If the clothes we wear are our “second skin,” architecture is often called our “third skin,” as it provides shelter and space for human activities.
By Portia Ladrido
There is a word thrown so casually these days that it has almost lost its meaning. With the larger dialogues on climate change and the climate crisis, it’s inevitable that our daily conversations would revolve around the word that we may now be sick of: sustainability.
How can we lead our lives into a future that is livable? The only logical answer seems to be that we should live a sustainable lifestyle — meaning that we be more conscious about how our choices (whether it be in our food or in our fashion) contribute to the detriment of our environment.
While choosing what to eat and wear can be traced to our individual choices, there are also ways in which groups or organisations can affect not just the things that we put in and on our bodies, but also affect the spaces that our bodies move around in.
If the clothes we wear are our “second skin,” architecture is often called our “third skin,” as it provides shelter and space for human activities. And as such, architecture has a massive role to play in ensuring that the spaces that we operate in are in accordance with how we want to live.
Here are a few sustainable edifices across the world that can serve as templates for the way we design our buildings.
Bahrain World Trade Center, Manama, Bahrain
This is currently home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. But what’s more impressive about the country is its World Trade Center that boasts of its clean energy credentials. The building has three huge wind turbines that are between two towers that generate clean energy for the building.
Dixon Water Foundation, Decatur, Texas
The foundation itself has a mission to promote the watershed health via a sustainable means of land management. The pavilion is 5,000-square-foot and can be used as a site for meetings and educational events. The initiative itself shows how cattle can be part of healthy range of ecosystems.
Nanjing Green Lighthouse, Nanjing, China
Nanjing Green Lighthouse building has a net-zero energy status, which means that its renewable energy output cancels the energy it consumes. But save for the sustainability efforts, this building is also seen to be as an example for Chinese green design.
Oasia Downtown Hotel, Singapore
The Oasia Downtown Hotel is a 27-floor structure that is covered with plantings. Known as the ‘living tower,’ it features a 1,100 percent green plot ratio, which is what is used to measure the environmental returns of the architecture.
Environmental Learning Center, Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s Environmental Learning Center features visible solar panels, a heating and cooling system, and bird houses, among others. This Dutch green design also has the net-zero energy, and it is said that “the building’s sustainability can be seen and felt by all who come in contact with it.”
K2 Apartments in Victoria, Australia
The K2 apartment complex is the most sustainable public housing development project in Australia. It was built in 2007 and is expected to last for 200 years with only the use of renewable energy, through rainwater collection, re-use of grey water, and solar water heating, among others.
The Crystal, London, UK
This building in London’s east end presents a fossil fuel free vision of the world. It is fully run on electricity that is only generated by solar panels. LED and fluorescent light is present but are switched off when there is daylight. The roof also collects rainwater, while grey water is cleaned and recycled to use onsite.
Portia Ladrido is a multimedia journalist specialising in social justice, culture, and the arts. She is a human rights journalism fellow at the Philippine Human Rights Information Center and the Metro Manila hub coordinator of the Solutions Journalism Network. She currently writes speeches for the Philippines’ first female socialist senator. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at CNN Philippines.