Elements of Green Architecture
At VTN Architects, Green Architecture is our approach to building structures that minimize the harmful effects of construction projects on human health and the environment.
Through our designs, we attempt to safeguard air, water, and earth by choosing eco-friendly building materials and construction practices.
Components of Our Green Architecture Strategy
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Environmentally Preferable Building Materials and Specifications
Indoor Air Quality
Smart Growth and Sustainable Development
1. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Buildings have a significant impact on energy use and the environment. Commercial and residential buildings use almost half of the primary energy and approximately two-thirds of the electricity in most developed countries.
Energy efficiency is simply the ratio of energy services out to energy input. It means getting the most out of every unit of energy you buy. It is mainly a technical (and historical) process caused by stock turnover where old equipment is replaced by newer more efficient ones. It is generally a by-product of other social goals: productivity, comfort, monetary savings, or fuel competition.
Renewable energy technologies produce marketable energy by converting natural phenomena into useful energy forms. These technologies use the energy inherent in sunlight and its direct and indirect impacts on the Earth (photons, wind, falling water, heating effects, and plant growth), gravitational forces (the tides), and the heat of the Earth’s core (geothermal) as the resources from which they produce energy. Energy-efficient buildings use less energy, cost less to operate, and improve comfort, saving money for homeowners and businesses.
2. Water Efficiency
During the next years, water efficiency and conservation will become critical elements in green architecture and construction. Buildings consume 20% of the world’s available water and water resources become scarcer each year, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.
Water efficiency means using improved technologies and practices that deliver equal or better service with less water. Drinking water systems can implement water efficiency measures and still deliver an unchanged or improved level of service to consumers while reducing overhead costs. Improving water efficiency reduces operating costs (e.g., pumping and treatment) and reduces the need to develop new supplies and expand our water infrastructure. It also reduces withdrawals from limited freshwater supplies, leaving more water for future use and improving the ambient water quality and aquatic habitat (www.epa.gov).
The first step for increasing water efficiency at home is to reduce the use of drinking water for non-consumption purposes. There are two ways to do this: collect rainwater and reuse indoor wash water. You can install cisterns above or below ground that will collect and store run-off from rooftops and other impervious surfaces; as well as from laundry machines, dishwashers, bathtubs, and sinks (this is classified as greywater, meaning that it does not include human waste or sewage).
3. Environmentally Preferable Building Materials and Specifications
During construction or demolition phases, building materials and components are often discarded with construction debris. The assessment of environmentally preferable building materials begins with the establishing criteria for the evaluation of building materials. The material criteria may differ per project. Criteria depend on if the project is new construction, a renovation, or an existing building.
4. Waste Reduction
Construction and demolition waste management has become a major environmental problem in many countries. There are two main kinds of building construction waste i) structure waste and ii) finishing waste. Concrete fragments, reinforcement bars, abandoned timber plates, and pieces are generated as structure waste during the construction phase. Finishing waste is generated during the finishing stage of a building. Broken raw materials like mosaic, tiles, ceramics, paints, and plastering materials are wasted because of careless use
5. Toxins Reduction
Many building materials emit air pollutants. Taking into consideration the reduction of toxic emissions from building materials, the effort is focused on three groups of indoor air pollutants:
Human carcinogens, are few in number and cause severe diseases, for which reason their use should be avoided to the greatest practicable extent. The eye and airway irritants, are numerous and represent so many groups of chemical substances that great prospects for substitution exist. The odors should in general be avoided. These materials are used today as sealants, glues and adhesives paints, lacquers and wall/floor coatings.
6. Indoor Air Quality, IAQ
Indoor air quality problems are not limited to homes. Many office buildings have significant air pollution sources. Some of these buildings may be inadequately ventilated. For example, mechanical ventilation systems may not be designed or operated to provide adequate amounts of outdoor air. Providing good indoor air quality in buildings does not refer to green buildings. People generally have less control over the indoor environment in their offices than they do in their homes. As a result, there has been an increase in the incidence of reported health problems. Some typical problematic VOCs compounds released from building materials include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene, isocyanates, xylene, and benzene. VOCs are often emitted at high levels and reduced to lower levels over time. In terms of indoor quality, we mean air quality in acceptable levels. The most important indoor air quality (IAQ) control measures include ventilation and climate control Ventilation is viewed by many researchers as an essential process for IAQ control.
The main ventilation considerations for the IAQ control are:
1) Dilution by outdoor air ventilation,
2) air intake locations,
3) building exhaust locations,
4) air cleaning and filtration,
5) space air distribution,
6) heat recovery and
7) microbial control.
7. Smart Growth and Sustainable Development
Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains two key concepts:
the concept of needs, in particular, the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.
Within that framework, smart growth is an urban planning and transportation concept that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. Communities are using creative strategies to develop, preserve natural lands and critical environmental areas, protect water and air quality, and reuse already developed land, in the conservation of the resources by reinvesting in existing infrastructure and reclaiming historic buildings.
By designing neighborhoods that have shops, offices, schools, churches, parks, and other amenities near homes, communities are giving their residents and visitors the option of walking, bicycling, taking public transportation, or driving as they go about their business. A range of different types of homes makes it possible for senior citizens to stay in their homes as they age, young people, to afford their first home, and families at all stages in between to find a safe, attractive home they can afford. Through smart growth approaches that enhance neighborhoods and involve local residents in development decisions, these communities are creating vibrant places to live, work, and play. The high quality of life in these communities makes them economically competitive, creates business opportunities, and improves the local tax base.