Sustainability has become an increasingly essential part of the built environment, and influences our everyday lives. As a result of this, Environmental Design has become progressively popular. This discipline involves designing and creating buildings, products, and programs that possess a low carbon footprint, or are carbon negative. The focus is to improve the health of the environment, preserve its natural ecosystems for future generations, and curb climate change. According to Kingspan, the construction and operation of buildings account for 36% of global energy use. Environmental design holds the key to achieving the successful declination of this figure through architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, interior design, and many other disciplines.
Environmental design has a huge role to play in both the Paris Agreement of 2016, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations and its member states in 2015. For example, Goal 11 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It is predicted that 60% of the world’s population will live in urban environments by 2030. Thus, the cities and communities within these urban environments will rely heavily on environmental design, sustainable development and innovation if they are to support such a population. According to the United Nations, well-managed cities of the future can be incubators for innovation and ingenuity, and key drivers of sustainable development. This would further progress humanity’s move towards carbon neutral built environments.
In the United Kingdom, the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan is set to protect England’s natural environment for the next generation. Some of the 25 year goals laid out include clean air, clean and plentiful water, thriving plants and wildlife, and using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently. Of course, environmental design will play an important role in achieving this.
In England, new building takes place on an average of 170 square kilometers of undeveloped land each year (UK Government). This is around the same size of Liechtenstein. This further reiterates the essential need for low energy and carbon neutral buildings, as the impact on the environment by these developments will define how much sustainable progress is made.
The government has stated that new homes will be built in a way that reduces demands for water, energy and material resources, and encourages walking and cycling. Further protection of green belts in and around urban spaces shall allow natural ecosystems to thrive.“Positive environmental outcomes can help reduce local opposition to development, shorten the planning process, cut operating costs for infrastructure and increase the desirability of new homes” – (UK Government)
Environmental Design – how to enable it
The UK Green Building Council advocates for the transition of the built environment to net zero carbon, stating that sustainable development needs to become second nature. Again, environmental design forms a crucial building block of this transition. Opportunities for the built environment sector to support a just transition to net zero carbon include the construction and supply chain of low carbon materials, sustainable energy generation, the sustainable development of new builds, and investing in skills for low carbon construction.
In recent years, innovative propositions such as tall wood construction for high-rise buildings have emerged. The release of the Canadian Government’s Green Construction Through Wood Program in 2017, and changes to the International Building Code relating to the permitted height of mass timber construction in 2019 will further encourage innovation in architectural and design fields. According to Arch Daily’s Lilly Cao, shifting new developments from steel and concrete construction towards renewable wood could have a greatly positive impact on the environment – drastically reducing global CO2 emissions, and fossil fuel consumption.
Adding to this positive news, significant progress has been made in recent times with the United States rejoining the 2016 Paris Agreement. US presidential climate representative John Kerry has stated that it is imperative to increase the rate of global decarbonisation, and that “reaching net zero global carbon emissions as early as 2050 will take a wholesale transformation of the global economy”. Adding to this, a Carbon Brief analysis has found that the UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen by 29% since the year 2010, reflecting that we indeed are on the right track.
The time has come to drastically change the way in which we design and build our current and future cities, so that we may continue to do so in centuries to come.
Not just designing for the future, but designing for the now.
About the Author – Tristan Lerena
I am a young, creative and enthusiastic Environmental Designer that is passionate about environmental sustainability, and transferring my knowledge to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, creating a feasible future through green practices and methodologies. This enhances my creativity aligned with my social responsibility in creating designs in alignment with the clients brief and overall environmental impact.
My abilities include versatility when it comes to different disciplines within the built environment, such as urban design and architecture. I have a keen interest in residential and commercial design, and support the fact that low energy developments are the way forward. My knowledge of sustainable design thinking would make me an asset to any green minded business. My long-term goal of being a fully-fledged sustainable built environment designer would combine my passion with my career aspirations.
I am available for a full time permanent position in the United Kingdom.
Mobile: (+44) 7385895276
LinkedIn: Tristan Lerena