Today everyone is familiar with the term 'green architecture', but most are less familiar with what this phrase actually entails, and like many buzzwords, it's acquired a few not-so-pretty connotations. In the same way that many associate aeroplane food with the dull and banal, the concept of sustainable buildings typically conjures up similar images, even though it's widely recognised that going green is critical.
To debunk a few myths, we chatted to Hours Clear architect Christiaan van Aswegen, who's worked on several sustainable projects (including an off-the-grid Plettenberg Bay home featured in our August 2016 issue). Here he discusses the five most common misconceptions about green architecture that he and his colleagues have encountered in practice.
green architecture is optional
'Practicing architecture now necessarily means taking into account all of the best-practice technological and material advances that have been made towards creating a sustainable construction industry. That is to say that all architecture must
now take steps to be as environmentally friendly as possible.'
green architecture must look 'green'
'Sustainable architecture does not need to have a specific style or architectural language. It is the task of the architect to integrate both the active technological systems, such as solar panels, grey water harvesting and waterborne heating, and the passive techniques, like correctly orientating the building and selecting an appropriate floor plan that allows for natural ventilation, in such a way that the design remains coherent and beautiful.'
green architecture is expensive
'The cost of green technology has steadily decreased and is becoming much more viable for the average consumer. It is key to remember that the long-term ecological benefits of green systems are also economically beneficial as the reduced costs of heating, cooling and servicing the building means lower charges from municipal electrical and water services.'
green architecture is ahistorical
'Vernacular building styles are often by necessity environmentally friendly. The use of local materials, modest building programmes and an understanding of the technical limitations of labour are key aspects that traditional buildings can teach us.'
green architecture stands alone
'While each individual project may help to mitigate the effects of buildings on the environment, a big-picture, long-term ecological view is essential. Architecture is a resource-intensive practice that usually results in structures that last a long time. Green architecture, however, must be adaptable, easily altered and form part of a holistic approach to human settlement that acknowledges its place in larger cultural and environmental systems.'