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Sense and Sustainability: Our Top 5 Green Developments

Sustainability is now a principle factor in the design of new buildings. From 2005 to 2012, the number of new, green, building designs in America rose by 39%. The sustainability craze began with a few solar panels and recycling waste, but that has been blown out of the water with architects considering sustainability in every element of the design and build process, from the resourcing of materials to the impact on the surrounding area.

In the UK, the built environment accounts for:

  • 45% of total UK carbon emissions (27% from domestic buildings and 18% from non-domestic) – much more than transportation
  • 72% of domestic emissions from space heating and the provision of hot water.
  • 32% of landfill waste from the construction and demolition of buildings.

As a result, architects, engineers and developers are masterminding and integrating new technologies in order to reduce the carbon footprint of some of the largest new developments around the world. I’ll take a look at five of the world’s most sustainable buildings at present, focusing on what features are helping to reduce their impact on the environment.

Shanghai Tower, China

Standing at 632 metres tall, Shanghai Tower is the second tallest tower in the world, it is also considered to be one of the greenest. Overall, there are 43 sustainable technologies implemented into the structure which contribute to this esteemed status.

Firstly, the building is almost like a flask with a ‘double skin’ exterior which allows light to flood into the building, therefore reducing the need for artificial lights. All lighting, heating and ventilation controls are monitored by smart controls, ensuring they are only on when needed.

All exterior and park lights are powered by wind turbines located towards the top of the structure and inside, all 9 lobby areas will hold its own indoor garden. One third of the site will be green space. Overall, these factors are said to reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 34,000 tonnes per year.

The Crystal, London

The Crystal opened its doors in 2012 and serves as the world’s largest exhibition on the future of cities, the world’s most sustainable events venue, and the head office space for Siemens. It is the only building ever to receive the highest sustainability rating in the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) schemes.

Siemens technology is used across the building in order to achieve these statuses. It is completely self-sufficient in terms of energy, using solar power and heat pumps below ground to power the building using electricity alone. All rain water is collected and used while sewage is treated and reused on site.

One Angel Square, Manchester, UK

This building serves as the headquarters of the Co-Operative Group. It has been awarded a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating for its sustainability. The building is powered by a plant oil-fed heat and power system using rapeseed grown on the Co-Op’s own land and any energy leftover is sent back to the main grid. As well as this, all rain water is utilised and waste is recycled for other purposes in the building.

One Bryant Park, New York

Another of the world’s greenest skyscrapers, the Bank of America Tower was the first building of this size to gain a LEED Platinum rating. One major issue new developments in New York face is dealing with sewage and rainwater due to the old and aging water infrastructure in the city.

One Bryant Park has managed to overcome this in an innovative way. All the rainwater is collected and stored in a series of tanks throughout the floors, which are designed to hold more than 329,000 gallons of water. This is then used for plant irrigation and toilet flushing, as well as reused in the cooling towers and eventually returned to the atmosphere as water vapour.

The building also has its own generation plant that produces 4.6 megawatts of clean, sustainable, energy as well as automated controls, which monitor lighting and temperature.

Pearl River Tower, China

This tower’s sleek shape was designed with solar and wind energy in mind, maximising the sun and wind patterns to generate the optimum amount of clean energy. The tower is sculpted in a shape that directs wind towards the turbines, which power the building.

Like the Shanghai Tower, this building has a double outer layer as well as underfloor ventilation and daylight harvesting technologies. In a report presented at the 2008 Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, it was reported that the building's sustainable design features will allow a 58% energy usage reduction when compared to similar stand-alone buildings.

Over the coming years, we will see sustainability become more crucial in construction as countries work towards meeting their targets of reducing carbon output while also continuing to meet the demands of growing populations in cities. The above 5 examples all incorporate innovative technologies to achieve these targets, and I suspect that the technology will only become even more innovative in the future.

Are you an architect looking to make your mark on sustainability in the Middle East? Take a look at our current architecture vacancies and get in touch with one of our consultants today!

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