Buildings account for about one-third of the energy consumed in the United States. Of this one-third, heating and cooling systems use 60 percent, while lights and appliances use the other 40 percent. And this does not include the energy consumed during the construction process - manufacturing and transporting building materials.
Buildings have an adverse impact on our ecology. This can be seen in --
- The increase in pollution impacts global climate.
- The extensive use of non renewable resources and the damage resulting from their extraction.
- The opening up of forest lands around cities to meet the needs of increased congestion, leads to the destruction of wildlife habitat and loss of bio-diversity.
- The reliance on synthetic chemicals during construction and life-cycle of a building results in toxic pollution.
The first step to living in harmony with the environment – commonly referred to as living green-- is to live and work in environment-friendly buildings. Making a green building requires addressing conflicting issues and requirements. Sustainable architecture (often referred to as green architecture) ensures that the buildings we make today, work with the Earth's ecological systems rather than in opposition to them.
 What is Sustainable Architecture?
According to Sanuel Mockbee of Auburn University “Sustainable architecture involves a combination of values: aesthetic, environmental, social, political, and moral. It's about using one's imagination and technical knowledge to engage in a central aspect of the practice -- designing and building in harmony with our environment. The smart architect thinks rationally about a combination of issues including sustainability, durability, longevity, appropriate materials, and sense of place. The challenge is finding the balance between environmental considerations and economic constraints. Consideration must be given to the needs of our communities and the ecosystem that supports them."
Sustainable Architecture aims at –
- Using building materials and products that minimize destruction of the global environment.
- Making the building in harmony with nature.
- Minimise energy use during the life-cycle of the building.
- An efficient, long lasting and elegant relationship of use areas, circulation, building form, mechanical systems and construction technology.
 The Principles of Sustainable Architecture
- Go for a small accommodation – Larger structures require more material for construction and need more energy, thereby have a larger carbon footprint. Aim at efficient use of space, good organization, and keeping possessions to a manageable level.
- Effective use of Solar Energy – The structure is designed in a manner that optimizes the use of sun’s rays to heat and light the room to the required level.
- Use intelligent construction to reduce temperature fluctuations within the building -- One way of keeping doing this is to build a part of the structure beneath the ground as about six feet under the earth, the temperature varies by only a few degrees year round.
- Try using renewable sources of energy whenever possible. This would reduce your dependence on polluting fossil fuel as well as force you to become careful in the way you use electricity as energy generated from renewable sources such as the sun, wind, or water is limited.
- Aim at conserving water. The average person in the U. S. uses between 100 and 250 gallons of water a day. It is possible to reduce water consumption to one tenth that amount by using low water capacity toilets, flow restrictors at shower heads and faucet aerators .
- To reduce carbon miles use local materials such as stones, sand, straw, clay or a mixture of these. Use of natural material will improve indoor air quality as most can do without toxic chemical cleansers.
 The Dos and Don’ts of Sustainable Architecture
- Go for ‘in-fill development’ instead of going beyond the city limit. In addition to building additional infrastructure, you will add to the carbon miles of the occupants.
- Design mixed-use projects, in which residential and commercial uses are intermingled, to help create lively communities and reduce the biggest source of pollution, automobile use.
- If possible, the site should have close access to public transportation and basic services.
- Renovating existing buildings is the most eco-friendly way of construction.
- Build in clusters to preserve open spaces.
- Avoid building in wetlands, or land claimed from sea and forests.
- Do not remove existing plant and trees. Plan the structure around the existing vegetation in a manner that it benefits the building. While hedgerows and shrubbery block cold winter winds and channelise cool summer breezes into buildings, landscaping with drought-resistant native plants provides perennial groundcover without consuming too much water.
- Limit disruption of natural water flows.
- Improve night sky access.
Use environment-friendly Material.
- Avoid foam insulation made with HCFCs as they have ozone-depleting chemicals. Instead use cellulose.
- To save carbon miles, use locally produced materials such as stone and local hardwood.
- Use recycled material such as cellulose insulation, Thermo-ply, floor tile made from ground glass, and recycled plastic lumber and carpet.
- If you really need wood, source it from certified lumber from well managed forests.
Avoid using solvent-based finishes, adhesives, carpeting, particleboard, and other building products that release formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
Conserve energy and water
- Install appliances and equipments that minimize energy consumption.
- Using water conserving appliances in toilet and the kitchen.
- Go for insulation, glazing, daylighting to reduce energy consumption.
Go for water efficient landscaping.
- Introduce efficient irrigation technologies including drip irrigation and rainwater capture.
Improve Indoor air quality
- Install a Carbon Dioxide Monitoring system.
- Design should enhance effectiveness of increase ventilation.
- Use low-VOC adhesives, sealants, coatings, composite wood products and carpet systems.
- Install entry grates to capture dirt. Plan separate liquid waste disposal for disposing chemical waste.
- Provide a high level of individual control of thermal, ventilation and lighting systems.
Grow Your Own Food
Share Facilities through Intentional Communities, Eco-Villages, Cohousing
A basic tenet of sustainability is to share what you have with others. Doing this can diminish the need for unnecessary duplication of facilities. In this way a group of people can not only have fewer tools or appliances or functional areas, but at the same time they can have available a greater variety of these facilities
- Sustainable Green Architecture
- Sustainable Architecture
- Building Today for Tomorrow
- The Best of Green Design: Overview
- Expressive Ecological Design