Green architecture is here, and not a minute too soon. In an advancing world it is becoming more and more urgent that we adopt a philosophy of architecture that is kinder to the environment, one that prioritises sustainable design, responsible use of energy and resources, and is considerate of how buildings impact the environment…

“In the early 21st century the building of shelter (in all its forms) consumed more than half of the world’s resources – translating into 16% of the earth’s freshwater resources, 30 – 40% of all energy supplies, and 50% by weight of all the raw materials withdrawn from earth’s surface. Architecture was also responsible for 40 – 50% of waste deposits in landfills and 20 – 30% of greenhouse gas emissions,” states James Wines in his article published in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

What is green architecture?

Green architecture philosophies gained momentum post World War II, in the 60s and 70s. The 1994 establishment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) was a milestone for sustainable architecture, with standards set out by the United States Green Building Council providing criteria for the design and construction of eco-friendly buildings. Some of the sustainable design practices that LEED advocates include sustainable energy use (such as solar/wind), reuse of existing buildings and materials, conservation of water (by collecting and filtering rainwater for example), incorporating greenery by using roof gardens and plants indoors, and the preservation of the surrounding environment.

What about green buildings in South Africa?

Green Building South Africa has taken on the sustainable design philosophy and awards a green star rating to buildings based on how environmentally friendly they are. The rating is based on several factors, such as the materials used, the use of energy and water and the impact the building will have on the environment that surrounds it. The maximum 6 star rating has only been awarded to a few buildings in South Africa, among them the Vodafone Site Solution Innovation Centre in Midrand and the No.1 Silo in Cape Town.

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A revolution in architecture and construction

Technology can assist with building greener buildings and with the use of materials that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. There have been innovations in software which have meant that design is becoming more and more democratised, such as 3D modeling and 3D printing technologies that are more accessible. But to become truly green, architecture needs a revolution in form and thinking with green ideas being taken up universally and architecture itself becoming more community-based with designs fully cognisant of the environmental and social repercussions, as well as the economic.

How software can be used in green building

Autodesk provides a range of products that make use of digital prototyping so that building materials and methods can be tested before construction to see how sustainable they will be. Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology also reduces waste of energy and resources by enhancing collaboration. Autodesk understands that students who use their software might not be aware of why sustainable design is so important, since educational courses for architects and engineers may not place enough emphasis on the matter. Because of this, Autodesk initiated a series of free online instructional videos. Autodesk Sustainability Workshop, a series of free online instructional videos, aims at showing why the principles of green building are important in architecture and construction and how their software can be fully utilised in this area.

Click here to view Autodesk sustainability solutions videos.