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Architecture architecture General

Smart design: combining greater sustainability with higher efficiency

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by: Sharai Hoekema
smart design  combining greater sustainability with higher efficiency

Design has a great impact on our society. Not only will it please our eye when done right, it also has the unique potential to host sustainable and healthy communities. Nothing can hurt the environment more than a poorly designed building: both in terms of sustainability and liveability. 

Now that the urban population is growing exponentially, hand in hand with the overall number of people on our world, we need to think carefully about how to make sure we all ‘fit’. By 2050, another staggering two billion people are expected to move to a global city. There has to be a way to get all of them a proper home and sufficient facilities and amenities.

In anticipation of this enormous change, designers and architects are working tirelessly to come up with buildings that use the available space effectively, to ensure that they use fewer resources and will be much more sustainable - while guaranteeing optimal comfort and quality of life. And in order to do so, a few trends can be identified: the driving forces behind smart design.

Use of data to anticipate climate change

While no-one knows exactly how climate change will affect our world, we do know that it will do so. Therefore, buildings must be built with the entire notion of global warming in mind. A concept called climate resilience plays a very important role in this. It describes the way in which we are able to adapt to climate change, or to bounce back after weather-related disasters. 

So, how can we guarantee climate resilience without actually knowing what this would entail? A major headache for architects, yet at the same time one of their greatest opportunities. Those who are able to figure out a strategy for incorporating this in their design will be one step ahead of the competition. 

Data plays an important role in this. Data on pollution levels, data on extreme weather events, historical trends in combination with projected sea levels and other weather-related statistics: they will help to document climate change. This, in turn, helps us to improve our designed answer. We can design buildings that tackle the root issues of climate change while being prepared for its consequences.

Planning for resilience

Concretely speaking, the effects of all this are best seen in the planning of our cities and buildings. Each city faces its own set of challenges in the face of changing weather patterns and the rising sea level; and the mass migration and resource scarcity that may result from this. 

This is where policy and design meet in a unique feat of city-planning, that takes into account how certain areas can be kept secure, while the prevailing culture is protected and honoured - all while behaviour change is encouraged that will help cities respond to challenges and disasters. 

Restricting carbon emissions

A known fact is that about half of all greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to that share of the world that has been built by us, also known as the built environment. So, we should be very mindful of the impact of those objects and areas that we have built - and consider their impact on the larger environment. Especially now that the latest projections of the UN estimate that some additional 2.5 trillion square feet of new spaces will have to be built over the course of the next 40 years.

This roughly adds up to a brand new New York City that has to be erected every single month during these 40 years. An amazing number, that will seriously jeopardise our environment if we do not take drastic measures to amp up the sustainability of the energy and materials that we use for this; and carefully consider where to build. Once we minimise the impact of the building on the environment, and clearly mapping out where our energy is needed the most, we can cut back on overall emissions by simply planning and working sustainably. 

Designing and constructing for a changing world

The far majority - about 75% - of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. We are occupying increasingly smaller amounts of space in the most crowded areas, clustering together. While this may bring along challenges, its also gives us the unique opportunity to design for the changing world. Buildings with zero or negative emissions, focused on climate resilience, and using sustainable and energy-efficient constructions: careful planning can make a world of difference in the way we build a different world.

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More like this: Sharai Hoekema
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