Sustainable design to me means keeping the environmental impact as minimal as possible and designing with the wellbeing of the planet and future generations at the forefront. It means choosing to make a structure as energy efficient as possible. By making it thermally efficient and maximizing the potential of passive heating and cooling, you are reducing the work that an electrical system has to do. It also means using materials with as small of a carbon footprint as possible. Traditional concrete, for as amazing of a structural material as it is, is not in any way sustainable. It has a huge environmental cost, is largely not reusable, and we are quickly running out of it. Alternatives, like timber or something like Prof. Lepech’s BSC material, would be the materials used in a sustainable built environment.
Outside of design, being conscious of energy use, appliances, and lighting are all actions that are sustainable. Using efficient washers, air-drying, using natural light during the day, and purchasing electric appliances are all important choices as well that carry a large impact. Electric appliances mean that the any energy the structure demands can be met with renewables. Better yet, having on-site PV panels and batteries for storing excess energy is a great way to take loads off of the grid.
As for inspirational examples, I am taking CEE 156, Building Systems, and we have discussed many structures with great sustainable design. One that I will always love is Y2E2!
The structure makes amazing use of passive heating and cooling to address the usually large energy demand of heating and cooling. Building sensors are a fantastic technology and can greatly impact the potential for smart and automatic processes like the ventilation in Y2E2.
Another great structure we discussed was the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission office building. They maximized the potential for natural lighting, especially in as tight of a space as San Francisco. In Wisconsin, an office space would be able to have a large footprint and can more easily meet natural lighting and PV goals. However, in the center of one of the most expensive cities, 525 Golden Gate has managed to meet similar goals with intelligent design.