Blog post

Sustainable architecture: design for life on earth

How architects are designing with environmental awareness in mind

illustration of trees in front of a house and shed.
Marijke Everts (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

With increased awareness of climate change, more people are looking at how they can offset their carbon footprint by reflecting on what they consume, the clothes they buy, how they travel and much more.

One of the aspects that is becoming more prominent in these discussions are the actual places we live in - our homes - with the idea that these buildings can be designed or renovated to be sustainable.

High rise building on a street at Wolfsburg, Germany 1950s.

According to Recycle Nation, 40-50 percent of waste in landfills is attributed to architecture. According to the UN environmental report 2020, carbon dioxide emissions from the building sector are the highest ever recorded, accounting for 38% of total global energy related CO2 emissions.

High rise buildings in a row next to a river in Stockholm

Sustainable architecture is about designing structures that create healthy environments to live in and minimises negative environmental impact, consumption of energy and human resources.

Sustainable architecture (also called green architecture or environmental architecture) as a modern view, is said to have risen in the 1960s with the rise of eco-awareness. The defiant younger generations of the time intensely questioning uncontrolled urban development and the look alike suburbs that were taking over.

A poster illustrating a home on top of a cliff on the right side, and the text 'Drawings 1887-1959, Frank Lloyd Wright' on the left.

In the early 20th century, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) believed that buildings should not dominate their surroundings but rise out of a natural area. He spent most of his career shaping his ideas around ‘organic architecture’ that was responsive to the surrounding nature.

Wooden attached homes

Scottish landscape architect Ian McHarg (1920-2001) wrote a book on ecological planning and design of communities in 1969 called ‘Design and Nature’, which to this day continues to be celebrated. He argued that the world should group its living centres together and disturb the natural world as little as possible.

Museum of contemporary art in Nîmes, France designed by British architect Norman Foster

Among the many architects around the world, Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut, British architect Norman Foster, Indian architect Chitra Vishwanath, and Tanzanian architect Victoria Heilman are among the many today shaping the world of architecture through designs that are energy efficient, ecological and responsive to current crises while inspiring and pushing for more to be done to foster symbiotic connections with nature.

Sustainability Architecture Climate Change