The planet’s limited space and our expanding population have left us literally battling for a piece of land to call our own. Areas that were virtually uninhabited a few decades earlier are currently seeing flourishing populations so much that Antarctic could very well be the only place on earth with no human settlements, barring a few researchers and scientists. This lack of space has led architects to come up with structures like skyscrapers as they don’t use much of land area. Towns and cities that once saw sprawling homes and offices are now settling for vertical structures that can accommodate a substantial number of people without compromising on space.
Of course, reduced use of space doesn’t necessarily imply a decrease in utilization of natural resources. Human needs far outweigh what the earth can produce, which is why there is a growing trend among architects and engineers to design buildings and surroundings that are self sustaining. Mixed-use development, which sees buildings and neighborhoods being used for more than one purpose, is one way that can help us increase sustainability. With everything located in close proximity, vehicular use is decreased which in turn leads to less pollution and better health.
The need for a clean future
The world is now seeing very high carbon emissions owing to increased use of conventional resources, deforestation and pollution. Conventional buildings currently use huge amounts of energy. This is calculated by the energy used in construction, manufacture and transport of materials to the construction site, building operations and repair and replacement of materials. Consider this: At present, buildings in the United Kingdom utilize about 50% of the country’s energy as well as being responsible for the same percentage of the country’s pollution statistics.
Aside from the obvious threats to the environment, there is health factor that needs to be considered. There is a growing number of people falling preys to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. This, in turn, leads to expensive healthcare bills and a shorter lifespan. In time, productivity may decrease, dealing a blow to economies worldwide. The need to go green cannot be stated enough as time is running out. This is why architects and engineers are trying to come up with green buildings that are self sustaining and clean.
Architecture as a solution
The way buildings are designed can make a huge impact in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprints. While the concept of green buildings isn’t new, it is only now that people are giving it serious thought. Making use of nature’s alternative sources of fuel through the utilization of solar, wind and tidal energy, waste management as well as increasing vegetation by constructing green roofs and rain gardens are just some of the methods used to help a building achieve green status. The ultimate goal is to be able to harvest more energy than is consumed, where the excess can be rolled back to a grid for future use.
Water, which is a growing scarcity, can also be better conserved as waste water management is employed. The treated water can be used for irrigation, aquaculture and industries. This leaves more fresh water for consumption.
Contrary to what many think, green architecture isn’t more expensive than conventional designs. In fact, the cost of materials and construction is almost the same. It is a well known fact that green buildings save a considerable amount of money in the long run as energy bills are greatly reduced. Besides, productivity of workers and students is increased, which leads to higher savings.
1. Solar city tower for Rio
The designer: RAFAA Architecture & Design
Hoping to be completed in time for the Rio Olympics of 2016, the Solar City Tower – if successfully built – will be an amazing piece of architecture. The tower will have the capability of generating power during the day with the use of solar energy and will make use of pumped water storage to generate power during night. The structure will provide energy for the city of Rio as well as the Olympic Village. RAFAA says water will be pumped out on special occasions to create a waterfall to remind people of the forces of nature.
2. Water Droplet Resort for Spain
The designer: + Orlando de Urrutia
Shaped like a drop of water, the Water Droplet Resort proposes to turn air into potable water taking the help of solar power. This will be made possible by photovoltaic cells on the south façade of the building which will harness the sun’s energy while the north façade will have a latticed framework for ventilation and Teex Micron equipment which will finally convert condensation into potable water. Spanish architect Orlando de Urrutia is hoping that the technology can be used for coastal areas having warm and humid weather. The resort will most likely be constructed in Spain.
3. Vertical safari for Buenos Aires
The designer: + Influx Studio
Animals haven’t been excluded in the scheme of things. + Influx Studios has proposed to build a massive vertical zoo near Puerto Madero’s Reserve in Buenos Aires. This will ensure that use of land area is kept to a minimum while still being able to further the cause of wildlife conservation. The skyscraper zoo will house a giant Ferris wheel which stops at each level, giving visitors a peek at the animals. The wheel will move at a very slow speed, completing half a circuit in 30 minutes. The apex of the zoo will be a resting point where visitors can snack at the café or browse the gift shop.
4. Biooctanic for Croatia
The designer: + UPI 2M
+ UPI 2M has initiated a project that will see biofuel being taken to new heights in Zagreb, Croatia. Making use of algae and bamboo, the project named Biooctanic will see towers converting these feedstock into biofuel. The structures will be erected near petrol stations and it is hoped that they will also help filter the surrounding air. Much like vertical farming, the towers will use very less arable land for construction.
5. Vertical farm for South Korea
The designer: Lee Dongjin, Park Jinkyu and Lee Jeongwoo
A vertical farm designed by Lee Dongjin, Park Jinkyu and Lee Jeongwoo will see South Korean livestock being reared on vertical structures. Named Circular Symbiosis Tower, the building is a skyscraper which will give urban settings an opportunity to rear livestock in cities. Spiraling platforms with grassy fields will house cows and chickens who will alternate their habitats after every 30 days. This will allow grass to regrow on grazed land after which cows will again be reinstated to that particular platform. Incidentally, the vertical farm concept won the designers a final place in the 2011 Skyscraper Competition.
Vision of the future
The five concepts listed above are a few examples of how green architecture can provide for our needs without compromising on land space and natural resources. Incorporating ingenuity and conservation, sustainable architecture could very well be the solution to many of the problems we face today. Such visions coupled with technological advancements could prove to see the planet being able to bear more than what was initially thought to be possible.