07 Jul 2022

Building a greener sustainable future by design

It’s fair to say that our modern way of living is truly disconnected from nature. Climate change is our biggest challenge to date and, as individuals and businesses, we all need to take an active role in dealing with this crisis. There’s no doubt that we are already seeing the impact of our actions and experiencing a delayed response in initiating change to deal with the climate crisis.

Change is beginning to emerge, as we witness major collaborative approaches to deal with the consequences of past decisions that will continue to influence future generations. By joining forces with those that are taking action, we are paving the way for more meaningful change.

Our Managing Director Margarita Germanos, as an architect and academic, has been pushing these boundaries by becoming an advocate for sustainable solutions within projects. Most university architectural courses have developed a stronger focus recently on green architecture and bioengineered buildings. Key to a modern, regenerative approach to architecture and design is the exploration of what nature and natural systems can teach us. This often means reconnecting with those methods originally pioneered by our ancestors.

We all live and work in buildings, yet they are contributing almost 40% of greenhouse emissions (data source: Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction 2018 Global Status Report, prepared by the International Energy Agency). Every time we take a shower or plug-in our computer, we are using energy that creates greenhouse gas pollution. Creating the resilient places, we and the world need can be achieved through sustainable, closed loop design. We need to strive towards achieving not just carbon net zero, but carbon net gain, to become effective.

Working towards regenerative design by engaging the green approach

There’s a need to design buildings that are fundamentally green; applying only elements of green technologies is simply not enough. And this needs to apply to whole systems with circular thinking at every stage of the design, specification, and construction process. A holistic approach, in which all actions and consequences are properly considered in design, is known as regenerative design.

By working together, we can help solve some of the problems to engage and employ greener approaches to design and the operation of facilities. This does come at a price, and it’s common for clients to forego the greener, more sustainable approach in favour of the most affordable but often short-term solution. However, there are longer-term cost benefits that can be achieved when investing in nature-based, regenerative approaches to design.

Aligning with nature

Nature and architecture need to become more aligned, but sadly this is rarely the case. Flowers get their energy from the sun through photosynthesis. A plant satisfies all its water needs from the amount of precipitation that it captures in its root system below. Neither process creates pollution, and at the end of life, the decaying process provides nourishment to the earth, which in turn supports future life: a virtuous circle.

Building structures and designs need to replicate this, and adopting a true circular economy is one way of moving towards more sustainable living. The sourcing of smart materials, the inclusion of natural and sustainable energy sources, the recycling of waste and the repurposing of existing redundant buildings and materials can all help achieve this. A living building for a living future: a building that echoes nature.

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