Businesses and citizens grow increasingly socially conscious to the importance of being “green” or environmentally friendly as awareness initiatives and campaigns – to ‘reduce, recycle and reuse’ and ‘do zero harm’ stir trends in behaviour change.
However, as experts in this space, we understand that the call to action requires far greater consideration than simply managing critical resources in a more sustainable fashion. In fact, the extreme weather changes and events experienced globally in recent years have shown us that building for resilience and sustainability have to become integral in the design and construction of buildings.
As developers, architects, designers, engineers and sustainability consultants, we have the opportunity to mould the aesthetic aspirations for the future. Resilience and long-term liveability must be the desired outcomes sought through the planning, design and construction processes. Achieving such aspirations will require using sustainability as a lens and incorporating “climate responsiveness” and “designing within constraint” concepts when developing buildings, to ensure we are able to design and build more responsibly, and for a resilient and sustainable future.
Additionally, in developing people-centric spaces within this context, we also need to relook ways of achieving comfort from what we have traditionally done. This may include, though not limited to, revisiting our expectations on spatially appropriate development, alternatives to raw building materials, new approaches to aesthetics and how we use buildings.
For future green buildings more focus is being placed on the provability of building performance. This includes how the building reduces urban impacts, enhancing the ecological value and that the building sustainably promotes a healthier environment and benefits to the personal health and productivity, well-being and comfort of occupants.
We can no longer afford to think about a building as a roof and four walls of bricks and mortar. Today, a green building is a living structure in itself – and one that needs to support an entire ecosystem, within premises and that of where it stands.
Key components that are receiving increased attention for futureproofed green building include:
Research indicates that, on average, people spend 90% of their time indoors. If we consider the average workday to be 8-9 hours, we can surmise that one-third of this [90% of] time is spent indoors at work and the balance at home. This puts into perspective the importance of every breath taken and that proper building ventilation is crucial to improving and maintaining high indoor air quality (IAQ).
Designing for daylight can certainly bode consistent benefits in the personal health and productivity of occupants, as well as offer efficiencies through reduced reliance on artificial lighting. However, having ample windows or a glass full façade can negatively drive up energy bills and carbon emissions due to heat gains and losses. Additionally, we need to consider how this impact may be further influenced by the capricious nature of future climate and weather events.
As we look to design and build for climate responsiveness, due consideration should be given to available solutions that promote reduced heat gain and loss, provide better insulation and still offer ample natural light and comfort without significant carbon impacts.
Autonomy within work environments
People are happier when they have control of their immediate space. This extends from being able to override automatic blinds, to adjusting localised lighting and temperature to personal preferences. Happier employees are more loyal and productive.
In our market experience, we have noticed that the commercial building sector has been the leading early adopter of green building trends – and that occupants or employee wellness has greater influence on workspace design. Based on projects we have been involved with, and by ratio of importance, the health and wellness of occupants is the top ranked consideration by clients, at 90% - which looks at ‘who are we building for and what are their needs’. Building for sustainability promotes maximum space planning, efficiency, comfort and productivity.
With advances in design, building materials and technology it is no longer considered more costly in upfront capital investment to go green. Added to this, when evaluating the full lifecycle of the building, interventions that boast increased efficiencies and sustainability offer long-term cost benefits in reduced utility costs and carbon emission reductions linked to taxes and other incentive programmes.
Additionally, over-and-above the potential pure financial net benefit, consideration should also be given to gains in improved business resilience, mandatory corporate reporting, investor and stakeholder confidence, brand equity and marketing value, employee benefits and potential resale value of efficiently built and operated buildings.
Building for sustainability not only actively promotes reduced waste throughout construction, but green practices and waste management policies ensure onsite recycling is continuously improved and compliant with the legislation of the State to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
There are three main components of water management when building for resilience and sustainability; reducing indoor potable water use, reducing water consumption to save energy and enhancing the environmental well-being. Driving sustainable water management practices involves placing water conservation and water efficiency interventions at the core of design, construction, operation and interior fitouts of buildings.