February 21, 2014, by Helen Whitehead

Sustainable buildings

Examples of particularly sustainable buildings shared by participants in Sustainability, Society and You, the current MOOC on Futurelearn.

Business and commercial flagships

  • The Green Firemen: The first six minutes of this video (link below) shows what one local fireman achieved for his station. This Fire station in North Dublin is now carbon neutral and being used as a model for other stations in Dublin and also being copied globally.
  • The new County Hall, Usk, Monmouthshire. It has been designed to achieve a sustainable BREEAM rating of excellent. This will mean the use of biomass boilers, recycled water tanks and solar photo voltaic panels on the roof.
  • In 2010 IFAD was awarded the prestigious LEED certification by the US Green Building Council. This internationally recognized green building certification was awarded, at the Gold level, in recognition of IFAD’s state-of-the-art headquarters design and environmental management practices
  • In Ontario, there is a goat cheese manufacturer which began using all the sustainability principles for its building and its production of cheese. The facility is inspiring.
  • The new Co-Op headquarters in Manchester named as the most environmental building in the world.
  • New PWC building on the South Bank in London:  Apart from the energy efficient build, rainwater harvesting, waste segregation and so forth the bit that impressed me was the lifts. When they are descending the energy generated is used to power the ascent
  • The Bullitt Center in Seattle, WA
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center headquarters
  • Tesco Shrewsbury (Harlescott) was built as an Eco friendly store utilising a sustainable wood framed structure and having an automated recycling centre on site.  The building is light and airy and the wooden construction is visible to shoppers making it feel quite different from the normal supermarket. It boosts a number of Eco initiatives and was used a model for future developments
  • A Swiss bank’s headquarters, Pictet & Cie, highly energy-efficient and was the largest solar powered set-up in Switzerland at the time
  • Adam Joseph Lewis Center, Oberlin College, Ohio
  • Solar XXI, Portugal

Domestic and community

  • Houses built by students for competition in the Solar Decathlons held in Washington, DC
  • Hockerton Housing Project, Nottinghamshire, UK
  • Hobbit houses: http://www.beingsomewhere.net/index.htm
    Farmer’s hobbit house
  • The Farm of the Future – Valhalla Movement
  • An eco home with straw bale walls; sheep wool insulated wood flooring and green roof.
  • A restored farmhouse in France using natural building practices and materials such as hemp and lime mortar and recycled/reclaimed most of the interiors from other builds and freecycle. The building has solar powered hot water and heating, alongside using wood from their small woodland to fuel the wood fired stove in the kitchen that heats a back boiler and radiators, with any excess heat channelled through flues to under the floors. The roof is insulated using sheepswool and triple glazed wooden windows to keep the heat in.
  • A 200 year old farmhouse in Andalucia which was built using stones collected from the surrounding fields, bedded in mud
  • A zero carbon house
  • A Huf-haus: designed for its environment, use of timber in its frame work and construction was very impressive, and the use of materials, and lack of waste, also very impressive. It is airtight with very good use of energy use and excellent build life.
  • Or even “our garden shed”

New builds and sustainable innovation

Historic and heritage

  • Greenest Building on Earth? West Kennet long barrow is entirely built of natural materials and includes a green roof. As it is 5650 yrs old, the energy used in its production (mainly food and heat for the workers) has been spread over a long period. In addition, as the residents were dead, prior to moving in, they used little in the way of additional energy etc.
  • Kinver Rock Houses, Staffordshire, UK. Houses, ‘tunnelled’ into the bright orange sandstone and lived in until 1950s, and which possible ‘came about in response to a housing shortage for employees of the Hyde works’. Now National Trust.
  • Basic dwellings such as “a mud hut in East Africa, which was the most sustainable shelter that I have encountered. A building without electricity, running water and sanitary systems.”
  • Simple bush huts
  • An African mud hut fully made of bio-degradable materials. The foundation is made of stones in a circular shape. Grass and clay is then mixed and molded to make the brickwork. The rafters are made of bamboo sticks while the roof is made of long Elephant grass,or palm tree leaves placed closely together and then tightened with a rope made from raffia .The door and windows are made out of wood. It is similar in shape to an igloo except for the design of the entrance.
  • Inuit homes.

Sustainability Projects and Eco-centres

Tourism and Leisure

  • The Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.
  • The Glencoe Visitor Centre, Scotland – Tucked away just off the mainroad, laid out like a Clachan a (Highland Village). The building is made entirely from timber sourced from with-in Scotland……. NO concrete, NO P.V.C., NO timber has been chemically treated, breathable organic paint used. It’s bright and airy with lots of natural light, you can walk through the reception to a lovely area outside.
  • In Joshua Tree National Park in California, a pod built using the CalEarth construction process, which is Carbon Neutral. The owners are in the process of constructing their own house (Bonita Domes) using the technique
  • University of Nottingham, Orchard Hotel, an eco-friendly building built to BREEAM Excellent standards and which features all sorts of state-of-the-art technology to reduce carbon emissions. Very impressive (and very comfortable too).
  • Ethnotourism concept resort,  near Singapore in the Riau Islands of Indonesia, is a holistic sustainable approach business including its building
  • In Falkirk, Scotland, the Wheel only uses 1.5KW of energy to turn, the same amount as it would take to boil 8 household kettles.

If you know of another sustainable building worth shouting about, especially if it can be visited, do add it to the comments.

The MOOC Sustainability, Society and You will run again later in the year.

Posted in EnvironmentSustainabilitysustainable lifestyle