Eco-architecture is an approach to architectural design which aims to minimise or eliminate environmental damage caused by construction or the lifespan of a building development.
Emissions from the construction industry reached the highest recorded level in 2019, according to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme. When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions. In order to reach net-zero, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that direct building CO2 emissions need to fall by 50% by 2030. This equates to around 6% per year.
Sustainable architecture has never been more important, but sustainable buildings are not new. Most buildings were highly sustainable throughout human history. However, the rapid growth of the world’s population and higher demand for comfortable housing. In the the 20th century, this led to bad practices within the construction industry, resulting in environmental damage.
Although this raises concern, we think the future looks promising. Architecture firms are taking action and making progress in building a greener future, without compromising on comfort. We have seen many firms putting sustainability at the forefront of their designs in recent decades. They consider factors such as energy usage, environmentally-friendly materials, and designing ‘with nature’.
These examples of eco-friendly architecture demonstrate that modern design doesn’t have to be harmful.
Cowboy Modern Desert Eco-Retreat by Jeremy Levine
Architect Jeremy Levine’s personal getaway is remotely located in Southern California’s Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree national park. This 1,200-square-foot (111 sqm), two-bedroom, two-bathroom family home was designed by Levine himself. The intention was to create a zero-waste flagship for sustainable living.
The property is entirely off-grid; without water, sewers, or any mobile service. Although this may sound extreme and unliveable, there are sophisticated technology and eco-friendly systems in place. These include grey-water recycling and solar panels, making for a comfortable secluded retreat. The property is aligned to capture the breeze of the canyon and designed with features such as the overhanging roof. Said roof helps keep the glazing shaded thus lowering heat gain.
The home is built entirely from reclaimed lumber. The house’s structure was prefabricated remotely in order to cause minimal disruption to the delicate surrounding ecosystem during construction. Levine was extremely conscious of the potential disturbance and asked a biologist to ensure that no desert tortoises or owls would be affected by the build.
The Nest by Porky Hefer
Inspired by, you guessed it, birds nests, South African designer Porky Hefner made his debut in architecture with this eco home located in Namibia, on a wildlife reserve. The design pays homage to both modern and traditional hand-made vernacular architecture, capturing the essence of off-grid luxury.
Blending seamlessly into the surrounding nature, the thatched exterior is made from reeds which were sourced from the banks of the Zambezi River in Northern Namibia, providing natural insulation in the property.
The plot was located 125km away from the nearest town and could only be reached by dirt road, requiring a 4×4 or tractor. ‘It was an organic process. We built everything on site using local artisans and materials in the traditional style of the area. Building off the grid was both a difficulty and a blessing,’ explained Hefer, ‘logistically it was insane.’ Baboons dismantled the outdoor shower and a leopard cub shacked up under the foundations, but despite the challenges The Nest came to life.
Ulaman Eco Retreat by Inspiral Architecture
The Ulaman Eco-Retreat is a completely carbon neutral resort in Bali’s Kaba Kaba village. There are eight luxury guest bedrooms within the resort as well as a three-bedroom residence, and facilities such as a yoga studio and spa.
Situated between luscious rice fields and a river and bordered by forest, the construction merges into the surrounding tropical landscape. The river flow provides power to the hydro-electric generator, sustaining the power of the buildings within the complex.
Using materials sourced either on site, or from local areas, Inspiral Architects were able to provide work for locals in the nearby villages during construction. The structure is made almost entirely from rammed earth and bamboo, which not only have sustainable qualities but also allow the unique curved shape to mimic nature.
TECLA by Mario Cucinella Architects with WASP
Introducing TECLA, Technology and Clay. This near-zero emissions project is the first of its kind. Using WASP’s 3D printing technology to construct this prototype, architect Mario Cucinella demonstrates what the future of sustainable housing could look like.
Located on Italy’s Adriatic coast, TECLA is about 60 square meters and comprises a living area, kitchen and night zone. It is currently being used as a showroom for this innovative technology. Local materials were used to create the mixture for the structure. Materials included earth, chopped straw, rice husks, chalk as binding agent, and water. Some of the hollow spaces inside the walls are also filled with rice husks for better insulation.
‘We like to think that TECLA is the beginning of a new story. It would be truly extraordinary to shape the future by transforming this ancient material with the technologies we have available today. The aesthetics of this house are the result of a technical and material effort, it was not an aesthetic approach only. It is an honest form, a sincere form.’ – Mario Cucinella.
Bloomberg European Headquarters by Foster & Partners
Located in central London, the Bloomberg European Headquarters have been rated the world’s most sustainable office building.
Architects at Foster & Partners used innovative power, lighting, water and ventilation systems to account for the majority of energy savings. The building was designed to utilise waste products, respond to the building’s external environment and adapt to its occupancy patterns.
It features half a million LED lights which cut energy usage by 40%, conserves rainwater collected on the roof which saves 25 million litres of water each year, (enough to fill ten Olympic swimming pools). It creates its own power onsite which cuts CO2 emissions by up to 750 tonnes per year. Additionally, the building uses smart CO2 sensing controls. This allows air to be distributed according to the approximate number of people occupying each zone of the building at any given time.
Casa Corallo by PAZ Architects
Despite being located in Guatemala City, this house feels miles away from urban living. Architect Alejandro Paz wanted to avoid disturbing the natural landscape of the beautiful Santa Rosalia forest area of the city. Therefore it was built around existing trees.
This is a beautiful example of how we can coexist with nature. We are able to integrate it rather than destroy it to create space. The trees growing throughout the house serve as stunning features. It creates symbiosis between the two seemingly opposite entities. It is through this approach that architecture can aspire to be more than just a building.
‘Located on a dense hillside forest in the Santa Rosalía area of Guatemala City, Corallo House integrates the existing forest into the layout of the house. It merges nature into the architectural intervention. The design process began with the aim to preserve the existing trees, in order to have the trees interact with the living space.
The floor plan is free of columns and the changes in level adapt to the existing topography. Both facades are mostly glass in order to connect the interior to the exterior. The main structural component is exposed concrete. This shows the rustic texture of the wood formwork, allowing a dialogue between the formal element and the textures of the forest.’ – PAZ Architects
To conclude, at Buckingham & Lloyds, we believe that luxury living can be sustainable. Through innovative design, clever use of technology and conscious energy choices, we believe it is possible to live well whilst creating harmony with nature and its wildlife.
Using ingenuity and artistry, as these architects and designers have done, the built-world can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of waste and emissions humans emit, in order to battle climate change.