the users of the structure to practice energy efficiency and healthy living without sacrificing comfort. In fact, with sustainable solutions, a building should boast improved livability. This is very much achievable with the integration of complementary technologies and appropriate materials.
Is It Truly Sustainable?
Since trends tend to be trivialized, the sustainability concept runs the danger of being misconstrued. Many latch on to a shallow interpretation of the idea, thinking that an eco-friendly feature here and there automatically warrants a sustainable label. That’s why the term “greenwashing” has been coined.
The use of solar panels is good, but it doesn’t make a home sustainable; neither does building with recycled materials. Sustainability is the total package — the sum of all the building’s parts. This means that every aspect of the structure is sustainable, both environmentally and economically.
It requires careful thinking and conceptualizing, but sustainable architecture may generally be achieved by implementing the following building principles:
1. Using materials that are easily retrieved and then reused or recycled
One of the important tenets of sustainable architecture is to source materials locally — ones with as little carbon footprint as possible. This also means that construction doesn’t contribute to the depletion of natural resources. Preferably, materials would be easily retrieved from demolition sites and recycling centers.
Another one, of course, is to build with the objective of having zero to minimal waste. If something cannot be reused, then it could be recycled for a different purpose. If something cannot be reused or repurposed, then its disposal shouldn’t cause any pollution.
Architects and builders who care about sustainability should know what their options are in terms of green materials:
- They are made of recycled content.
- They are salvaged or refurbished.
- They are natural resources available in abundance locally.
- They are durable.
- They are reusable or recyclable.
2. Creating an energy- and water-efficient setup
It’s not only about using appliances and fixtures with Energy Star ratings and low flow taps and toilets. The design of the structure should have been crafted with insight in terms of what allows its inhabitants to require as little electricity as possible and to maximize the use of water. As long as it complies with electrical safety measures.
It’s ideal, of course, to have sources of renewable energy, but the architect should employ his knowledge to design something that would allow inhabitants to use natural light and ventilation as much as possible.
Rain water, gray water, multi-purpose water use — these should all be kept in mind when designing a sustainable home. At the end of the day, the building manages to enable conservation of both natural resources and finances.
3. Ensuring that the structure boosts occupant health
Sustainability isn’t only about maintaining and upholding natural resources, but life as well. What’s the point of ensuring the health of the environment if there is no regard at all for human health?
This means that sustainable architecture supports excellent air quality and promotes general health. A sustainable home designer, for instance, is likely to present wall or floor painting ideas that would not only be visually appealing, but that would also positively influence mood and well-being.
It is important to take into account that human beings were designed to exist in the natural world, and that the common state of nature deficiency in people these days has a negative impact on physical and mental health. A sustainable home would provide shelter, comfort, and security, but in a manner that complements and flows with its natural environment, thus encouraging interaction with it.
A sustainable building should be practical, or it contradicts sustainability at its very core. It shouldn’t cost a fortune to build just to ensure that people can reap its benefits of much lower maintenance, much higher energy savings, and improved occupant health.
It’s important to keep in mind that, besides supporting resource efficiency and a wholesome environment, sustainable architecture should also be characterized by affordability. Sustainability shouldn’t only be for the wealthy. These efforts are really most effective and influential when they are geared to serve in the collective.
Ralph El Eid is the Business Development Manager at COLORTEK – Wall & Floor Fashion. EQUIPAINT is the franchise owner of COLORTEK in Dubai (U.A.E.) and Doha (Qatar); an international paints manufacturer specializing in the widest range of decorative paints and seamless concrete & resin flooring, with a unique showroom concept, and thus an ideal destination for homeowners, consultants, architects, interior designers and paint applicators.