Reducing Environmental Impact Through Sustainable Architecture

How Architecture Affects the Environment

Nearly 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the built environment, which makes architectural squabbles over form and style seem trivial. Many architects are now putting climate change at the forefront of their practice.

The new generation of architects is making green buildings the norm rather than the exception. This includes both the materials they use and how they operate.

Ecological Footprint

With the United Nations warning that humanity has only 10 years to avert catastrophic climate change, architects are now more than ever focused on reducing their buildings’ ecological footprint. They are incorporating green principles into their designs, such as maximizing urban greenery, improving air circulation and using natural materials that promote sustainability.

The ecological footprint measures the amount of land and water that a nation or population requires to produce the food, goods, and services they consume and to absorb their wastes. It is measured in global hectares (gha), and can be used to compare per capita consumption and population numbers against biocapacity.

The ecological footprint was developed by University of British Columbia professor, biologist, and ecologist William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel, mechanical engineer and president of the Global Footprint Network. The two were the first to calculate a country’s ecological footprint systematically. Their work has led to standards that ensure data accuracy and transparency.


With the growing threat of climate change and energy insecurity, architects are increasingly embracing sustainable practices. These include the use of materials that are renewable, have low VOC emissions and are locally sourced. These sustainable materials are also a vital factor in reducing energy consumption in buildings.

Advances in the architecture industry are leading to new innovations such as cross-laminated timber, photovoltaic glass and transparent wood. Other innovations include carbon-negative materials that actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These materials are made of plant matter such as algae, hemp and mycelium and require no fossil fuels to produce.

Many of these materials are also biodegradable, minimizing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. Additionally, many of these materials are less costly than traditional building materials due to reduced transportation costs. This can help reduce the environmental impact of a project throughout its lifespan.


The way in which a building operates and the materials used can have significant impacts on the environment. Architects are now looking at ways of making buildings energy efficient and environmentally friendly, from the construction process through to operation.

This is achieved by reducing air pollution, waste generation and using renewable energy sources. It also involves utilising a range of sustainable building materials, which are often more environmentally friendly than traditional construction options.

One of the most important issues facing modern architecture is climate change and environmental sustainability. This can be addressed through various strategies including biomimetic design, which replicates natural processes to create sustainable architectural structures. One example of this is a Namibian fog-basking greenhouse that uses the physiology of beetles to harvest water from the desert.

Other examples include green roofs and walls, which reduce heat absorption and improve air quality. These can be combined with urban green spaces that help to mitigate the effects of climate change.


There are many ways architects can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions through their use of materials, design, and construction. Some of these methods include building with renewable and sustainable resources, utilizing passive solar design, and integrating greenery into the exterior.

Architects are also incorporating adaptive designs into their structures, making them more resilient to the climate. This type of design allows buildings to adjust to changing weather conditions, such as heavy rains and floods, by allowing them to expand or contract.

Lastly, architects are using a wide variety of sustainable and environmentally friendly materials to create their buildings. Some of these materials are recycled and are sourced from natural sources, while others are made from renewable, earth-friendly products. The use of these materials can greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the amount of waste that is generated during the construction process. Moreover, architects are implementing systems that make buildings more energy efficient by using airtight and insulated construction to decrease their energy needs.

Keep exploring