Sustainable architecture: Environmentally friendly and stylish
When we talk about sustainability in construction, we are referring to an architectural design process that focuses on the conservation of natural and regenerative resources. The term “sustainability” was originally coined in the forestry industry, but has since penetrated into all aspects of our day-to-day lives. The concept of sustainability has also filtered through to the construction industry: Increasing numbers of clients and planners are insisting on sustainable architecture.
Insulation, energy consumption and generation and the ecological footprint of the materials used to construct the building all play a vital role in its environmental performance. All over the world, architects are designing buildings that are being awarded official “ecolabels” and classifications. These five examples of sustainable architecture prove that buildings constructed with natural materials and sustainable technology don’t need to compromise on style.
Sustainable architecture that balances tradition and innovation
Tucked away in the High Tauern mountains in Austria is “Aufberg”, a development of two chalets designed by Munich-based architect Andreas Meck. His design uses local materials such as larch wood to produce wooden cabins that blend into the idyllic setting and put guests at the heart of nature. “Aufberg 1113”, constructed in 2008, was inspired by a bird’s nest with an all-round panoramic view. The second chalet, “Aufberg 1110”, was completed in 2012 and features a slightly more introverted design, with recesses and large individual windows built into the walls.
Inside both chalets, natural materials such as wood, stone, wool and felt are dominant. The free-standing bath tubs and bright, open-plan rooms complement the stylish interiors. The faint scent of wood lingers throughout the space; open fires with logs from locally grown and managed woodlands create a warm and cosy atmosphere. The chalets are also heated with geothermal energy. Aufberg is a great example of how sustainable architecture can be combined with a sleek, minimalist design, contemporary shapes and classic pieces of furniture. This secluded spot is the perfect place to experience nature at its fullest at any time of year.
Gut Feeling: Sustainable architecture with a small footprint
In Oberaudorf in Bavaria, architects have designed a compact and sustainable building that makes clever use of space. In an area measuring just 13 x 4 metres, Gut Feeling incorporates everything you could possibly desire, with a kitchen and dining area, living room with stove, bedroom and bathroom spread over four levels. Sustainability was also high on the agenda for the architects. The holiday home is constructed from natural materials such as wood and clay and is virtually 100 percent recyclable when it reaches the end of its life. The solid, load-bearing wood walls and clay bricks act as great insulators, keeping the room climate comfortable throughout the modern and efficient accommodation. The name “Gut Feeling” – with “gut” meaning “good” in German – seems perfectly fitting for the experience it provides. From the two patios adjacent to the dining area, holiday makers can relax, enjoy the fresh air and soak up the sun. The modern design and carefully planned layout of the tiny house have also impressed architecture experts, and the Gut Feeling has already won a number of awards, including “Best Project 2015” from the Archilovers network.
Sustainable mountain resort in Italy
The “vigilius mountain resort” sits at an altitude of 1500 metres, nestled in the mountains of South Tyrol. The resort – which boasts a panoramic spa, rooms with views of the forests and Dolomite mountains, and two restaurants – opened to guests in 2003. Architect Matteo Thun designed the building with the motto of “eco, not ego” in mind to create a holistic concept that would bring together mountains, nature and a hotel. The clay brick walls provide outstanding insulation, which is a key element of the hotel’s sustainability credentials. The building is heated with biomass sourced from the mountain. The vigilius mountain resort has been awarded an A-rating for energy efficiency, and employees receive regular training on sustainability and environmental issues. The wooden façade blends into its surroundings, taking on the appearance of a fallen tree surrounded by boundless greenery and nature. Inside the building, the many windows keep guests connected with the great outdoors. Built primarily from larch wood, natural stone and clay, the resort is a shining example of sustainable architecture.
A public building with high sustainability standards
Alongside hotels and holiday homes, there are also plenty of public buildings that have been designed to satisfy the highest environmental standards. The Federal Environmental Agency building in Dessau, Germany was developed by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects and uses compact shapes to minimise the surface area of its façade and avoid heat loss. An air to geothermal heat exchanger, a photovoltaic system and thermal solar panels provide green energy for the building.
The town of Gross-Umstadt in southern Hessen in Germany has also invested heavily in sustainable architecture that more than does justice to the aesthetic standards of contemporary design.
Its unusual modular building – developed by sdks architekten – houses a crèche and uses natural materials inside and out: The façade is constructed in larch wood, and wood features heavily in the interior to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. An energy-efficient cogeneration system heats the contemporary and sustainable building, which can accommodate up to 60 children for day care.
A win-win situation: For us and for the environment
These five buildings look different and serve different purposes, but they all have one thing in common: They were all designed to protect the environment and safeguard our climate for future generations. According to experts, buildings with an ecolabel are a better prospect on the sales market, too – creating a sustainability-driven win-win situation for our planet and all of the people on it.
Do you think that sustainability is an important consideration in architecture? Do you know of any other interesting sustainable architecture projects? Let us know in the comments.