Environmental concerns related to Architecture, Sachin Goregaoker, Partner, GA design
Construction forms a major part of a city and therefore it impacts upon the environment in various ways. Modern construction consumes large quantities of physical resources which include materials, labour and money in their construction as well as maintenance. However, they also result in loss of amenities and bio-diversity which can be difficult to assess.
As far as the building materials are concerned, the most impact on environment happens during the excavation and construction stages. However, we should also be aware of the impact associated during demolition stage.
In order to move towards ecologically sustainable and green buildings, we must first understand how a building can affect the environment.
Construction activity can cause significant change to the surface of land during excavation. It results in surroundings being heavily polluted with dust and noise. The tools and resources used by labourers and even the diesel used by excavators and trucks can harm the environment. Moreover, according to research, building materials like aluminium, steel and concrete emit large quantities of CO2 which clearly is a harmful element. Chemicals used during construction can be harmful to the labourers as well as surrounding environment, if not handled correctly. Waste-water and the release of oils and compounds during construction if discharged safely and correctly can limit the negative impact on the surroundings.
Architects, builders and building owners have to seek a balance between conflicting considerations such as aesthetics, comfort, timelines, effective construction, regional building guidelines, costs and profits. Environmental impact is an added challenge and it should be considered in the initial design process to limit additional costs and resources. Fortunately for us, the incredible technological advancement in this century has made it possible for us to move towards sustainable architecture.
Sustainable architecture has one main objective – to reduce the negative environment impact of a building throughout its life cycle. This can be accomplished through efficiency, as well as effective use of materials and energy. Green buildings can be certified by LEED or other governing bodies.
Green buildings focus on energy consumption as it is the single largest way to negatively impact the environment. Energy consumption can be effectively reduced by improving insulation of a building to prevent heat dissipation, increasing ventilation to remove polluted air and installing solar equipment for heating purposes.
The use of sustainable recycled building materials is cost-effective as well as environment-friendly. Wood, stone, metal can be reclaimed from demolition sites and re-cycled and reused during new construction. Green materials like bamboo and cork can be incorporated in building interiors.
Waste management is another way of contributing to sustainable architecture. It not only includes effective waste disposal, but also on-site recycling of as many materials as possible. Waste disposal can be identified in paper, plastic, concrete and metal form, to be recycled and reused effectively.
Storm-water management can effectively reduce the negative impact of the building. It has to be considered during the design process of a project and incorporated during the initial stages of construction.
As a result of this awareness, architects, builders and the general public are now catching on to the importance of green buildings. The green building movement has gradually progressed from a focus on reducing water and energy usage, to a more holistic approach that understands how buildings affect the people residing in them, with a goal of making our environment healthier for people.
There are few measures which can improve indoor air quality and activity levels of building occupants.
The most common design practice followed in buildings was to seal them up in order to reduce heating and cooling loads. But that resulted in stagnant, humid air and the indoors remain under-ventilated. Ventilation includes both, the exchange of air to the outside as well as circulation of air within the building. Providing cross ventilation and an effective HVAC system which eliminates stagnant air and uses fresh air from outdoors, is a way of combating this problem.
One of the biggest problems in crowded cities with buildings close to each other is centered around natural lighting. Architects are now providing larger windows and decks/balconies which allow ample sunlight inside. This can also be accomplished by way of skylight in building atria and hallways.
Bringing in the outdoors
Plants clean the air and provide a natural inviting view to the human eye. Incorporating landscapes around buildings and green walls and water bodies within it have proven benefits to mental and physical health.
Health & Safety measures
Building designers have started planning to cope with natural disasters and changing climatic conditions. Strategies include fire-fighting and various mechanisms to combat floods, storms and earthquakes.
These wide-ranging efforts are proving beneficial and are definitely worth the costs that go into implementing them. Studies have shown that “healthy buildings” result in reduced illnesses, higher productivity and greater life-satisfaction.