In the construction industry of the 21st century , one of the most intriguing elements of design is Green Architecture. There is much ado the world over about building developments that are green and sustainable. The world we live in today calls for architects in the construction industry to be relevant to the issues that we are facing as regards our physical environment and our societies in general. Architects therefore have a duty to ensure that the buildings we are designing and supervising their construction respond in kind.
Building construction and operation have major direct and indirect impacts on their surroundings. They consume resources such as energy, water and raw materials. They generate waste by products during their construction and throughout their lifespan. Even the process of demolishing them will often give out harmful atmospheric toxins. Building developers, consultants and contractors face a unique challenge to ensure that their newly built or reconditioned facilities are accessible, safe, healthy, and functional, all the while minimizing their impact on the environment.
Considering current economic challenges, developers may be faced with the quandary of choosing whether to construct a new building or refurbishing an existing facility that may be within their control. In such a case, retrofitting an existing building can be more cost effective than building a new facility. However the challenge of including sustainability initiatives in such a refurbishment project may cost issues. However this can be mitigated by life time savings achieved through sustainability initiatives that will be integrated within the retrofitted building. In addition, the refurbished facility can better respond to its environment, thus giving a better facility.
The green design approach therefore seeks a holistic, all inclusive approach that considers all stages of the facility life cycle. Sustainable design supports an increased commitment to environmental care and conservation. By doing so, projects so undertaken have achieved an optimal balance of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits while meeting the requirements of the intended facility or infrastructure.
In principle, the main objectives of sustainable design can be summarized as follows:
• to mitigate against diminution of natural resources such as energy, water, and raw materials;
• to prevent environmental degradation caused by building projects throughout their life cycle;
• to construct buildings that are livable, healthy, secure, and positively usable.
Successful green buildings make use of the best commercially-available materials and technologies to minimize consumption of energy resources and maximize use of non-exhaustive and non-toxic materials. In this manner, they achieve a level of human comfort and usability that conventional buildings may not. In addition, they have better economic value in the long term, and may only marginally cost more at construction stage.
Various certifications exist that deal with certifying the level of achievement of green design principles for each project. One of the most notable that is widely accepted in western countries is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which forms the standard by which green projects are weighed. Other standards are applicable in different parts of the world, but the principles that apply are similar.
The architect of today is well advised that whichever projects they undertake need to be well suited to these principles, and actively employ them. Success in creating buildings for the future depend on it.