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Sustainable architecture and offices in companies

Companies are at the heart of the global challenge of sustainability. Building with an eye on the future should be one of the mantras of every entrepreneur. And here sustainable architecture has a key role to play.

The environment crisis, climate change, loss of biodiversity... These are complex problems that cannot be tackled with a single answer but instead call for a creative combination of solutions. These include sustainable architecture, which has a crucial role in the strategy agreed between the member countries of the European Union.

 

What is sustainable architecture?

Architecture and sustainability are two aspects that must be considered in conjunction when it comes to developing a project. The aim is to promote buildings that are energy efficient and utilise natural resources without incurring unnecessary expense.

Against this backdrop, innovations are beginning to emerge in the construction sector, with new architectural designs that incorporate elements to mitigate environmental pollution, enable housing resources to be better managed and incorporate exploitation technology.

Sustainable architecture extends beyond the construction process. It is not just about materials and works, but also involves users and, when the time comes, until demolition, the amount of waste generated and its impact on the environment. The efficiency of these spaces often plays second fiddle to design and aesthetics. Functionality is not always taken fully into consideration.

Designs that allow natural light into the space, embellishment with plants that contribute to the natural air conditioning of the building and the use of reusable, recycled materials that have little environmental impact are just some of the cornerstones of sustainable architecture.

 

The principles of sustainable architecture and its benefits

Sustainable construction and energy efficiency projects factor in the effects of the construction itself on the people who live inside and carry out their daily routine. Accordingly, there are basic principles and characteristics of sustainable architecture.

We can summarise the five following basic principles:

  • The "3Rs" rule: reduce, reuse and recycle.
  • Use natural resources sparingly, in particular energy and water.
  • Management and analysis of materials used to reduce the impact of future waste and greenhouse gases.
  • Increase the health and quality of life of the building's users.
  • Protect the environment where the construction project is to be carried out.

Sustainable architecture and building is based on concepts such as conserving, saving and rationalising consumption. This immediately translates into environmental and community benefits. In general, the requirements to be taken into account are the responsible consumption of water and energy, as well as the use of materials that can enhance the ecosystem (vertical gardens are a perfect example).

To minimise environmental impact it is best to use solutions that involve reusing something rather than throwing it away:

Reuse materials from major refurbishments and demolitions: they are an excellent option provided that they meet the required quality standards.

Recycle waste generated by construction: such as wood and its derivatives (plastics, bricks, etc.). Waste management in sustainable construction is an important aspect in the smart cities of the future.

Incorporate materials that have recycled elements such as plasterboards, panels, metal equipment, etc.

Support business in the region by choosing materials close to the construction site. Firstly, the reduction in distance travelled means fewer greenhouse gases are emitted. And secondly, doing so helps boost the local economy, preventing industry from becoming concentrated in few places.

Incorporate renewable woods such as bamboo, cork and fast-growing trees into projects. In this area we can find wood certified as having been sustainably sourced.

Use paints and primers that do not contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Achieving quality in sustainable construction and energy efficiency is crucial to its launch in the market and this includes devising strategies to obtain materials that improve the environmental conditions, savings and well-being of people themselves.

 

Five tips for a sustainable office in your company

Before starting a sustainable architectural project for a company, and whenever possible, it is important to look for a site away from areas of significant tension or places where the subsoil has characteristics that might damage the structure of the building and sustainable offices.

Of particular importance are:

  1. Paying attention to insulation for roofs, facades and windows to achieve greater protection against weather conditions.
  2. Correct orientation of windows and their watertight installation ensures a better use of natural light that results in energy savings.
  3. Effective ventilation of the office to prevent the accumulation of radioactive and toxic elements such as radon gas. CO2 controllers can be installed to achieve the correct level of ventilation.
  4. More efficient equipment in the A++ y A+++ categories, because such equipment reduces CO2 emissions (with the resulting energy saving).
  5. Use of domotics to monitor and control energy consumption in the building.

Architecture and sustainability do not make the construction of offices more costly. In fact, making sustainable offices and buildings means creating better buildings that do not cost as much and require less maintenance.

"Sustainable architecture does not have to be more expensive in the short term, but it will be cheaper in the long term because of cost and maintenance savings."

Examples of sustainable architecture and construction

One Central Park (Sydney)

This is a residential building in the Australian city, covered by a variety of plants that not only serve as ornamentation to embellish the building but also help filter the air and reduce heat. The structure has heliostat mirrors, whose purpose is to reflect sunlight towards areas that normally are in the shade.

 

The Edge (Amsterdam)

Built in 2015, this structure has 15 floors and heads the list of the world's most sustainable buildings. It is covered with solar panels that generate more energy than the building itself consumes. It also has rainwater reuse systems. In 2016 it obtained 98.4 points in the BREEAM certification, the most important international sustainability assessment method for large-scale projects, infrastructure and buildings.

 

Bullitt Center (Seattle)

This building is a prime example of sustainable architecture. It is the first commercial building to be awarded the Living Building Challenge standard, the highest level of sustainability in a structure. The Bullitt Center generates its own energy, stores and uses rainwater, and has been built using sustainable materials.

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