The Basics of Sustainable Architecture
In the not-too-distant future, we’ll look back effortlessly through our 3-D screens at the hallmark trends of today – and, while we’ll probably crack a smile or two reminiscing over pop icons and internet cat memes – one thing that is sure to stand out as so remarkably simple and yet so important that happened during this time is the revolution in environmentally focused design, known as Sustainable Architecture. It is, without question, the Architecture and Design industry’s biggest fundamental shift of today, and is embedding itself in every fabric of our future.
Sustainable Architecture broadly means taking less from the earth and giving more to people. This can mean many things of course, but its ethos is simple: build with the environment and its future in mind. It represents a paradigm shift from the days of valuing excess to a time where streamlining our needs and using less means living consciously, and it is a direct response to the realization that our resources are limited.
In practice it starts with using low VOC, recyclable materials in your plan and, if working on new construction, designing the structure itself with energy efficient concepts in mind. Think: white-roofs to stave off heat, adobe walls to insulate during hot and cold seasons, natural water collection systems to maintain your green space, and so on. Remarkable projects all over the world are taking hold right now – projects like Milan’s Bosco Verticale, aptly named the “vertical forest,” which incorporates 2.5 acres of green space into the footprint of two apartment towers:
Even in simple renovations you can employ sustainable design principles simply by selecting materials with low VOC footprints (volatile organic compounds). These kinds of materials are a fundamental first step in creating healthy indoor air quality and ultimately cutting down on your own VOC footprint. Doing this en masse lowers city smog, making for healthier living in high-density areas.
Natural stone also plays a surprisingly important role in this movement in that it is a VOC-neutral material, which lasts forever and requires little to no maintenance over its life-time. So, for projects like fireplaces or feature walls, it’s actually good for indoor air quality, and won’t cost anything to maintain, for as long as you decide to live there. And for exterior projects like garden walls, pools, and facades, it won’t contribute to your external carbon footprint. Not a bad choice, and something we at Norstone believe is important when making decisions about which products to use on your next project.