A ‘good’ design could mean so many different things to different people. On the one hand it may mean aesthetic value or resource efficiency, while on the other it may imply the design’s support for product life maximization, recyclability, or space utilization. But honestly, a ‘good’ design should encompass all or almost all of these features. Rapid urbanization and catastrophic environmental changes have challenged design professionals to create designs that go beyond what meets the eye.
Good design and sustainability: a win-win situation
A design doesn’t have to either be ‘pretty’ or sustainable. By striking a balance between aesthetics and ecology, design professionals can bag both, commercial success and environmental credibility. Furthermore, the results from the implementation of such ‘aware designs’ are transformational, to say the least.
Here are a few noteworthy examples of how good design encourages sustainability:
Shanghai Tower, China
Shanghai Tower ranks first in China and second globally for being the tallest building. Besides its impressive looks, the structure incorporates several sustainable elements, becoming the country’s symbol for sustainable innovation. The most beautiful skyscraper of the world is 632 meters, including 43 different sustainable technologies. At the top of the structure, there are 270 turbines that help supply 10 percent of the tower’s total electricity consumption, which lights the exterior of the building. Further, the building accumulates rainwater for watering the structure’s green spaces and also recycles the wastewater for other uses. The transparent double-layered skin of the building increases the indoor air quality, which in turn, reduces the need for air conditioning systems. The advanced facade glass is highly tolerant to wind loads and is intended to minimize the damage by 24%.
CapitaGreen, one of the greenest buildings in Singapore, is built such that there is a void at the core of the structure, which passes fresh air from the outside to all 40-story office floors. This feature helps office workers breathe in fresh air while they work. More than half of the building structure is filled with luxuriant grass that keeps the flow of fresh air within the building. The remainder of the building is designed with double skin glass covering that helps in keeping the sun's heat at bay by 26%. Furthermore, CapitaGreen is equipped with rain-water harvesting facility. The collected rainwater is then used to irrigate the vertical gardens that reside in the building.
Change Initiative, UAE
The Change Initiative building in UAE is the most sustainable structure in the world, owning 107 points out of 110 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points. While not compromising on its aesthetic value, the shopping complex incorporates a myriad of sustainable technologies for resource efficiency, recycling of used materials, power generation using solar energy accumulation, insulated wall coatings for blocking solar heat, and so much more.
Thinkphi’s Smart Canopy
While we have been talking about sustainable buildings so far, sustainably good design is possible not only with buildings but also with products, like outdoor shades. ThinkPhi’s Smart Canopy is a great example that highlights the amalgamation of aesthetics and sustainability. The versatile, sustainable device is meant to provide shade in outdoor spaces. Having a high Solar Reflective Index, the canopy offers a significant cooling effect. Besides, the product accumulates solar energy and stores them in Li-ion batteries. The stored energy is then used at night to light LEDs and charge devices like mobiles and laptops. Besides, during the monsoon, the canopy harvests rainwater, which is then filtered using the in-built system and used for various purposes.
The future of sustainable design
Realizing that the megatrends of population explosion in urban areas will have a negative impact on our natural resources and habitat, city planners have come up with ideas to make urban areas sustainable for both people and nature. While the concerned authorities have already embarked on their journey to sustainability, as is evident through the examples, there is a lot more that is being done alongside. With policies to incentivize LEED building certifications, cities are becoming more mindful of their environment. A big reason behind the growing sensitivity to the environment is the shift from a more traditional economic model to a circular economy that emphasizes on the reduction, reuse, and recycling of resources.
Vertical gardens, green buildings, urban forestry, rainwater harvesting and reusability in design forms will increase the ecological productivity while also making the planet more aesthetically pleasing. With 73% of millennials willing to spend on sustainability, there is no doubt that in the future, human-centric sustainable designs will only become more mainstream. While we make sustainable technologies a reality, city dwellers will also see socio-economic development come alive.
By embracing sustainable strategies within a circular economy, city planners, designers, and architects can successfully turn concrete and steel jungles to a sustainable paradise while meeting the public demand for ‘good’ design.