The ecological concerns are becoming increasingly important aspects of modern architecture. Apart from the popular renewable energy systems, various additional solutions are introduced in the design stage. These are intended to reduce energy consumption, decrease the carbon footprint and facilitate a more gentle relationship with nature. Which of the contemporary architectural trends are most favorable to these goals?
Climate change has significantly accelerated the evolution of architectural trends. As a consequence, the entire construction industry is taking ever bolder steps towards ecological transformation. Investors, architects, developers and end-users are now paying considerable attention to issues related to balanced, sustainable development.
Which solutions and materials are going to take over the construction industry in the coming decades? What path will architecture take in the face of ever-accelerating climate change and the global ambitions to effectively decrease the carbon footprint?
1. Contacting the nature with minimalism
As a consequence of the growing ecological awareness amongst investors, more and more of the buildings designed today feature low energy consumption. Architects stress simplicity and minimalism. Apart from energy savings, these offer additional, measurable benefits. In modern architectural projects, users enjoy much more intimate contact with nature. By the same token, these architectural solutions provide more natural light.
Amongst other things, this is achieved by properly aligning the building concerning the cardinal directions, compacting its volume and maximizing the number of glazed elements by using curtain walls, sliding doors and panoramic windows. These solutions, combined with proper insulation, heating systems and air-circulation arrangements, ensure the buildings are relatively energy-efficient.
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2. Recyclable building materials
Globally, the construction industry is responsible for approximately 39% of annual CO2 emissions. However, by the same token, the industry has the greatest potential to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 through de-carbonisation efforts. One way to achieve this goal is to use Cradle to Cradle- or Passive House-certified building materials and solutions. The former indicates that the product can be processed and reused. As a consequence, the resources, once mined, continue to be used and reused. This, in turn, reduces the exploitation of natural resources and decreases the quantity of waste produced by the industry. The latter demonstrates that the certified solution can be utilised in energy-saving and passive buildings.
“Aluminium, glass and wood are becoming fundamental to ecological construction practices. These constitute a promising path of development, effectively competing with concrete and other conventional building materials. Using these materials allows us to improve buildings’ energy efficiency. Likewise, being able to effectively recycle them means they qualify as renewable resources. The Aluprof brand pursues sustainability. For instance, we aim to decrease our carbon footprint by 15% by 2025”, claims Wojciech Brożyna, the Aluprof UK Managing Director.
3. Refurbishing existing buildings and modifying their functions
The post-pandemic reality has demonstrated that as more and more employees work remotely, owning or renting large office spaces is uneconomical. The hybrid work model has compelled significant changes in the organisation of all sorts of office buildings, turning them into living spaces. This trend is most evident in the USA. As a consequence of this change, over 20,000 apartments were created in 2021.
Apart from these changes to many companies’ work models, the locations of office buildings have also contributed to the popularity of this trend. They are located in well-connected, properly outfitted districts.
Compared to demolishing old buildings and constructing new ones, reusing office space has a much smaller environmental impact, is more economically viable and saves considerable time.
The past two years have proved that this is one of the most effective solutions to the housing availability crisis in some of the most crowded and expensive American cities. It is safe to assume that similar solutions will soon spread all over Europe and the world. Old shopping centres are likely to follow office buildings and thus gain a second lease of life instead of facing slow decay.
Let’s build a better future
Architecture has a greater environmental impact than ever. By implementing energy-saving solutions and following ecological trends, the entire construction industry can substantially decrease its energy use and minimise harmful CO2 emissions. Within the global context, only united, consistent efforts can achieve the EU’s shared goal – carbon neutrality by 2050.
PS: More information regarding ecological trends which are the future of architecture and the construction industry are available in the newest issue of Alubook, a trend album.