Beyond the Greenwash | Bioclimatic Architecture

Chongqing Tower

In the building industry, greenwashing is a constant challenge.

With the label of ‘green‘ bringing with it a competitive edge in an industry that is increasingly moving against heavy carbon practices, sometimes the green label can be overused. While there are numerous global standards to rate just how efficient, low-carbon and environmentally responsible a product, building or master plan is, with a number of developments featuring green or energy efficient features rather than offering a holistically green model, the industry and public alike can be confused into recognising these projects as ‘greener’ than they really are.

How do we break this communication break down and eliminate greenwash?

While there is no one answer, world-renowned architect Ken Yeang explains that bioclimatic architecture and its holistically green ideologies are a surefire way to practice green building in a way that cuts through the greenwash and truly represents environmentally responsible, sustainable design.

In an interview with CNN, Yeang cites nature as his ‘biggest source of inspiration’ and notes that he has taken well-developed design principles from the natural world for more than 30 years.

Chongqing Tower

The concept of bioclimatic architecture uses natural ideals and is a facet of the architecture an construction sectors that encourages the intermingling of natural and built spaces, with the latter taking the former into the highest consideration.

Yeang states that decisions made at the design stage can drastically cut carbon and eliminate future environmental issues.

“If 80 per cent of the impact is caused by (a building’s) design, you can anticipate the impact at the design stage and you can reduce the impact from 80 per cent to the minimum,”  says Yeang.

The Malaysian-born architect cites finding a balance between the built and the natural as a key to mastering bioclimatic design. By balancing natural components with the artificial in a built development, a large-scale building can be offset by the number of plants and natural vegetation included throughout.

Chongqing Tower

This balance also refers to using the right tools and techniques in the correct context. Solar panels in the UK are not going to be as effective as wind turbines given the clime, much as hydro power will not be as optimal in Dubai as solar power.

These ideals also help reduce greenwashing; even though the aforementioned features of bioclimatic architecture are simply the tip of the iceberg, they take the facets or features of green developments out of the equation.

Ken YeangInstead of creating buildings with green features, this architectural style promotes carbon neutrality, and a do-no-environmental-harm attitude that differs from the ‘harm and then fix later or offset’ attitude that is simply not sustainable in the long term.

Buildings of this nature live up to true green principles because their very foundations are pinned on a holistically environmental ideology that is more concerned with protecting the natural than achieving a high green rating.

It would be hyperbolic to say that bioclimatic architecture will rid the world of those trying to greenwash it. It does, however, offer an extremely high level of transparency. Perhaps the most important aspect of this type of architecture is that the focus is placed back on the environment. It does not simply look at carbon emissions or energy efficiency, but on how to eliminate as much environmental harm as possible when developing a built space.

Now that is environmentally responsible design.

By Tim Moore
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