Examples of Sustainable Architecture Around the World
Updated: Jan 19
There are several ways to analyze and enjoy architectural achievements. In the era of climate change, more and more emphasis is being placed on a building's "green" credentials, as environmental impact leads to decisions around design, construction and operations. Below is a list of five noteworthy green buildings from around the world.
Bosco Verticale (Milan, Italy) Bosco Verticale or “Vertical Forest” is a pair of deluxe residential apartment towers in Milan, Italy. The project was designed as part of the rehabilitation of the historic district of Milan between Via De Castillia and Confalonieri in Porta Nuova, one of the richest European business districts. The 365ft structures are covered by more than 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 perennial plants, which help mitigate smog and produce oxygen. These tree-packed high rises help cities built for density, adding more housing and infrastructure, while improving the air quality. Trees and plants are the most efficient and cost-effective way to absorb carbon dioxide. The vast number of trees and perennial plants in the buildings will convert approximately 44,000 pounds of carbon each year. With more than 90 species, the buildings' biodiversity is expected to attract new bird and insect species to the city. It is also used to moderate temperatures in the building in the winter and summer, by shading the interiors from the sun and blocking harsh winds. The vegetation also protects the interior spaces from noise pollution and dust from street-level traffic. and the design itself was heavily influenced by horticulturalists and botanists. All this greenery helps improve air quality in Bosco Verticale and the city more broadly. The building itself is self-sufficient by using renewable energy from solar panels and filtered wastewater to sustain the buildings' plant life. These green technology systems reduce the overall waste and carbon footprint of the towers. Lead designer Stefano Boeri stated, “It’s very important to completely change how these new cities are developing. Urban forestation is one of the biggest issues for me in that context. That means parks, it means gardens, but it also means having buildings with trees.” The design was tested in a wind tunnel to ensure the trees would not topple from gusts of wind. Botanists and horticulturalists were consulted by the engineering team to ensure that the structure could bear the load imposed by the plants. The steel-reinforced concrete balconies are designed to be 28 cm thick, with 1.30 meter parapets. Bosco Verticale is the first model of urban densification of nature in a city and Boeri plans to build similar structures in Switzerland, the Netherlands (one is already under construction in Eindhoven and soon also in Utrecht), and multiple cities in China. According to Stefano Boeri, the building was inspired by Italo Calvino's 1957 novel The Baron in the Trees, in which the protagonist decides to abandon the ground and live in the trees for the rest of his life. The construction of the towers began in late 2009 and early 2010, involving 6,000 onsite construction workers and was completed in 2012, the first plants were installed in 2013 and the building was finally inaugurated in 2014, winning many awards thereafter.
CopenHill (Copenhagen, Denmark) Amager Bakke (Amager Hill), also known as Amager Slope or Copenhill, might be the ultimate mixed-use project; it's both a power waste-to-energy plant as well as a sports facility where you can take on one of the world's tallest climbing wall or their 279ft artificial ski slope roof. It opened in 2017 in Amager, Copenhagen, Denmark and partially replaced the nearby old incineration plant in Amager which has been converted from using coal to biomass. The two plants play a major role in Copenhagen's ambitions of being zero carbon by 2025. Beneath the wintertime fun, 440,000 tons of waste is yearly converted by furnaces, steam and turbines into clean electricity and heating for 150,000 nearby homes, according to Architect Magazine. It is estimated to have cost $670 million and is expected to burn 400,000 tons of municipal solid waste annually. Technically, the plant is designed to change between operating modes, producing 0-63 MW electricity and 157-247 MW district heating, depending on the local heat demand and power price. As a result of filtration and other technologies, sulfur and NOx emissions are expected to be reduced by 99.5% and the plant also reduces dioxins and HCl. An experiment intended the chimney to not emit its exhaust continuously, but instead in the form of "smoke" rings (consisting of water vapor rather than actual smoke). It produces more clean water than it uses and claims to be the cleanest incineration plant in the world.
The Edge (Amsterdam, Netherlands) The Edge, a light, bright and app-controlled building with a large atrium as its nucleus, is as green as it is worker-friendly, a key directive by PLP Architects when designing the building. Shunning traditional electric lights and wiring, LEDs are powered by a "digital ceiling" with computer cables connected to sensors which are built to anticipate lighting needs rather than wasting energy and money by constantly running. The architects estimate an 80% savings in power over the use of traditional lighting. The skin of the building is made of solar panels. Temperatures are regulated by pumping warmer and cooler water from different levels in an aquifer. Workers can even adjust their window blinds with the app. The Edge got an enviable sustainability score of 98.3% from the British rating agency BREEAM (Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method, the world's first sustainability rating scheme for the built environment).
One Angel Square (Manchester, United Kingdom) Manchester helped lead the way during the Industrial Revolution, so it seems fitting one of its 21st century buildings is helping lead the way to a greener future. Opened in 2013, One Angel Square was designed with flexibility in mind and brought sustainability bonuses with it. The building's structure and systems allow new tenants to easily rearrange and reorganize space to fit their needs. This saves on refit costs and the energy bills that go with them. The building also has a double-skinned facade to help reduce heating and cooling costs, underground concrete tubes that bring in cool air through a heat exchanger, and stylish furniture made from recycled waste pallets. One Angel Square is one of the most sustainable large buildings in Europe and is built to a BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating, receiving a score of 95.16%; the highest ever recorded BREEAM score at that point. It is powered by a biodiesel cogeneration plant using rapeseed oil to provide electricity and heat. The structure makes use of natural resources; the open atrium faces south to collect heat from the sun, an example of passive solar building design. The sun emits electromagnetic radiation in the form of ultraviolet light, but changes to infrared when it passes through glass. This creates heat inside the building and overheating will be countered by five stepped curved shades above the atrium which prevent sunlight overheating the building and stops glare. In winter, louvres atop the double-skin façade are closed to maintain the warm air generated in the building. In summer, the opposite occurs and louvres atop the double-skin façade open and consequently expel hot, rising air from the building to reduce overheating. It also uses natural ventilation through its double-skin facade, adiabatic cooling, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and waste heat recycling. It is also an energy-plus building, producing surplus energy and zero carbon emissions. The building has received numerous awards for its striking aesthetic and sustainability aims.
ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall (Fukuoka, Japan) Opened in 1995, the name ACROS is an acronym for “Asian Cross Roads Over the Sea”. Situated in the middle of Fukuoka City, Japan, ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall is a center of international, cultural and information exchange and underneath lies over one million square feet of multipurpose space. The interior features a huge exhilarating atrium, as well as a number of attractive facilities including a full-scale music hall the Fukuoka Symphony Hall, International Conference Hall which has simultaneous interpreter booths that can accommodate six languages and the Takumi Gallery which has permanent exhibitions of traditional Fukuoka arts and crafts. Pioneering green architect Emilio Ambasz transposed a nearly 100,000-square-meter park in the city center onto 15 stepped terraces of the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall. The design for ACROS Fukuoka proposes a powerful new solution for a common urban problem: reconciling a developer’s desire for profitable use of a site with the public’s need for open green space. The plan for Fukuoka fulfills both needs in one structure by creating an innovative agro-urban model. Along the edge of the park, the building steps up, floor-by-floor, in a stratification of low, landscaped terraces. Each terrace floor contains an array of gardens for meditation, relaxation, and escape from the congestion of the city, while the top terrace becomes a grand belvedere, providing an incomparable view of the bay of Fukuoka and the surrounding mountains. Growing media depths range between 12 and 24″. When first constructed, there were 76 varieties totalling 37,000 plants. Since then, birds and insects have brought in seeds and now there are 120 varieties totalling 50,000 plants in the garden. In September 2000, the Takenaka Corporation, Kyushu University, and Nippon Institute of Technology jointly carried out a thermal environment measurement survey at ACROS Fukuoka, proving that rooftop gardens are effective in alleviating the urban heat island phenomenon. The study found the following: a difference of 15°C between the surface temperatures of the concrete, coming to the obvious conclusion that the greenery and greening suppresses a rise in the surrounding air temperature. Apart from allowing for significant reduction of the urban heat island effect, the building also provides fresh air, reduces pollution and noise and the complex is an excellent prototype for our urban and inevitably green future. The building’s lush green roof also helps to reduce and capture the rainwater runoff on the site. The vertical garden has created its own ecosystem by using rainwater for irrigation. And speaking of sustainability, we should mention the fact that the green roof notably lowers the operating costs due to the use of less energy both for heating and cooling.