Right now, the word “sustainability” conjures images of plants, reusable grocery bags, and recycling bins, but not for much longer. Organizations around the world are creating buildings that will change your mental image of sustainability with architecture that is simultaneously physically and ecologically amazing.
These twin skyscrapers are considered by Bahrain to be its first truly “intelligent” building and by the world to be the first to incorporate large-scale wind turbines. These turbines turn more than just heads; they generate enough energy for 300 homes. The intelligent design Bahrain is referring to deals with how the building maximizes energy output. A negative-energy pressure zone is created between the two towers; this draws more air through the gap, increasing wind speeds by up to 30%. The tapered towers also redirect wind gusts to hit the turbines at near-perpendicular angles, creating optimal electricity-generating conditions.
The City of Melbourne decided to set an example and created an eco-friendly government building focused on conserving energy and improving the well-being of its occupants through a high-quality internal environment. The efforts paid off; the building uses 85% less electricity and 87% less gas–while emitting only 13% of the emissions–of a comparable-sized, traditionally-built building. CH2 (Council House 2) employs practically every sustainable technology, from wind-powered turbines to photovoltaic cells to recycled timber louvers. All of this earned CH2 bragging rights as well as a maximum Six Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of Australia.
This mixed-use condominium’s unique design incorporates power-generating technology into its architecture. Standing at over 400 feet, COR produces energy through wind turbines, photovoltaics, and solar hot water generation, making energy generation look not just good, but stunning.
Daffonchio & Associate Architects won an SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture for this eco-friendly office building. Energy Works boasts many green features, including photovoltaic electricity, solar under-floor heating, rain-water harvesting, solar geysers, embodied energy, and sensitive solar pool-water heating systems. They describe it as “[a]n alive building at one with nature.”
This spectacular-looking house actually creates more energy than it uses (four to six times more, depending on time of year) and was the first in the world to do so. On top of that, the energy created is entirely renewable and CO2 neutral. The Heliotrope harnesses so much energy by physically rotating to track the sun. Besides that, Heliotrope also contains a grey-water cleansing system and built-in natural waste composting. The architect, Rolf Disch, is considering creating a rotating hotel that will keep energy costs low yet allow every patron to have a great view.
Built for more than sustainability, this children’s hospital was created with its clients in mind. The hope is to remove children’s fear of the hospital by introducing fantasy and whimsy. The designers accomplish this by decorating the green building with animal sculptures, including immense sculptures on the outside. A giraffe figure is holding up the entrance so patients and visitors walk through the bright, yellow legs to go in. The architects, Hondelatte Laporte Architectes, didn’t miss a thing; they designed this building well enough to earn France’s green, “zéro Energie Effinergie” label.
Masdar City is, as the name implies, not a building but a whole city focused on sustainability. The community promotes cutting-edge cleantech research and development, pilot projects, technology testing, and sustainable building construction. Masdar City relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste environment that is car free. Masdar City is piloting several advanced clean-transportation systems and strategies. Over 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is only projected to increase. Masdar, meaning “the source” in Arabic, hopes to be a leader and source of inspiration for future sustainable cities.
Created by Mareines + Patalano, who have many other impressive projects, the Leaf House takes advantage of the surrounding climate to be as sustainable as it is beautiful. The roof is not only shaped like a leaf, but it acts like the house’s namesake as well by protecting both enclosed and open spaces from the hot sun. The open spaces are key to this house because they allow trade winds from the ocean to flow through, thus creating a natural ventilation and passive cooling system. The architects call it “low-tech eco-efficiency.”
This new school gains notoriety as much from its commitment to sustainability and education as from its notable funder, Oprah Winfrey. The school won an SAA Award for Sustainable Architecture. Students are so proud to attend a school that includes rainwater-harvesting installation, solar energy, and green roofs planted with indigenous plants, that truancy numbers have significantly decreased. Vele’s principal happily describes how the building is designed so that classrooms are now cool on hot days and warm on cool days. He is also happy to note that the pass rate has increased and attributes it to the new, award-winning school.
The wNw, or Wind and Water Bar, is much more than a venue for concerts and shows. The bamboo structure shows how architects can use local materials in innovative, meaningful, and successful ways. More than the material makes this bar special, however; even the bar’s design is revolutionary. It uses natural wind energy and the cool water from the artificial lake above which it is located to create a natural air-ventilation system. The architect group, Vo Trong Nghia, created the sustainable building to merge modernism with traditions and the harmony of nature.
All these buildings are successful examples of the possibilities of sustainable design. They will save money and reduce emissions while looking fantastic. Living sustainably involves a varying level of choices; you get back what you put in. These examples are proof that going in big is a good thing.