What does it mean to you?
Is the action of giving value or extending the life cycle of something while reducing the impact it has on the environment. Is the coexistence of technology or existing systems with what is already given by nature. It also means to be as most efficient as possible, to stop wasting what can be reused and minimize the loss of resources; to see a way of using something that was considered a waste before. Sustainability not only applies for buildings and the construction area, but also for societies customs and culture, and economy. The circular economy is a great example of sustainability by eliminating waste from the equation, reusing it as a “tool” to restart the production cycle; instead of exploding resources, it gives value to what was considered just “waste”.
Sustainability is also the ability of be “sustained by itself” throughout time. Something that still works or can be still used in the next generations without being reduced or wasted completely. For example, solar power is one type of sustainable energy because it will be sustaining itself as long as the sun exists (and the photovoltaic panels too). If we compare 10 years of a building running just on solar power to a building using just artificial power, we can get an idea of how much energy can be saved throughout these years and how can a building be sustained by itself.
Why do we think of sustainability right now when generations ago was not even an “issue”? Because nowadays we realize the toll that the environment has taken, the climate change, and the possible outcome of our actions for future generations if we do not do something. I think that, even if not everyone has conscience of the environmental impact, it will grow in society throughout time and future generations will be the ones who benefit from the actions of today. Sustainability will be the “default” in every product, service, or system.
What Inspirational Examples Can We Learn From?
Examples of sustainable features include:
- Water treatment to be able to reuse it.
- Solar or wind power.
- VRF systems for HVAC.
- Smart features that help the building save energy. For example, light sensor, timers.
- Thermal insulation to reduce energy from heaters or air conditioners.
- Good window to wall ratio to allow enough illumination but without disregarding heat transfer allowed by the glass of the windows.
Shanghai Tower is a great example. Being the 2nd tallest building in the world, it was awarded with the LEED Platinum Certificate. It takes advantage of natural sunlight and air ventilation while also having green spaces around the building. While being in one of the most polluted places, I highlight its sustainability input as an example.
The Vancouver Convention Centre. It was awarded with double LEED Platinum Certificate.
Hives of European bees were installed to pollinate the plants in the green roof. This helps with the thermal isolation of the building. The slope of the roof helps with water drainage.