Green architecture

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In the last decade, there has emerged a strong interest in developing green architecture - designs that incorporate ecologically and environmentally sustainable practices in site preparation, materials, energy use and waste systems. Some are simple: buildings oriented to the south or west help with passive solar heating. Others are more complex: Solar voltaic cells on the roof to generate power to the building. Green roofs are made of sod and other organic material and act as a cooling agent and recycle rainwater too. In addition, technological innovations in lighting, heating and cooling systems have made them more efficient.

A branch of the Seattle Public Library uses green design. A glass curtain wall on the north side makes use of natural lighting. Overhanging wooden roof beams shades harsh light. The whole structure is nestled under a green roof of sod and over 18,000 low water use plants. Seven skylights on the roof provide more natural lighting.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects, Ballard Branch, Seattle Public Library, 2005. Seattle, USA
A green roof on the Treasury building in Constitution Square, Athens, Greece

And the California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco harbors a living roof. Click on the hyperlink to view a short video and explore how it works.

The Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific captures the prevailing winds in sail-like structures that disperse it to the buildings interior as passive ventilation. Architect Renzo Piano's design is influenced by the indigenous tribal culture of the island.

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Urban Design
The biggest human impact on the environment is in the development of our urban landscapes. Buildings and transportation routes are the most prominent (Marshall McLuhan declared “the road is our major architectural form”). Buildings serve different roles in our lives; shelter, education, work, entertainment and travel all use different building designs. Consider the following:

  • What is a ‘good’ urban design? What is a ‘bad’ one?
  • Do you prefer hard-edged designs or others that use more organic components? Explain your choice.
  • What about the use of ‘green’ technologies? How do they enter into your ideas of good urban design?

For inspiration, view architect Maya Lin’s discussion of transforming a park in Michigan.

Green Architecture
Using the links on the resources page and any other sources you find appropriate, research and describe three examples of sustainable technologies and ‘green’ architecture. These could include anything from energy production sources to architectural design and engineering or urban planning models. For each of your three examples, consider the following:

  • What are your personal reactions to it?
  • What is the context surrounding it? For example, how will it be used?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • Will it replace or interact with existing designs?
  • Comment on each of your examples as an alternative to traditional design.

Include images or links for each of your examples, and be sure to cite the research sources used for this activity.