Updated: Mar 25, 2022
What is Green Architecture?
Britannica describes green architecture as a philosophy of architecture that “advocates sustainable energy sources, the conservation of energy, the reuse and safety of building materials, and the siting of a building with consideration of its impact on the environment.” This definition of green architecture sits well with its true purpose and role in the battle against climate change. So, when did the idea of green architecture sprout? The roots of green architecture dates back all the way to the 1960s and 1970s in the US. Specifically during those years, oil prices skyrocketed which led to the start of research and development plans to find renewable energy sources.
However, if we really dig deep into the human intuition of green architecture, it dates back to ancient civilization that had to adapt to living in extreme weathers. A prime example of ancient green architecture would be the Montezuma Castle, located on a remote desert cliff in between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. With the main structure of the castle built of mud and stone, the ceilings and floors are then reinforced with dry branches, twigs, grasses, and reeds. With the castle engraved into the high cliffs, it received natural winds as a form of air ventilation. Another example would be the traditional Arabic architecture that dates back to 2000 BC. These housings usually feature a courtyard and a high tower to act as a wind crater for natural air ventilation. Both these examples utilizes natural winds to control interior climate and thus, are a form of green architecture.
The Benefits of Green Architecture
First of all, let’s look at the numbers. If we compare the largest uses of energy, buildings take the crown. In the US alone, a total of 38.9 percent of the country’s energy use is accounted for by residential (20.4%) and industrial (18.5%) buildings. How do buildings end up using all this energy? Well, if we look at the buildings around us right now or perhaps if we’re in one right now, it’s pretty obvious where all the energy is consumed. To put it simply, lots of energy is used for:
And many other functions! As such, buildings consume a whole lot of energy.
Let’s discuss some of the benefits of green architecture. First and foremost, it has been reported that investments in green buildings make properties more valuable with an increase of 10% or more in asset value. Sec0nd, green buildings require less maintenance costs to operate. LEED (the most widely used green building rating system) -certified buildings report a 20% lower maintenance costs than the average typical building. Buildings that were modified to a green building also report that operation costs decrease by 10% in just a year. Finally, green buildings have generated millions of jobs as well as hundreds of billions of dollars. In the US alone, national green building construction has generated over $167.4 billion in GDP in between 2011-2014. The bottom-line of this benefit is that green architecture is profitable and good for the economy.
Another benefit and the most significant one is that green architecture is one of the biggest solutions for our environmental problem. Green buildings reduce water, energy, carbon, and waste. 22 LEED-certified buildings were reviewed by the US Department of Energy and the following was revealed:
CO2 emissions were 34% lower
Energy and water consumption was 36% lower
And 80 million tons of waste were diverted from landfills.
Green buildings are also really beneficial for human health and well-being. Believe it or not, we spend almost 90% of our time indoors where many are often exposed to poor environments that could lead to bad health. The construction of green buildings prioritize health which means that green buildings provide these necessary spaces for health and comfort. The planning that goes into modern green building construction takes into account resilience-enhancing designs, technologies, materials, and methods. This means that green buildings utilize the use of durable materials, thoughtful site selection, energy efficiency, and many more. From these benefits, it should be clear that green architecture is beneficial and not only important to climate change itself but also human well-being and economy.
When we talk about green architecture, it’s worth mentioning the effort countries have given into developing green cities. Green cities heavily utilize the concept and idea of green architecture by constructing eco-friendly public spaces with the aim of improving and/or maintaining the quality of life in cities. As the population increases, nearly 70% of humanity lives in urban areas. With temperatures higher with the addition of frequent and excessive rain and flood, most urban areas aren’t exactly safe and healthy. The urban areas of today need a lot of open space and definitely a way to reduce emissions while saving energy. This is why countries are really putting an effort into refining their major cities into green cities. These cities strive to reduce waste, expand recycling, lower emissions, increasing housing density while expanding open space, and to encourage the development of sustainable local businesses.
A known example of a well-developed green city is Rekyjavic, Iceland. The city utilizes hydrogen-powered buses as its main form of public transportation. The city’s heat is provided by both geothermal and hydropower which are renewable energy sources.
In Brazil’s green city of Curitiba, architect and urban planner Jamie Lerner implemented a high-tech bus system that reduced traffic which then reduced energy usage and emissions. The city’s 2,2 million residents still rely greatly on these buses till’ this day.
Then, we have San Francisco which is known as the leader in green building and energy efficiency. Texas is also becoming the world leader in solar equipment production and has also done a great job in preserving open space. Chicago has also invested billions of dollars into refining their public parks and neighborhoods into a more eco-friendly living and commuting space. As we can see, cities all over the world are starting to join in the green city movement.
Let’s not forget Indonesia itself! As of 2012, 10 cities were designated as national green cities for a pilot project that would develop green cities in this country. This includes: Bandung, Denpasar, Jakarta, Makassar, Medan, Palembang, Semarang, Surabaya, Tangerang, and Yogyakarta.
The pilot project was launched by the Agriculture Ministry with the aim of creating better living conditions in urban areas since Indonesia is progressively experiencing a rapid rate of urbanization. This project hopes to make these cities more livable for their residents and also for visitors. According to the international declaration of urban landscapes, a city would have to provide 20% of public green space and 10% of private green space. However, Indonesia’s green spaces declined from about 35% to less than 10% in 1970-2010 in big cities. This is an eye-opener to how urban areas in Indonesia have little to almost no green spaces and are far under the recommended amount.
Then again, these green city projects would encourage local administrators and residents to cooperate by reducing pollutants and creating open and green spaces. It is also tolerated to plant more trees and to clean up city areas. For all the cities mentioned previously, the government is planning to implement public parks in hospitals, airports, schools, office buildings, and entertainment centers. The government has allocated each city with a budget of Rp. 80 million to implement the projects.
So, is green architecture the future of housing in urban areas?
I think it’s safe to say that such is the case for a lot of countries. There are already uncountable amounts of projects that advocate for green architecture around the world. With the advancement of technology and an unlimited scale of human ingenuity, it is really convincing that green architecture would continue to be utilized in the future. As of 2020, the green building market is expected to exceed $254 billion. These green building materials will help develop air cleaning materials, micro-grids, net zero buildings, and smart glass. As countries are becoming more aware of the possible effects of climate change, the demand for green housing will continue to increase, especially in developed countries. Governments around the world are also encouraging the use of electric vehicles which may contribute to a developed green city. The increasing development of smart homes may also be utilized and implemented with the concept of green architecture which may improve sustainability. The bottom line is, as technology advances, green architecture would also advance.
Overall, nature will always be there for humans to utilize correctly. With the help of increasing climate change awareness, more people are becoming aware of the consequences climate change brings. Governments are also pressured into bringing an appropriate living space for their citizens and as a result, the development of green cities is becoming more common. The future for green housing really looks bright if the development of green cities stays on the right path. The green technology that develops in the next few years will also determine the course of the future of green housing. As of right now, we can only hope and spread awareness regarding the importance of green architecture.
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