On Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is not  a new concept with various, even contrasting approaches of design. It has been under consideration since 1960’S while being renamed differently according to the architectural approaches, scientific developments, environmental and political trends of the period.

Environmental trends of 1960’s and 1970’s agreed on the fact that the cost of development should not be environmental destruction; hence the popular term of the period was“Environmental Design”. Construction physics and indoor climate control began gaining importance during this period. While house models with passive solar energy came up, innovative office buildings with fully mechanical climatization and architectural solution decreasing energy consumption.

The concept provided winter and summer thermal comfort conditions and paid attention to quality of mechanical installation. However, it drew reaction due to that it tended to consider nature and human separated and tended to generalize human behavior.


A passive house section

In 1980’s when liberal economies got more power and consumption was more encouraged, we see“Green Consumption” and“green architecture” terms in terminology. Generally in 1980’s, an ecological approach is seen uttering”I kept my side of the bargain as a consumer” with products labeled as recyclable and biodegradable. As from the end of 1980’s, the”green” leaves its place to”ecological”. Also, one of the marked architectural trends of 1980’s is“biological building (baubiologie)” approach which is about producing healthy, organic constructions opposing modernist space understanding. Biological building approach criticizes the green consumption understanding of the period by targeting a life style and environment doing with less. According to this sense, the building climatizated with mechanical installation should not be converted into an isolated closed box so as to decrease energy consumption. Instead, it should be designed like a living organism which breathes, sweats, isolates, contacts and shapes local microclimate. Thus, modernized samples were built with traditional construction techniques and natural materials such as stone, wooden, earth… It was seen that energy costs can be reduced by switching from mechanical systems to natural methods and buildings benefiting from heating and cooling with solar energy and natural illumination and air conditioning also gained energy-activeness. With the Gateway Two office building constructed on 1983, designer company ARUP contributed significantly to architecture by developing passive energy systems solutions for large scaled office buildings.

We can say that along with the flourish of sustainable development theories, a breaking point was experienced in the beginning of 1990s. The truth is, the approach to sustainability which was presented by the architectural intellectuals of the northern countries was a bit  diminishing the role of local architecture for the last 20 years. That means, sustainable architecture should be considered in two ways as global and local applications since 1990’s. A construction now called as sustainable since 1990’s is an organism contributing cultural and economical background of the area beside with its morphological properties. The approach whose motto is“Think global, go local” supports generating local solutions. This motto also blanches The Slow-City Movements which appared first in 1999 and consequently dispersed around many cities in Europe, Asia and further.


Swiss Re Tower_Norman Foster

In summary, we see lots of examples of the sustainable building on the web which are deluxe, brilliant, mature, well designed, and sterile projects built in sterile environments like Swiss Re tower by Norman Foster above. How ever, this blog will also try to look for good local examples…
Source: This article is compiled from an article written for Ekoyapı magazine by IYTE Architecture Faculty lecturer Dr. Zeynep Durmuş Arsan in collobration with the Ekoyapi magazine.

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