What is Sustainable Building or Sustainable Architecture?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Sustainable Architecture is architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space and the ecosystem at large. Sustainable architecture uses a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment.

The idea of sustainability, or ecological design, is to ensure that our use of presently available resources does not end up having detrimental effects to our collective well-being or making it impossible to obtain resources for other applications in the long run.[2]

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

The history of Sustainable Architecture has typically been a design approach that strives to be more in symbiosis with the ecology, and have less negative impact on the environment, both locally and globally.

Designers with this mindset often have a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment. This includes attention to material selection, often striving to use natural materials that have less negative impact in the environment. This material selection process often considers the attainment and production – from cradle to grave, or as has become more common since the late 1990’s is to use the term – from cradle to cradle.

The term Sustainable Architecture is often referenced with Sustainable Building, however there are many groups that link the latter to “Green building”. Wikipedia’s page lists a definition of Green Building as “(also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.” [3]

While there is overlap to these fields, historically the terms Sustainable Architecture and Sustainable Building were used interchangeably, whereas Green Building was often more focused on energy efficiency.

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

An important component and goal in Architectural Medicine is to create healthy built environments for human health, yet also all biological health on the planet. And to build in a format that supports positive human health, it requires that the environment and ecological systems of this planet are also cared for.

The importance of good physical health means that there is clean air, clean water and clean soil for food and life on this planet. If we are to ensure that optimal health is a goal for current and future generations, it is imperative that our architecture supports optimal human and biological health as one and the same.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

The origins of Sustainable Architecture (Sustainable Building), can go back to those such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture, yet in theory you can go back centuries to view the architecture of the ancient world that has embraced an architecture that is connected to the natural world. The architecture of ancient Japan, as an example, has often shown the importance of integrating nature into their built environments. [4]

While there are many who have contributed to Sustainable Architecture (Sustainable Building), in the past 40-50 years, there are a few who stand out as pioneers. The work and writings of Sim van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan, as well as the developments of those such as William McDonough and James Wines are just a few names on this list.

The progressive work of Eugene Tsui‘s Evolutionary Architecture, Paolo Soleri‘s Arcology and James Hubble’s designs and writings on this topic are also important contributions.

5. Resources: