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What is Sustainable Architecture? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Megan Criss
In this lesson we will discuss what sustainable architecture is and what its core principles are. In addition, the lesson will provide examples to show real world applications of this specific design technique.

What is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable architecture is an important piece of the topic of sustainable development, a leading concern in present day planning and design. Sustainable development strives to meet the needs and conditions of life while not compromising the needs and resources of life in the future. Sustainable architecture is an important component in this model of thinking, which works to meet the same overall goal of smarter building and development. Many architects and planners are employing this mindset, and the number of new sustainable architectural projects is growing every day.

Sustainability and Feasibility

Sustainable architecture can easily be defined by looking at the word sustainable, and what it means. Sustainability (especially sustainable development) means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So this means being smart with the resources currently available and not depleting resources for generations of people beyond us. Resources, both renewable and non-renewable, must be considered in regards to sustainable development models. Sustainable architecture will often use terms like green buildings to classify a project as being sustainable, especially on the environmental aspect.

In terms of the feasibility of an architectural project trying to be sustainable, three principles must be considered. These three principles are fundamental to the structure of sustainable development, which includes architecture. The first and foremost principle is environmental sustainability, and whether or not the project is feasible in terms of satisfying the needs of the environment around it. Without the satisfaction of this principle, the project or development cannot be sustainable.

The next principle is whether or not the project can achieve economical sustainability. This means the project should be able to support itself and be economically feasible. The final principle to satisfy is social sustainability, also referred to as cultural sustainability. This principle can be a bit of a wildcard as it is highly dependent on public opinion, which is constantly changing and often very political. Regardless, projects must consider and plan for meeting the needs of the culture surrounding it and the people who will be using it. It is the complete or partial satisfaction of these three principles that drive sustainability.

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