According to statistics from the Department of Environment, Australians spend an average of 90 percent of their lives indoors, and six percent of their lives inside vehicles, in transit. This means you spend only around three percent of your life outside, which then leads us to the topic of air quality. Why? Well, unless you spend most of your time in a building that heavily features sustainable design, the air you breathe indoors will be far worse than it is outdoors, on all counts.
Something in the air
The quality of your indoor air can be attributed to the outgassing of different chemicals from various building materials. Most of those chemicals stem from the very nature of the building’s construction, as well as from certain material performance codes.
For example, many curtain fabrics are generally covered in fire retardants in order to prevent fire from spreading. In fact, research by global sustainable design firm Perkins+Will states that up to 374 asthmagens that can be found in most building materials.
Seeing how the majority of people spend most of their time inside buildings, legally mandating construction industry to erect buildings that are healthier for its occupants should thus be top priority for communities.
Enter green architecture
Green architecture, or architecture founded on principles of sustainable design, is a practice that involves the incorporation of green elements (such as watering systems and adaptive landscaping) into the roofs, walls, and facades of buildings.
Its main goal is to make a perfect combination of green life and architecture in order to preserve nature, and at the same time, improve the quality of living. In addition, sustainable architecture could potentially solve the global power issues, seeing how green buildings use 25 percent less energy than do standard commercial buildings.
The following is a roundup of thoughtfully designed green buildings from all over the globe.
1. Shanghai Natural History Museum
Located in the heart of the largest city in China, the recently opened museum aims to tie Chinese history to the natural environment and to global ideas of sustainability. The gigantic, 749-square-foot construction includes a large oval pond, fed by rainwater collected atop the green roof, which promotes evaporative cooling.
The sustainable museum also has an “intelligent building skin” that reduces solar gain and maintains a comfortable room temperature at all times.
2. Vancouver Convention Centre West
Back in 2010, VCCW became the first LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified convention center in the world. The building boasts the largest, non-industrial living roof in North America (more than six acres), which hosts around 400,000 indigenous plants.
The roof also provides a natural habitat for approximately 240,000 bees that provide honey, which is used in the centre’s kitchen.
3. The Bullitt Center, Seattle
Often called “the world's greenest commercial building,” the 52,000-square-foot Bullitt Center is the first office building to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification—the highest international standard of building sustainability.
Furthermore, the Bullitt is 83 percent more efficient than an average office building in the city, thanks to the photovoltaic panels, located on the building’s rooftop, that produce around 230,000 kWh a year.
4. One Central Park, Sydney
Two years ago, Central Park topped the list of the best tall buildings in the world, beating 87 other entries from around the world. The designers were especially praised for their visible use of the green design.
The surface of the building is covered with more than 3,500 square feet of vertical gardens, which house 383 different species of plants. The 623-apartment building also contains a tri-generation plant, which will save the equivalent around 140,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission over the next 25 years.
5. Living green walls around the world
Two years ago, seeking to boost the number of quality green walls and roofs in the metro in keeping with “Sustainable Sydney 2030,” the city became the first in Australia to adopt a “green roofs and walls policy.”
The city council has since dedicated more than 75 million dollars to Public Domain Landscaping programs, and to a range of initiatives already in motion. As a result, more than a few design and construction companies began offering green wall installations and other landscaping products to help the city reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent in 2030.
Sustainable design and the landscape of our future
The fact of the matter, however, is that sustainable design and functional city landscaping costs money. The hanging gardens, lawns, and spreads at Sydney’s One Central Park, for instance, requires six permanent maintenance staff members to care for it, at a cost of $250,000 per year.
Nevertheless, things are steadily progressing. At this moment, there are several promising green projects under construction all across Australia. The recently topped out Platinum Tower in Southbank, Melbourne, with its pre-grown vertical façade, is scheduled to be completed in September of this year.
As climate change takes effect, it becomes more and more vital to concert our efforts toward minimizing our carbon footprint and promote the greening of our cities. We look forward to legislation that requires all future commercial and public infrastructure to not only balance form with function, but to most importantly be environmentally responsive and sustainable.