Back to blog

What is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable architecture is the practice of minimizing the negative impacts of building structures. By using fewer natural resources, architecture can reduce its blueprint on the planet, including a reduction in its effect on climate change. At Rowland+Broughton, we incorporate sustainable architecture strategies to help create more energy-efficient buildings.

What Makes Architecture Sustainable?

It is enduring, resilient, and reduces its carbon emissions through sustainable building materials and on-site renewable energy generation. It is also concerned with improving building occupants’ mental and physical well-being through architectural design. Sustainable architecture is a growing focus that protects both earth’s ecosystem and the people who inhabit it. Not to mention its positive effects on climate change.

Sustainable Architecture Best Practices

While every sustainable design will vary based on the planned structure and surrounding environment, there are several tenets of design that are always important to incorporate. At Rowland+Broughton, we focus on three core measures: Carbon, Well-Being, and Resiliency. Carbon focuses on energy generation and passive design strategies. Well-Being focuses on indoor air quality through healthy materials and thermal comfort. Resiliency focuses on durability and longevity as well as system redundancy.

Energy Efficient

Energy-efficient or passive design strategies are a vital aspect of sustainable architecture. This often means utilizing proper insulation to keep a building cool in the summer months and warm in cold weather.

This can be achieved on a basic level by using adequate wall insulation, natural ventilation, and high-performing triple-pane windows. Some other creative ways of increasing energy efficiency include subterranean builds. Partially or fully underground structures are naturally insulated by the earth’s soil.

Water Conservation

Conscientious homeowners can achieve water conservation on a basic level by installing low-flow fixtures and eco-friendly water heating systems. However, sustainably designed homes often go a step further by incorporating rainwater and natural runoff into their building design.

Depending on the building’s local jurisdiction, a building’s roof and gutter drainage system can be designed to collect rainwater to be used inside the home or for outdoor irrigation. Greywater systems are another eco-friendly option – recycling water from showers, dishwashers, and sinks to be reused. Green roofs can also help naturally manage rain flow. Low-flow faucets and composting toilets can be used to create a building that optimizes water usage and saves gallons and gallons over time.

Renewable Energy

Sustainably designed buildings are generally primed to make use of renewable energy sources and reduce traditional power consumption. This is most commonly done by incorporating solar panels into the building’s sustainable design.

Geothermal heat is another popular natural energy source, along with hydropower and wind turbines. These methods are dependent on the natural environment where a building is located. However, they are all effective ways to reduce a home’s reliance on a traditional energy grid.

Sustainable and Natural Materials

Traditional building materials can utilize components that are treated with harmful chemicals or made from toxic substances. At R+B, we use eco-friendly, ethically sourced materials to produce buildings that reduce harm to both the environment and occupants.

Some natural, conservation-friendly materials that make great sustainable alternatives to traditional materials include:

  • Stone
  • Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Straw
  • Clay
  • Earthbags
  • Recycled materials, including plastic, glass, and metal
  • Reclaimed wood
  • Wool
  • Hemp

Mass Timber and Timber Structures

Timber structures, such as our Windswept project, offer a range of sustainability benefits that make them an environmentally friendly choice for construction. First off, mass timber is a renewable resource, meaning it can be harvested and regrown. This ensures that the use of mass timber does not contribute to deforestation or depletion of natural resources.

Additionally, mass timber has a lower carbon footprint compared to other building materials such as concrete or steel, as it requires significantly less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process.

Timber structures are not only aesthetically pleasing but also highly resilient, with the ability to withstand extreme forces such as earthquakes and strong winds. Using mass timber as a building material allows for a sustainable and efficient construction process while creating visually stunning structures.

Nature Incorporated

Incorporating nature into a design is a vital part of the sustainable architecture ethos. When designing a new build, it is essential to consider the landscape, vegetation, weather, and even wildlife. One popular way of doing this is using native plants in the design itself. Beyond just landscaping, native plants can be grown on rooftop gardens, green courtyards, walls, or even windows.

The creative blending of building materials and natural fauna helps a structure blend in with the surrounding environment and promotes local wildlife’s biodiversity and ecological sustainability.

Learn More About Our Practices and Services

Rowland+Broughton knows the importance of being environmentally responsible and incorporates many sustainable strategies, such as creating mass timber projects and adaptive reuse where possible, in every single project. R+B uses sustainable architecture strategies to deliver building solutions to our clients that they love, while also keeping environmental quality at the top of the priority list. Contact us today to learn how we can help you implement an environmentally responsible design that works for you.

Sustainable Architecture Examples

  • Farm Collaborative is an environmentally-minded Rowland+Broughton project. This large, multi-building educational farm structure was designed to be entirely carbon-neutral. We achieved this by utilizing solar panel construction to maximize sustainable energy creation and reduce baseline carbon emissions.

Innovation and Sustainable Architecture

  • Game On is a LEED-Certified Gold ground-up home. The house was designed to be modern and efficient with no unused spaces. Efficient appliances and natural materials throughout further this home’s sustainability efforts. A photovoltaic array was added to the home’s garage roof to generate on-site sustainable energy.

Environmentally Conscious Building Methods

  • Meadow House and Ridge House are Rowland+Broughton projects that showcase our environmentally-minded design process in action. In addition to our usual sustainable building practices, our sustainable design team took great care to incorporate each home with its environment naturally.

Green Considerations

  • Meadow House is built on the edge of a natural meadow, and the home is designed to complement the surrounding landscape. Similarly, Ridge House is located on a mountain ridgeline and was designed to have a complementary shape to this environment. Windows were strategically placed throughout each home to seamlessly blend the outdoor landscape with the home’s interior and allow peeks of the surrounding landscape through when viewing the home’s exterior.

Why is Sustainable Architecture Important?

The primary significance of sustainable architecture is that it helps minimize the construction industry’s negative impact on the environment by reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. By implementing energy-efficient design strategies, such as proper insulation, natural ventilation, and solar panels, sustainable buildings significantly decrease their ecological footprint on climate change and other areas of environmental quality.

It also promotes the efficient use of resources and materials, aiming to reduce waste generation and optimize their lifespan. This approach not only lowers construction costs but also supports the long-term preservation of natural resources.

Lastly, it promotes the well-being and health of occupants by incorporating elements like natural light, proper thermal comfort, and access to green spaces. By prioritizing the health of individuals and the environment, green architecture creates spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also contribute positively to society as a whole.

Sustainable Architecture FAQs

The most sustainable type of architecture is often considered to be passive house design. This type of architecture focuses on creating energy-efficient buildings that minimize the amount of energy consumed and reduce reliance on heating and cooling systems. It incorporates features such as optimal insulation, high-performance windows, airtight construction, and a balanced ventilation system.
Rowland+Broughton has used sustainable architecture strategies in various ways. We prioritize reducing energy consumption and environmental impact through the use of passive solar design, natural lighting, and efficient building systems. We also incorporate sustainable materials and construction practices, such as using recycled or locally sourced materials and incorporating green roofs and rainwater harvesting systems.