Sustainable architecture refers to buildings designed to limit humanity’s impact on the environment. An eco-friendly approach to modern-day building encompasses every aspect of the planning and construction process, including the choice of building materials; the design and implementation of heating, cooling, plumbing, waste, and ventilation systems; and the integration of the built environment into the natural landscape.
Many of the practices and principles used in sustainable architecture are rooted in ancient building techniques, that were transformed with the rise of modern materials and mass production in the industrial age. The modern consciousness about the need for sustainable architecture can be traced back over 50 years to the anniversary of the first Earth Day, the international environmental movement, and the ensuing legislation that it sparked across the globe.
But the world is now in the midst of a climate change emergency, and many of the environmental laws that were passed in the last 50 years have been rolled back making it even more imperative for designers, architects, builders, and consumers to demand better building practices to help combat the damage caused by one of the most polluting industries on the planet. In the United States, for example, buildings account for 39 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
It is equally incumbent upon municipalities to strengthen their building codes to require more net-zero buildings, both residential and commercial. As more and more municipalities shift to electricity from fossil fuels to energize their buildings, it will become critical to expand the availability of renewable energy to pump into that electricity.