In the modern world the best architectural firms have a responsibility to work in a sustainable manner in order to give the buildings made and renovated today the best chance to survive into tomorrow. Adaptability is key, using materials that are sustainable without losing the integrity of what makes a structure sound and aesthetically pleasing. This can be achieved through a traditional method and process of design and utilising traditional methods, which has been proven over time to make the oldest buildings still relevant today.
What is it that makes the most sustainable buildings what they are? In terms of their thermal qualities that are stable, with solid walls that have been made from traditional and local materials. Traditional properties respond to the conditions they are located in, with windows designed and positioned within a building to offer light, ventilation and to gain or reduce heat mass. Of course, the historic buildings were designed and built in a time before energy was available so abundantly and this is why they were built to last. Utilising design can add to the sustainable properties of a modern building, and with theadded advantage of much better insulation to add to the capacity to survive as a sustainable entity.
A way in which buildings can be built to be sustainable is to always look to use local materials and for the manufacturing to consist of low energy technologies. Using materials that can be recycles once a building has reached the end of its life is another way to prove sustainability as part of an architectural design plan. Minimise the designs, forgoing large panes of glass and in the process limiting the exposure to high end, and energy gobbling technology in the building process. Lightly glazed buildings that rely on traditional materials are much more energy efficient that modernist structures where there is often a lot of glass involved.
Should we really be surprised by this? After all, think about how many old, listed buildings there are in the UK, and how they remain consistent in their style and aesthetic, yet adaptable to modern life, despite the way they were designed and the materials used. It is from these traditional buildings that modern architects can learn to build in a sustainable way again.
Architectural design should continue to embrace new technologies and design trends, but it has become abundantly clear in recent years that the traditional method of building and the design of old properties was much more efficient in terms of sustainability and meeting long lasting energy demands. It is definitely something for all modern architects to consider, fusing the two together when looking to plan the next generation of sustainable buildings.