Sustainable architecture is a general term that describes environmentally conscious design techniques in the field of architecture. Sustainable architecture is framed by the larger discussion of sustainability and the pressing economic and political issues of our world. In the broad context, sustainable architecture seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space. Most simply, the idea of sustainability, or ecological design, is to ensure that our actions and decisions today do not inhibit the opportunities of future generations. This term can be used to describe an energy and ecologically conscious approach to the design of the built environment.




ecohomes327Passive solar design allows buildings to harness the energy of the sun efficiently without the use of any active solar mechanisms such as photovoltaic cells or solar hot water panels. Typically passive solar building designs incorporate materials with high thermal mass that retain heat effectively and strong insulation that works to prevent heat escape. Low energy designs also requires the use of solar shading, by means of awnings, blinds or shutters, to relieve the solar heat gain in summer and to reduce the need for artificial cooling. In addition, low energy buildings typically have a very low surface area to volume ratio to minimize heat loss.  See Residential - ideas for further info.
ecohomes311Active solar devices such as photovoltaic solar panels help to provide sustainable electricity for any use. Electrical output of a solar panel is dependent on orientation, efficiency, latitude, and climate—solar gain varies even at the same latitude. Typical efficiencies for commercially available PV panels range from 4% to 28%. The low efficiency of certain photovoltaic panels can significantly affect the payback period of their installation. This low efficiency does not mean that solar panels are not a viable energy alternative. In Germany for example, Solar Panels are commonly installed in residential home construction. 




Recycling items for building. Sustainable architecture often incorporates the use of recycled or second hand materials, such as reclaimed lumber and recycled copper. The reduction in use of new materials creates a corresponding reduction in embodied energy (energy used in the production of materials). Often sustainable architects attempt to retrofit old structures to serve new needs in order to avoid unnecessary development. Architectural salvage and reclaimed materials are used when appropriate. When older buildings are demolished, frequently any good wood is reclaimed, renewed, and sold as flooring. Any good dimension stone is similarly reclaimed. Many other parts are reused as well, such as doors, windows, mantels, and hardware, thus reducing the consumption of new goods. When new materials are employed, green designers look for materials that are rapidly replenished, such as bamboo, which can be harvested for commercial use after only 6 years of growth, sorghum or wheat straw, both of which are waste material that can be pressed into panels, or cork oak, in which only the outer bark is removed for use, thus preserving the tree. When possible, building materials may be gleaned from the site itself; for example, if a new structure is being constructed in a wooded area, wood from the trees which were cut to make room for the building would be re-used as part of the building itself.