Green architecture quickly paves its own path and becomes established bit by bit in today’s society thanks to the degree of environmental awareness.

Sustainable buildings attempt to avoid land degradation through the exploitation of environmental resources, taking advantage of the energy coming from the environment, and avoiding in turn its wasteful spending.

According to recent information, the building sector not only makes use of a high percentage of natural resources such as water, electrical energy and raw materials, but it is also responsible for the discharge of a high amount of residues and environmentally harmful gases, such as CO2, which is the main cause of the greenhouse effect.

Another piece of information that needs to be considered is that conventional buildings are responsible for almost 50% of the energy consumed on a global scale. To that, one should add the amount of agents of pollution discharged on a daily basis, as well as the raw materials that are necessary for their maintenance.

These are all the reasons why public administrations, as well as architects themselves, have launched the so called green architecture. Renowned architect Frank Gehry is one of the main promoters of this sustainable architecture; according to his own statements: “Energy and money must be saved. Green architecture must be developed. Everything must be green now. And it is real, because if not, we are dead”.

Benefits of green architecture

  • Environmental benefits. The main characteristic of this type of architecture is that it is environmentally friendly; since electrical energy is less used, fewer residues are generated and CO2 emissions are reduced, as well as other gases causing global warming.

 

  • Economic benefits. The reduction of energy consumption makes these eco-friendly buildings provide considerable economic profits. On the other hand, since their construction is based on ecological models and efficient management systems, their cost can be equal or even less than that of conventional buildings.

Green buildings are constructed considering the environment, and incorporate a variety of systems which ensure a high reduction in energy consumption:

Use of renewable energy sources. Green buildings are constructed with a rain water harvesting system, they leverage the heat coming from the ground in order to make the facilities warm and natural air streams to cool them, they are oriented in a way that solar energy is avoided or leveraged, etc., which make these buildings be self-sufficient and sustainable, besides saving up to 30% of energy in comparison with conventional buildings.

Use of ecological materials. Green buildings are manufactured with materials of the environment where they are located, as well as with recycled materials, which entails a reduction in the energy needed for their manufacturing as well as their transportation.

Installation of automatic doors and other systems such as thermal bridge breaking systems to avoid thermal exchanges between the building interior and exterior, reducing the need of overloading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

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A few examples of green buildings

  • La Vela, BBVA headquarters, Madrid. This 93 metre high tower is a work by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre Meuron and has the LEED Gold certification, one of the most demanding standards in the eco-construction sector. This elliptical building displays a high amount of characteristics which enable to consider it as “sustainable”: it was built with low environmental impact materials, 100% of the residues generated are recycled, and it has gardens on its rooftop in order to harvest rain water.

 

  • The Crystal, London. One of the main characteristics of this majestic building is that it fully leverages natural daylight. The Crystal makes use of a smart lighting technology thanks to solar energy itself captured in the daytime through photovoltaic plaques installed on its envelope. Besides, this London building harvest rain water with a view to be self-sufficient, and purifies waste water to make it drinkable.

 

  • Pixel Building, Melbourne. It is the first Australian zero-emission office building, for which it has been awarded with the highest distinction from the Australian Green Building Council. The main characteristic of this building is not only that it is self-sufficient, but it also has rain water collecting systems, residue recycling systems and huge green extensions on its envelope aimed to harvest and which collect rain water. But the Pixel Building goes much further, the panels that conform its envelope enable to control the passage of light, as well ventilation, thus reducing energy consumption.

Green architecture attempts to combine design and sustainability, not only to reduce the negative effects on the environment, but also to enhance and improve the quality of life of users and residents.

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