In today’s world, a world ruled by companies and industries, pollution and the waste of resources and energies have become important issues we must address. The ozone layer destruction is real and so is global warming. But there’s more, overpopulation is a real thing, and it is of course a reality that we are wasting our resources and that there no longer be enough for all of us in the future. As citizens of planet Earth, we have a responsibility with it, with the environment. The solution to this extremely concerning problem is nothing but sustainability. Therefore, architects’ solution is sustainable architecture.
Sustainability is the assurance of the coexistence of humans and the Earth biosphere. On top of that, sustainability exists in three areas: economy, society and environment. Regarding economy, it must be both circular, economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources (according to Wikipedia), and green, which cares for social well-being and equality and aims at reducing environmental problems and is resource efficient. The latter is focused in both social and environmental dimensions. To act in a sustainably way, we must reduce human’s impact and emissions as much as possible in order to avoid surpassing nature’s capacity. Besides, we must use renewable resources without overpassing their regeneration rate.
In relation to sustainability there are three important concepts: LCA, ecological footprint and the three R’s. Firstly, LCA or Life Cycle Analysis researches the impact of a product in all stages of its life (from production to disintegration), analysing the use of energy and pollution generated. Secondly, ecological footprint is the method to analyse the amount of nature needed to support an economy or society. In other words, it studies a society impact on the environment. Thirdly, the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) is a method to adapt in our lifestyles based in three steps or ways to be sustainable. Reduce is the most important one, since our goal is to produce as less as possible, so we make as little impact as possible. Whilst, recycling is the least prior, because when recycling there is a process of manufacture involved (wasting resources and causing pollution).
These type of building understands human biology and environments as priorities, that architects must keep in mind when creating them. In relation to human psychology, architects must comprehend the importance of proportions, dimensions, colours and the relationship of nature. This way, spaces will create a relaxing effect on us. As a matter of fact, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is an actual disease. Basically, it is a reaction of our body (headaches, nausea, irritability…) to a non-healthy or oppressive space. This shows how important spaces are and how big architects’ responsibility is.
Climate human being
As humans, climate is key. By this I mean that climate can really determine our physical and mental health. This is due to the fact that human bodies are thermal mechanisms that generate heat when transforming chemical into mechanical energy. So, the lower the effort to maintain our bodies temperature, the closer we will be to comfort. This said, the climate we live in and its conditions (temperature, humidity, radiation and air movement) are key. For example, this explains how high suicide rate is in Nordic countries such as Finland, despite being the best examples of welfare states.
On the one hand, one example is bio-architecture. This type of architecture is focused in respecting the people living in it and the environment and its identity. It is based in an environmentally-friendly construction and in structures inspired by nature. On the other hand, we have bioclimatic architecture, This architecture is based in the analysis of the climate of the area where a building will be constructed in. In such a way, it will help the building be sustainable. However, there are also some simple solutions to control the climate. For instance, architects can take advantage of a house’s orientation, of the natural ventilation, of thermal inertia, etc.
When choosing materials, traditional materials are usually a more environmentally-friendly or sustainable option than synthetic ones. Nevertheless, one must pay attention to the ones advertised as “natural”, since they can contain damaging chemicals.
Nowadays, it is a truth that we are more and more conscious about the importance of protecting our planet and as a consequence, of sustainability. However, architects have to avoid being fooled by big enterprises that have taken advantage of this environmentally-friendly wave and that are definitely not worried about the planet. In fact, many of these catalog products as “natural”, making us think they are sustainable. However, the reality is different, because their production process is the very much opposite of sustainable. Their main aim is the same as before, to make as much profit as possible. Moreover, sustainability globalization has made us ignore our local, environmental and cultural conditions and our local materials, which in many occasions are better. Besides, biomorphism has been the main exponent of bio-architecture. Despite biomorphism’s organic and natural forms, it does not mean a biomorphic building is sustainable or an example or bio-architecture. Also, when analyzing a building energy waste, it must always be studied long-term and not immediate (if we want to ensure sustainability): Finally, this last decade we have been obsessed with the concept of recycling. Even though, recycling is a good option, there are much better ones such as reusing or rehabilitation.
In conclusion, let’s advocate for sustainability, without being fooled.