5 Ways Architects Are Making Their Buildings More Sustainable

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Buildings are essential structures where we live, work, and play. Thanks to the genius of architects who design and build these impressive edifices, we enjoy comfortable homes, high-rise offices, large stadiums, and attractive malls. They’re part of the urban landscape and even serve as iconic landmarks you can’t miss. 

Unknown to some is that they require a considerable amount of energy to make things run smoothly. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that residential and commercial buildings use almost 40% of energy consumption in the United States. That translates to 21 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) and more in dollars of operation costs. Come to think of it, that's a lot to make homes, offices, and malls amenable areas for shelter, work, and relaxation.

Reducing these expenses without sacrificing comfort is the primary concern of architects. In this endeavor, they employ sustainable strategies to lessen energy consumption. They look for ways to reduce the harmful environmental impact buildings can have on the environment. 

Ways Architects Make Buildings Sustainable 

Architects use green building strategies to make buildings energy-efficient and sustainable. They utilize these in many aspects of the design and building process to make structures favorable for various human activity types and employ technologies to ensure good energy use.

1. Sustainable Building Designs

Sustainable buildings begin with sustainable designs. Architects consult with mechanical and electrical engineers to include electrical, plumbing, heating, and AC installation to ensure that buildings are safe and energy-efficient. 

They likewise employ passive design systems that use natural lighting, ventilation, heating, and cooling. Information regarding local climate and the sun's orientation allows them to position windows in strategic areas and maximize natural lighting during the day. 

At nighttime, they use the cool night air to maintain ideal temperatures and ventilation. Aside from this, they also use thermal mass to keep buildings comfortable despite changing seasons. Walls infused with thermal mass retain heat and slowly releases it into the indoor environment.

2. Environmentally Friendly Materials 

Once plans are made and approved, architects consider sourcing materials such as steel, lumber, and concrete from local companies or those that practice environmentally responsible manufacturing techniques. 

They may even favor wood, non-synthetic and non-toxic materials in place of those mentioned above. Some environmentally friendly options include using wood in innovative ways. Tree bark, which was once regarded as debris, is now used as an alternative siding and shingling material. Acetylated wood products, cross-laminated timber, and glue-laminated timber now replace steel and concrete. Strawbale can be used for walls, while bamboo can be fashioned into wall trimmings and flooring.

Architects are also using sustainable finishing products in their buildings, some of which double as air purifiers. Wool insulation improves indoor air quality by eliminating formaldehyde, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide, while atmosphere purifying paint neutralizes chemicals and pollutants. They make clean the air and make it easier to breathe for workers and future occupants.

3. Install Energy Efficient Equipment 

Sustainable architecture aims to efficiently use available energy sources such as electricity, light, and water. 

Smart window glazing entails coating windows and even doors with a protective film that reacts to sunlight. Apart from blocking harmful UV rays, they can also allow warm sunlight to enter during the winter months. This helps lower electricity costs and lessens the need for blinds or curtains. 

The use of energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems can also reduce power usage. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows building managers to effectively manage heating, cooling, and lighting demands through the use of sensors and controls. They can connect devices to a network and even communicate with utility companies to balance energy use and power generation through cloud-based software.

4. Incorporate Renewable Energy Sources 

Apart from using existing power sources efficiently, architects also make buildings sustainable by incorporating alternative energy sources. These produce little to no carbon footprint into the building design and oversee its installation during the building process. 

Solar energy can be harnessed through roof solar panels or as solar roof shingles to generate electricity. Micro wind turbines such as vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTS) also make amenable energy sources and are slowly gaining popularity, particularly in windy areas. 

5. Create Living Landscapes 

Architects also incorporate landscaping as part of a building's structure. They include local trees and plants for aesthetic reasons and sustain vertical forests that add to a structure’s green building initiatives.  

Trees and plants in balconies, terraces, and rooftops have several benefits. Apart from serving as natural barriers to the elements, they can help regulate temperatures during the summer and winter seasons. The thick foliage also reduces air and noise pollution. Plus, greenery can also benefit the health and well-being of future building occupants.


Architects are the geniuses behind impressive and even iconic landmarks in an urban landscape. Apart from building artistic and beneficial structures, architects also employ green building initiatives in all aspects of the building process to ensure structures are both energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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