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Aspects of Sustainable Design Essay

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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2022

Introduction

The contemporary challenges that humanity faces, such as the shortage of non-renewable recures, air pollution, and changes to the global climate. Architecture and design specialists in collaboration with policymakers have tried to address these problems by creating public spaces with sustainable design features. According to the U.S. General Services Administration (n.d.), the sustainable design allows “to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and the health and comfort of building occupants, thereby improving building performance” (para. 1). The goal of this design approach is to create spaces that are beneficial both for the occupants and for the environment. In this sense, the sustainable design differs from the traditional approaches that emphasize only the comfort of the occupants and the satisfaction of their needs for housing.

Considering the attention that sustainable design practices require towards the integration of the objects into the environment and the use of renewable sources, this method requires a multidisciplinary approach. For example, the policymakers in the United States developed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 to address the issues of sustainable design (U.S. General Services Administration, n.d.). EPA encourages designers to create projects of federal buildings that are 30% more energy and cost-effective when compared to previous standards. This is because not only the operations of buildings require the use of energy, but also the design and construction of these facilities consumption of substantial amounts of energy resources and a significant contribution to climate change (“Sustainability in Shanghai Tower,” n.d.). Hence, cooperation with policymakers and government agencies is an important element of sustainable design practices. Building energy consumption is one concept that sustainable design approaches seriously since the majority of energy used to light up, heat, or cool buildings is derived from non-renewable sources. This paper will analyze the examples of the One Central Park, Museum of Tomorrow, and the Shanghai Tower to determine the sustainability trends of today and discuss the future of sustainable architecture.

Example One: One Central Park

One Central Park is a building in Sydney, Australia, that is a result of collaboration between designers and the government and which utilizes environmentally-friendly practices. This project is an important one in the context of sustainability in architecture because not only does it feature advanced systems that allow reducing the building’s impact on the environment, but it was created in collaboration with the government to renovate a previously neglected area of the city, contributing to more efficient utilization of the space within the city’s borders (“One Central Park is one of the world’s most influential tall buildings,” 2019). Thus, this building is a good example of the modern sustainable design for a public space that was created with both multidisciplinary practices and in collaboration with the city’s officials.

One Central Park is an excellent example of the cooperation between the government, whose goal was to promote the development of the suburbs and private companies. The government created a Central Park renewal project aimed at redesigning an area of the city that has been an industrial site. According to the Government Architect New South Wales (n.d.), Central Park has become a vibrant inner-city area with a high population density. Hence, the government developed a master plan and established a design competition to transform the abandoned industrial buildings into public areas. Arguably, this is one of the non-environmental focuses of sustainable design practices, since instead of fully destroying old buildings to build new ones or findings unoccupied areas where a new building can be constructed, the designers put effort towards changing the abandoned industrial buildings near the city center.

This is a sustainable building because the design involves the inclusion of a power plant and a recycling water facility, both created to reduce the environmental impact while providing comfort and serving the needs of the residents. Some of the Government Architect New South Wales’s (n.d.) master plan elements that were integrated into this building include ensuring that buildings “can conserve water, generate and distribute clean energy, manage wind and mitigate the urban heat-island effect,” para. 20). With One Central Park, sustainability has been integrated into the building’s design by creating small power plants and water recycling amenities. This building uses low-carbon natural gas as a source of energy that powers its facilities, which means that the traditional atom energy or other types of non-renewable energy that can be harmful to the environment are not utilized. This building uses tri-generation energy, which is as efficient as coal energy but is less harmful since there are no damaging side products that pollute the air.

The approach that the designers of the building took towards its energy consumption is a good example of how sustainable development is a multidisciplinary matter. One Central Park integrates both architectural and design features with engineering and green energy practices, which allowed the buildings’ designers to integrate a mini power plant, making One Central Park a fully autonomous structure not dependent on the energy supplied from the outside.

Another important feature of this project is a signature element of the architect’s works, which is the vegetation that surrounds the towers. According to Mutuli (n.d.), Jean Nouvel, the author of this project, believes that vegetation should be integral to modern-day architecture. Apart from the vegetation that covers the façade of the towers, there is a cantilevered garden between the two buildings. This feature is an example of how the architect integrated nature, such as plants and trees, into the buildings, which traditionally were devoid of any vegetation as it did not serve a practical purpose. However, the modern sustainable architecture calls for the inclusion of plants since, for one, it creates a more pleasant environment for the building’s residents and contributes to the air quality of the surroundings.

Example Two: Museum of Tomorrow

Museum of Tomorrow is a building featuring sustainable design located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This building was created as a public space, serving the purpose of displaying some of the most prominent scientific achievements of the people. Notably, after the construction was over, the building received a Gold-level certification for sustainability, which means that its water, space, environment, technology, recycling practices, energy efficiency, and integration with the environment are at the highest possible level (“Museum of Tomorrow acquires sustainable construction certification,” 2021). The most prominent feature of this Museum that will be discussed in detail is its use of the nearby river’s water resources to sustain the needs of the air conditioning system, as it is an innovative and intriguing way of leveraging the natural resources that surround the building.

From the engineering perspective, the design of this Museum includes two sustainable elements: the air conditioning system that takes water from the nearby river and the solar panels that generate the energy for the facilities (“Green buildings: 18 examples of sustainable architecture around the world,” n.d.). Hence, a remarkable feature of this building is that the architect used the landscape and the natural environment surrounding it and integrated those into the infrastructure needed to support the operations of this building. Moreover, with the changing climate of the planet, developing and testing efficient air conditioning systems has become especially important. As noted by Karin Lundgren-Kownacki et al. (2018), air conditioning is currently the most efficient system for cooling spaces. However, the air conditioning systems are unsustainable and harmful to the environment, and with their increased use, there is a challenge of creating an alternative that would not contribute to the greenhouse emissions.

Another sustainability feature that should be mentioned is the sustainability of construction. When building the Museum of Tomorrow, the contractors used materials sourced locally, which arguably serves as a contribution to the local communities and development of the local economy (“Museum of Tomorrow receives “Best Innovative Green Building” MIPIM Award – Santiago Calatrava – Architects & Engineers, 2017). In a globalized world, it has become common to use construction materials sourced from overseas as the cost has become the defining feature when making a choice. However, the downside of this practice is that the uniqueness and cultural heritage of the area where the building is constructed is lost when the materials come from overseas. Hence, the fact that the architect of this Museum considered the use of locally sourced materials as a priority is an important feature of this project that also shows the trend in sustainability towards utilizing the resources available on site.

Example Three: Shanghai Tower

The Shanghai Tower is included in this analysis of the sustainable building practices because it is a combination of a high-class architectural achievement combined with sustainable practices. Firstly, this is the world’s second-largest tower, the total height of which is 2,073 feet (“Sustainability in Shanghai Tower,” n.d.). Secondly, the architecture of this tower used a specialized material as an outside layer that helps capture the air (“Shanghai Tower stands tall in sustainable design – green HVACR,” 2017; “Essential protection for tall buildings,” n.d.). As a result, this tower has a ventilation system that uses the airflow from the outside, reducing the energy expenditures that would normally be required to sustain the adequate climate and airflow within the facilities.

The Shanghai Tower shows a trend towards sustainability and energy-efficient practices in the design of commercial buildings. Unlike the previous two buildings, the Shanghai Tower is a mostly commercial development, which features offices, a hotel, and other amenities (Bauman, 2017; “Green’ Shanghai Tower a model for future skyscrapers,” 2021). Moreover, it was designed as a self-sufficient city, according to Tetra Tech (2017), since it has not only residential spaces but also shopping centers, offices, and other public spaces. Moreover, according to Tetra Tech (2017), the construction company working on the tower wanted to utilize the bioclimatic design, which includes the integrated systems for water and waste management and systems of energy efficiency. Considering that this is one of the largest buildings in the world, it is remarkable that the construction was completed using sustainable practices, but it also shows that it is commercially viable to construct buildings that will efficiently manage water, energy, and waste. Apart from the ventilation system, this tower features a unique Danfoss technology system (“Sustainability in Shanghai Tower,” n.d.). This also contributes to the climatic features of the building and aids sustainability. Thus, the Shanghai Tower is an excellent example of a large-scale commercial project that utilizes varied sustainability practices.

Conclusion

In summary, this paper is an analysis of the basics of sustainable design practices using the examples of three sustainable buildings. The three buildings presented in this paper show that sustainable design is a versatile practice that offers designers an opportunity for creativity combined with reduced environmental impact. Moreover, these examples show the versatility of sustainable practices and the ability to leverage the locally sources construction materials or the specifics of the landscape to create spaces that are more efficient when compared to the traditional buildings.

In the future, sustainable design will focus on creating self-sufficient buildings, as is with the example of One Central Park’s mini energy plant. This building is capable of sustaining itself without using outside sources of energy, which is important considering the potential shortage of non-renewable energy sources that humanity will face in the future. Additionally, these buildings will leverage the landscape of the area that they are in and the design specifics of the buildings, as was done with the Museum of Tomorrow and the Shanghai Tower. The first building successfully sources water from a local river for the needs of the air conditioning system. The second building uses a special material for the façade that aids the ventilation system, contributing to the energy efficiency of the construction. Hence, sustainable buildings of the future will be integrated into space where they are built, and they will leverage the local resources.

References

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Bauman, F. (2017).. Topos.

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Lundgren-Kownacki, K., Hornyanszky, E.D., Chu, T.A., Olsson, J. A., & Becker, P. (2018). International Journal of Biometeorology, 62, 401–412.

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Tetra Tech. (2017).

U.S. General Services Administration. (n.d.).

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