Are Green Buildings Truly Sustainable? | This Big City
With the built environment accounting for over 40% of global carbon emissions, sustainable buildings seem like an obvious place to start as COP17 continues to address climate change. But is the trend for ‘green’ buildings resulting in truly sustainable alternatives? Mayra Hartmann of Future Cape Town investigates.
A few weeks ago the GBCSA hosted its annual conference. The topics were plentiful and there was a certain buzz in the air. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the afternoon sessions, but nonetheless I was able enjoy the whiff of green air. There was an eclectic mix of developers, designers, planners and even psychologists discussing an array of topics, however a few major developments and ideas were presented. As someone that follows the industry, the ideas were not brand new, but the fact that they were discussed in such close proximity was cause for lively discussions.
The discussions and presentations concentrated on three aspects of building;
- the building itself
- the effect of green design on office inhabitants and;
- its integration with its surroundings.
The design feature that seemed to be particularly popular was the use of large central atriums to promote natural light and airflow within the building, something South Africa’s two highest rated green star buildings both make use of. Atriums are also effective at reviving old spaces. Chris Jofeh from Arup described the companies “cut and carve” approach when retrofitting old offices and that atriums were an ideal of way opening up and lighting an otherwise dull space. And dull spaces don’t make for a good working environment.