8 examples of incredible sustainable architecture
There are myriad ways to live more sustainably. You could use renewable energy, recycle or grow your own produce, but some take it a step further, using sustainable architecture in the built environment.
This design focus seeks to minimise the negative impact of buildings and construction on our ecosystems, achieved through the efficient and the moderate use of materials, energy and development space. Many new materials, techniques and ideas are still in the experimental stage, but a host of 'green' buildings have been created worldwide, featuring remarkable, eco-friendly designs. Here are eight of our favourite approaches.
1. solar tiles
South African-born American entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk terms this design the 'future home'. Unveiled in 2016, the building is fitted with a roof that employs solar tiles, the brainchild of Musk's company Tesla. Although they look like regular roof tiles, they're small panels that harness energy from the sun and are more aesthetically pleasing than the larger, bulky solar panels.
Bamboo homes should function as more than merely novelty accommodation when visiting an exotic island in South East Asia. This giant, woody grass is easy to cultivate and has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete, making it the perfect medium for use in sustainable architecture.
3. straw bale buildings
Straw bales are an agricultural by-product that can be reused to build walls, requiring little energy. They have excellent insulation properties, are long-lasting, and in the event that a structure needs to come down or be replaced, straw is 100% biodegradable, making its impact on the environment minimal.
4. shipping containers
Shipping-container architecture has taken off (and not just in minimalist-loving Scandinavia). It is an impressive evolution of building and a win for sustainability, owing to the wide availability, strength and relatively low expense of the containers used. From cool, compact living spaces to apartment buildings, sublimely creative construction using storage containers is on the upsurge.
5. vertical forests
Vertical forests or edifices with living walls are a brilliant way to introduce plant life to urban areas. Apart from its contribution to sustainable architecture, this design for Vertical Forest Towers in China is also a clever means to counter the city's air pollution problem.
6. hemp houses
Notwithstanding its dubious reputation (thanks to its notorious cousin, marijuana), hemp is a versatile material that can be used for almost anything. It's largely employed in the manufacture of clothing, oils and hempcrete – a bio-composite mixture of hemp hurds and lime used to build houses. Hempcrete is a strong yet lightweight and breathable material, not to mention chemical-free and biodegradable.
7. dome homes
Dome homes may look like something out of Star Wars, but are the epitome of affordable and sustainable building techniques. These domes are built using sandbags filled with moistened earth that are arranged in layers or long coils with barbed wire between each sandbag serving as reinforcement. Because of this coiling method, dome homes are extremely sturdy.
8. wood buildings
Wood has been used in the built environment for centuries. Despite its ongoing abuse as a resource, it is still a sustainable material. If managed properly, it can be used to create beautiful buildings that are so much more than a tree house.