The world cannot afford to create new lodgings for its citizens without including sustainable measures. The materials and architecture deployed in the past, from buildings that fail to retain any heat through to, as The Guardian highlighted, ecosystem-destroying chemicals, are no longer fit for purpose. Sustainability has to become part of the intrinsic design of new housing and developments, and that means every element of the internal climate. Architects are starting to learn more about the science of thermodynamics and how simple airflow can have a tremendous impact on climate control, and that’s leading to a founding principle in sustainable design.
Airflow is the key to a sustainable home. It transports heat where it needs to go, reduces dampness and other issues that can take heat away from homes, and produces a healthier atmosphere. There are two ways to achieve that. The conventional method is through HVAC systems. While HVAC systems have previously been a poor choice when it comes to the environment, a lot has changed, and now there are environmentally responsible choices like heat pump powered zone heating. The second comes through architecture itself. As researchers at Harvard have shown with their HouseZero, complete sustainability can be achieved with the correct airflow in the home. In basic terms this means designing homes to circulate and trap air; in technological circles, that can include automated shutters and window triggers to help take the act to another level.
Energy fuels heat and it powers light. Together they are two of the biggest consumers of energy overall, and finding ways to maximize natural light within the home is a key priority of developers. Inspiration has been given by some of the biggest players; the New Atlas highlights Microsoft’s new campus, which has effectively reduced their energy intake and improved the building’s function. These principles can be carried into private homes. Natural light should be the norm, and every room is absorbing as much sunlight during daytime as possible, with blackout blinds providing the relief.
The most pressing of the sustainability challenges is, in the USA at least, that of water scarcity. Reservoirs and rivers are already running dryer throughout the country, and there’s a real threat of water scarcity in the future. This is not a problem that’s new in the wider world, of course. The Architectural Digest notes that the Dutch have been tackling the issue for decades, and can provide inspiration. Their analysis highlights the floating cities in Amsterdam that use water for cleaning, heat, and waste circulation, in a closed sustainability loop. There’s no reason that clever planning can’t bring this to the fore in the USA.
Sustainability has to be the future in American residential projects, and the bones of a proper plan are already there. Businesses and families across the country and indeed the world have accepted this challenge and are bringing their own ideas to the table, and showing that it can be achieved.