Monday, December 8, 2014

Green building: goodbye to the concrete jungles!

By Paola Israde Burrola

Nowadays becoming “green” has gained popularity among designers and builders, since the needs of the housing market are continuously changing. Sustainable design covers a building’s impacts holistically, from the planning process to the deconstruction at the end of the building’s useful life. It is necessary to consider all the impacts a construction may bring, since wrong planning might affect the tenant’s health as well as the surroundings: ecosystems, air quality, animals and plants among others.

The aim of a sustainable construction project is to enhance the quality of life for the building occupants. People were not designed to live in an asphalt jungle, surrounded by traffic jams and having to breathe polluted air. It is necessary to implement projects, which allow public encounters with convenient access to public transportation, and natural spaces that promote walking instead of driving. Simply by incorporating natural features such as windows that permits natural light into the building or by adding some plants, the occupants’ experience can be transformed from just living in the building to enjoying their lives.

And what else makes this kind of building so attractive? It’s energy use. High-efficiency buildings use natural means for power generation, for instance solar and wind power, and they include as well the use of some principles which tends towards minimum performance standards such as:

  • 1.     The use of materials with efficient thermal mass and insulation: materials that readily absorb, store and release heat, such as concrete, bricks, stone and masonry.
  • 2.      Orientation of the building to take advantage of natural shading and solar heat gain.
  • 3.      A compact design, which can optimize the use of the heat trapped within the building.
  • 4.  A highly sealed and insulated building in conjunction with a mechanical ventilation system incorporating heat recovery.

However, what is usually thought about green building is that by implementing this kind of practices, the cost of the project will increase and result in more work. This misconception is far from reality. In terms of the construction process, sustainable practices are not very different from traditional procedures, but they result in a different and a more efficient construction. Green projects are demonstrating that many of the fundamental principles of sustainable building can be applied without increasing the project price and they also allow savings in terms of operating costs.

One model of a green building project is actually very near Tampere. The Vuores area is a typical ‘greenfield’ development in a woodland area to the south of the city of Tampere, which by 2020 will become an ECOCITY. This project is trying to incorporate all the fundamentals of green building construction with an optimum urban structure that takes into account the conservation of the natural environment, social issues, an efficient public transport system and of course, for the energy supply the use of renewable energies.


Image: Kubina, J. 2007. Technische Universität Darmstadt - Solar Decathlon 2007. Solar energy, Wikipedia.last modified on 10 november 2014. Accessed 10/11/2014. 

Letcher, T. 2008. Future energy: Improvised, sustainable and clean options for our planet. China: Elsevier.
Yudelson, J. 2009. Green building through integrated design. USA: Mc Graw hill.

Bose, R. 2009. Energy efficient cities. USA: The World Bank. 

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