Updated: Sep 20, 2021
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is the concept of meeting the needs of present society without compromising the same quality of life or development for future generations to come. It is a lifestyle of consciousness which we can embrace in order to maintain ecological balance. Together we can avoid a total exhaustion of finite natural resources.
What are the three principles of sustainability?
There are three core principles of sustainability; environmental, economic and social. These three pillars are also commonly referred as planet, profits and people.
The environmental pillar often gets the most amount of political and media attention. This involves the focus on a company’s carbon footprint, single use plastics, production of waste and the overall effect the company has on the environment.
The social pillar is an extension of the ethical social contracts, between employee and employer, business and stakeholder as well as the impacts of both local and global communities. This concerns everything from flexible scheduling and corporate development opportunities for staff to child labour supply chains, unsafe sweatshops or rare mineral mining camps. It is the pillar that helps to encourage community fundraising, local investments and charitable projects.
The economic pillar is seen as the most important to most shareholders and business; to be economically sustainable, a business must make a profit. This deals with corporate governance risk management, accuracy, transparency and legality. To ensure this pillar stands strong, it cannot trump the other two pillars but must work with them; however, it is ultimately the inclusion of economic sustainability which makes it possible for extreme changes such as abandoning petrol for electric cars.
How do architects become sustainable?
Sustainable architecture refers to the design and construction of healthy structures while minimizing the negative environmental impacts, resource and energy efficiency whilst taking on a non-disposable mentality. This is often referred to as “green architecture” or “environmental architecture” and it aims to work alongside communities and ecosystems rather than damaging them.
For architects to become sustainable they must focus on the type of raw materials which are used, ideally locally sourced and natural resources to reduce the carbon footprint whilst importing. Architects must also take into consideration the space used; minimising the number of trees cut down and even replanting more trees to counteract the ecological impact. Long term effects of the energy used to heat or cool the building must also be considered and therefore the materials used must compliment environmental factors. Whilst the building must be functional, it must also be aesthetically beautiful!
Why is sustainability important in architecture?
According to the UN Environment Global Status report in 2017; “Buildings and construction account for more than 35% of global final energy use and nearly 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions”. Cities across the world rapidly expand every day, as do the population living within these spaces. Modern life is depleting the Earth’s natural resources and God is not creating any more land.
Green architecture can benefit all three pillars of sustainability; environmentally it can vastly increase the quality of air and water in the surrounding areas. It can boost biodiversity and help to save fragile ecosystems locally and conserve natural resources globally. These improvements directly encourage social sustainability through better living conditions for those in the community; increased quality of air, water and comfort; nurturing improved health for all. Finally, economic sustainability can be achieved through the reduction of long term building repair costs, energy bills and dependence on fossil fuels. Healthy environments have continually been proven to boost worker productivity, reduce sickness and therefore increase efficiency and ultimately profits.