We seem to have reached a point when we’re becoming more concerned about the planet we live on and more aware of our surroundings and their ephemeral nature. Right now green architecture is trendy and many of us are showing an interest in everything related to this concept. Solar energy is more popular than ever and we’re taking steps to purify our living environments in all sorts of ways. But what exactly is green architecture and what does it specifically mean or imply?
To simplify this concept and to form a definition, we can consider green architecture an approach to building that’s meant to minimize the negative impact of the whole process as much as possible in relation to both the health of those involved and the environment. The entire concept of green architecture is based on the idea of humans living harmoniously with their surroundings.
What’s important to remember about green architecture is that it uses sustainable building methods and is always focused on the environment. An architect needs additional qualifications on top of the standard degree in order to demonstrate his or her abilities and knowledge regarding green architecture. Such an architect is generally guided by the environment and the topography of a site when designing and building a structure.
It’s important, as an architect, to pay attention to what is already present on a site before starting a new project. If a building is present there, its current condition is important and so is its history. However, green architecture usually refers to new constructions. So what features would a green building include? The possibilities are numerous. For example, a green structure would be built using locally-sourced and responsibly harvested materials or salvaged and reclaimed pieces from old structures.
Green architecture is sustainable and eco-friendly. It uses space efficiently, alternative power sources such as solar or wind, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient lighting and appliances and natural ventilation. Another characteristic can be the efficient use of passive solar heating which can be maximized through landscaping and carefully-planned design. Because the site is on a hill and not connected to the city’s water and electrical services, the architects used photovoltaic and hudry power.
Abaton Barn Conversion.
In some cases, green architecture can also mean the renovation or conversion of an old building. An example is this Spanish residence which used to be an abandoned stable until Abaton transformed into a modern home. The architects were set of renovating it but in the end decided that it would be more efficient to start from scratch and to only reuse some of the materials from the old structure when building the new one. Also, the building is oriented to the south in order to take maximum advantage of the light and heat during winter.
The Catterpillar House sits on a gentle slope and has a contemporary and sustainable design. The earth excavated from the site was reused when building the walls. The earth provides efficient insulation and helps regulate the temperature inside the house. Three large tanks capture rainwater which is then reused. These are just some of the main elements that define the sustainable design of this modern home.
Renovated 1960s bungalow in Belgium.
Originally built in the 1960s, this bungalow in Belgium was recently transformed into a modern home that takes maximum advantage of the garden and the natural light. The new design also has an extension that adds more living space to the overall layout. In addition to that, the garage was repurposed into a playroom for the kids.
Timber cabin in Norway.
While some houses try their best to blend in and to become one with the surroundings, this timber cabin is all black and its goal is to stand out and to contrast with the white surroundings. The cabin is located in Geilo, a ski resort in Norway. It has thick concrete walls for insulation and during winter it becomes almost completely covered in snow and can only be accessed with snowmobiles. Its orientation allows the winter sun to warm the interior spaces while also ensuring wonderful views of the surrounding panorama. This was a project by Lund Hegem Architects.
There are cases when someone may be perfectly content with their house but wouldn’t say no to some extra space. It would definitely be nice to be able to add an office or a quiet and relaxing reading nook to the already existing structure but that requires building permits and a lot of work. There is, however, a simpler alternative: a prefab nook which can be installed in under a week. Just put it in the backyard and enjoy it. The Backyard Room is built from renewable materials and it can be designed and built in only 6 weeks.
The K House is a residence designed by Nicolas Koff and has 40 cm thick straw bale walls that offer it insulation and help reduce its overall energy consumption. The heating is ensured by a series of fireplaces and the cooling is done through windows which ensure cross ventilation. The project makes use of natural materials and traditional construction methods in order to offer a sustainable and healthy living environment to its owners.
Architect Stefano Boeri is the creative mind behind an amazing concept called Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest). It’s a project that started with two towers built in Milan’s Porta Nuova district. The towers are 80, respectively 112 meters high but that’s not their most important feature. The thing that makes them stand out is the array of trees that have been planted on the balconies, on all four sides of the towers. In total, there are 900 trees accompanied by 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 floral plants. The whole idea behind the project is to purify the air in the city and to reduce pollution.
Projects That Harvest The Power Of The Sun.
The sun is a great source of energy and we’ve become pretty good at harvesting it and using it in our homes. Solar-powered structures are becoming more popular each day and sometimes all we need is the right source of inspiration to follow this road ourselves. If you’re the adventurous type perhaps the idea of a solar-powered mobile home would interest you. KODA is a project by Kodasema. It’s a tiny prefabricated home with off-grid capabilities, perfect for those times when you want to just get away from everything and to spend some time in the middle of nowhere.
KODA tiny solar-powered house.
Nice Architects came up with their own unique invention: the EcoCapsule, a tiny mobile home which is solar- and wind-powered. This self-sustaining capsule offers users the freedom to live off the grid without giving up comfort and style. The structure is really small and offers only 8.2 square meters of floor space which doesn’t sound like a lot but is pretty well managed inside. It has a bathroom with shower and a waterless toilet, a small kitchen with a sink and a stove, a fold-out sofa and plenty of storage.
Tiny house on wheels.
The list continues with The Tiny Project, a mini home with a passive solar design built using sustainable materials. This tiny house on wheels can be easily moved around. The wood paneling give it a warm and cozy look while the glass door and windows bring in lots of natural light and offer beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. In total, the structure measures 8 ft by 20 ft.
Another interesting tiny home concept was designed by the students of the Santa Clara University. The project won the first tiny house competition in California. The house measures 238 square feet and is called rEvolve, a name which references its most interesting feature: the ability to track the sun throughout the day in order to optimize solar gain. The structure featured 8 solar panels and stored power in saltwater batteries.
The Till House doesn’t stand out much. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to spot it from the street. That’s because it’s been built on the edge of a cliff. It offers magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and it’s powered by solar energy. It’s a project designed by WMR Arquitectos using locally-sourced timber, the main idea being to make it disappear into the landscape. The structure is meant to serve as a weekend retreat for its owners. It measures a total of 185 square meters.
It was built adjacent to the South Willem’s Canal in southern Netherlands, the M House is one of the many beautiful structured powered by the sun. It was built by LIAG and it features a simple and contemporary design. It has a small energy footprint, with a cedar-clad exterior and 78 solar panels on the roof. The 800 square meter house is partially built underground, a design decision meant to protect the interior spaces from solar heat gain.
Energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness are the two most important principles that guided the design of the Pond House, a residence built by Forresterarchitects. It has such an efficient design that its heating requirements have been greatly reduced and as a result the house no longer requires traditional heating systems. Its windows allow passive solar heating and the overall design has been optimized to make the most of the solar power and rainwater harvested by the systems implemented in the structure.
Camp Baird retreat.
When the Camp Baird retreat was designed, the goal was to offer its inhabitants the opportunity to become close with nature and to enjoy the beauty of the Sonoma County and its sunny valley landscape. The architects (Malcolm Davis Architecture) envisioned this second home as an off-grid cabin with a design that focuses on the outdoors. The cabin has no need for air conditioning thanks to its efficient and sustainable design. Technically, there are two separate structures, the main cabin and a shed that are placed in an L shape. They’re solar powered and they have access to generous outdoor spaces.
Cousins River Residence.
Located in Freeport, Maine, the Cousins River Residence is a light-filled structure that features 4.6 kw photovoltaic panels and a structure that’s very well insulated. The house was designed by GO Logic and one of the main aspects of the project was the passive solar gain. The goal was achieved and at the same time the architects managed to allow tons of natural light to flow through the interior spaces. This was done by using translucent glass doors and large windows.
Soleta ZeroEnergy One.
Soleta ZeroEnergy One is one of the first structures of its kind in Romania. The house is located in Bucharest and its design is a harmonious blend of form and functions. It was a project by FITS and, unlike other sustainable structures, it managed to give eco-friendliness a cool and quirky character. It stands out thanks to its design that combined warm wood, large windows, white walls and neutral and earthy colors into a cool, contemporary composition.
It’s definitely easier to design and build a small structure that’s sustainable and eco-friendly but that doesn’t mean that these criteria can’t also be applied to larger projects. In fact, we found the perfect example in Melbourne. Here, Peddle Thorp Architects created a 60-storey tower that’s wrapped entirely in solar panels. The array of panels is connected to a battery-storage system. In addition to that, the tower also features wind turbines at the top