Sustainability and Architectural Design
There is no denying that sustainable design is still in its embryonic stage in Thailand. As in many emerging economies, limited awareness, insufficient national policies and procedures, and deficient incentives to encourage the adoption of these practices are the main challenges for sustainable design and building.
As architects, we must design a self-sustaining micro-ecosystem that forms part of the larger ecosystem. When we encourage clients to realize green buildings, they initially often associate being “green” with photovoltaic installation, complicated air purifier engineering or other engineering gadgets. Although these fixtures can be environmentally beneficial, they are often costly to install and maintain.
High-tech plant in a tropical environment: 15,000 sqm of industrial facilities with production, warehouses, cool storage, offices, showroom,and social area in Thilawa Industrial Zone near Yangon, Myanmar.
However, the fundamental concepts of sustainable design are simple. It can be applied to architecture on any scale and for any function. The key is to design a site-specific building rooted in its surroundings as well as a self-sustaining building that forms part of the planet’s larger ecosystem. Therefore, VIRTUARCH implements a few simple, sustainable strategies when designing its buildings.
As architectural practice focuses on sustainability, we do not measure major projects by the number of square meters that we design or build. In addition to the durability, construction timeline, budget and spatial equality, respect for the environment is a priority. Although it has a substantial environmental impact, construction is one of the few industries where significant mitigation can be accomplished at no or minimal cost to society, thanks to fundamental architectural decisions.
We believe most sustainability projects can be solved by design. Here are a few design directions we consistently implement in projects: optimization of the building footprint, building orientation and the flexibility of the project.
Build only what is necessary. We are ready to let our imaginations run wild on a blank canvas as architects, but we must exercise moderation and be sure to construct responsibly. When considering sustainable design, an excellent place to start is to maintain structure (where possible) and reuse materials. This attention guarantees a reduction in the overall usage of resources. It is crucial to strike a balance between building components extended life cycles and their ability to be reused.
For extension projects, we may advise our clients to minimize the additional area footprint of the project or to pause and not build an extension at all, but instead focus on optimizing and upgrading their existing structures.
“When recommending sustainable measures, it is essential to consider the site’s geographic location and climate zone. It is crucial to address local concerns because each climatic zone has different requirements for thermal comfort.”
BUILDING ORIENTATION: A CONSUMPTION-REDUCING DESIGN
When recommending sustainable measures, it is essential to consider the site’s geographic location and climate zone. It is crucial to address local concerns because each climatic zone has different requirements for thermal comfort. For example, positioning the building appropriately on the property is a straightforward yet efficient approach to guarantee proper daylighting. This consideration ensures that the building’s daytime illumination load is reduced. If the building is adequately orientated, natural ventilation may be used practically all year round to replace mechanical ventilation in most locations. The right orientation also helps avoid overheating and therefore reduces cooling loads.
USAGE OF LOCAL MATERIALS
The developer, owner, and construction professionals often advocated new “green” construction material products. In addition to being manufactured sustainably, construction materials and components must also answer the new requirements deriving from holistic environmental prerequisites.
For example, it makes little sense to produce cladding glass in an environmentally-friendly manner if it would only be used on the west façade of a structure in a tropical monsoon climate. Instead, we prefer to use local materials that reduce the energy consumed in their transportation to the site as well as preserve traditional craftsmanship. Therefore, we need to inspire through vernacular architecture.
Thus, for small and medium-sized projects, the green building initiative often comes from the construction professional. As architects, builders and engineers, we must guide stakeholders toward sustainable design, which can be done with limited resources.
A famous Thai proverb says “Build a house to please the dweller…” It’s time to amend that to include “…and preserve the planet”.