Sustainable Design
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Sustainable Design

Sustainable design aims to create buildings that are not harmful to their occupants or the surrounding environment. The concept of sustainable design has grown in the last twenty years, since 1990. Sustainable design recognizes that man is an integral part of the natural world. That natural world must be preserved and perpetuated.
Sustainable design does not require a loss of quality of life. It does require a change in values toward a less consumptive lifestyle. These changes in values are based on:

Global interdependence
Environmental stewardship
Social responsibility
Economic viability

Bill of Rights for the Planet

Sustainable design must use these concepts as an alternative approach to traditional design. A model of the new design principles was set forth by William McDonough Architects for EXPO 2000. It is frequently referred to as the “Bill of Rights for the Planet.”

The Bill of Rights for the Planet is in abbreviated form here.

1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to coexist
2. Recognize interdependence
3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter
4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions
5. Create safe objects of long-term value
6. Eliminate the concept of waste
7. Rely on natural energy flows
8. Understand the limitations of design
9. Seek constant improvements by sharing knowledge

There is an example of sustainable design in Freiburg, Germany. The Solar Settlement, as it is called, is a 59 home housing community with a 60,000 sq.ft. integrated retail, commercial and residential building called the Sun Ship. What is remarkable is that every home, all 59, produces a positive energy balance. The object of sustainable design is not just to reduce fossil fuel consumption but also to plan for sustainable energy use.

Sustainable Design - Declaration of Interdependence

The International Union of Architects is committed to a “Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future”. Some of it s tenets are:

Placing environmental and social sustainability at the core of its practices and responsibilities.
Developing and improving: Practices, Procedures, Products, Services, Standards for sustainable design.
Educating the building industry, clients, and the public about the importance of sustainable design.
Working to change: Policies, Regulations, Standards
Bringing the existing environment up to sustainable design standards.

Principles of Practical Application

While the applications will vary by discipline, there are some common principles that govern sustainable design. They are:

1. Use low-impact materials that are non-toxic and sustainably produced or recycled.
2. Employ energy efficiency in manufacturing processes and produce products that require less energy.
3. Build for quality and durability, which are longer lasting and better functioning products to be replaced less frequently.
4. Design for re-use and recycling: systems should be designed for performance in a commercial afterlife.
5. Allow for total carbon footprint calculations.
6. Provide for service substitution: shifting from personal ownership to provision of services, for example, a car sharing service.
7. Promote renewability: materials from local sources can be recycled back to the provider.
8. Consider designing “healthy” buildings for the occupants and the environment.

Sustainable Design Philosophy

Sustainable design balances human needs with the capacity of the natural environment. It will minimize:

Environmental impact
Importation of goods and energy
Generation of waste

The ideal form of development would be to use renewable materials on site for building. Allow for energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind and manage its own waste. Sustainable design demands an understanding of the consequences of one’s actions.

Sustainable Design Objectives

The long-term objective of sustainable design is to minimize resource degradation and consumption. The primary objective becomes to heighten environmental awareness. A sustainable design must:

Be subordinate to the ecosystem
Exemplify appropriate environmental responsiveness
Enhance appreciation of the natural environment
Exemplify appropriate environmental responsiveness
Use the simplest technology available
Use renewable, indigenous building materials
Provide for equal access for all
Strive for “smaller is better” design

Sustainable design is the future of society. Awareness of our environment is essential to bring about the changes needed.


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