Building sustainably: Looking towards the future

Building sustainably: Looking towards the future

Managing resources we have at our disposal in a forward-looking, responsible and economical way is what sustainability’s about. This is a stance that should be applied to all areas of life, even architecture. But what does that mean specifically? When is a building considered to be sustainably built and how do you recognise sustainable building?

Why build sustainably?  

True sustainability has many aspects, such as those ecological and economic, but social justice is also an important component of sustainable action. The driving thought behind this is that nowadays we want to lead positive, healthy lives, but without jeopardising the development of future generations.  

Consistently sustainable architecture is therefore based on good ecobalance, with the goal of protecting the climate and resources and promoting healthy environments. This means that sustainable architecture involves building dimensioning, ground-plan division, the choice of materials and technical systems related to energy expenditure, ecological compatibility and recyclability. But even social components, such as good working conditions for employees of material manufacturers or the avoidance of products produced through child labour, play a role in sustainable building. 

Consequently, sustainably building is not just doing the environment a favour, but society as well. Even you personally benefit through advantages such as lower energy costs, a healthy indoor climate and durable building materials.

Modern construction techniques and innovative materials 

Sustainable, recyclable materials and energy-saving technology are two important cornerstones for saving resources and reducing environmental impact. In terms of building materials, the trend is going towards products made from renewable raw materials. For example, plant insulation, natural wooden building materials with less primary energy consumption and robust, long-lasting materials with heating and climate technology based on renewable energy. Using innovative construction concepts, sustainable architecture can be used to achieve highly livable buildings. 

Nowadays, for building technology, there are many efficient systems to choose from that get their energy from natural sources. For example, heat pumps draw environmental heat from the earth, groundwater and air to a heating level in an energy-efficient manner; pellet boilers generate heat using wood, a carbon-neutral, renewable raw material; and solar thermal energy uses energy from the sun to heat water. Sustainable heating techniques such as these do away with fossil fuels for the most part and are energy-efficient, allowing for healthy, environmentally friendly space heating with a low environmental impact. But sustainable architecture isn’t just about heating when it comes to technological innovations. In ecological buildings, part of the energy demand is almost always covered by solar power installations. Frequently, rainwater harvesting systems are used as well, saving precious drinking water by utilising rainwater for washing or toilet flushing.  

But there’s more to sustainable architecture than this. It connects housing developments to the surrounding landscape, breaks down, at least partially, the separation between us and nature and protects the environment in the following ways. For example, green roofs and walls are also sustainable, as they create a healthy micro-climate around the building. Green roofs and façades take pollutants and CO2 out of the air, retain rainwater and reduce noise pollution. They also provide heat insulation and help to save on energy used for heating and air conditioning.  

Another aspect of sustainable building is that buildings are planned compactly according to the premise of making the best use of the space available and leaving space for green areas and natural growth.

Principles for a greener future 

Many architects, builders, specialised planners, building biologists and crafts businesses today aim to leave behind an environment in which future generations can lead good lives. They develop solutions to reconcile what you need and want from your living space with the needs of our environment. Such specialised building experts can support you on your way to a sustainable home. The following principles and tips will help you choose a suitable partner for your green construction project: 

  • Ensure the planner or homebuilder  uses ecological, resource-friendly, pollutant-free and recyclable building materials. This includes building materials made from natural raw materials such as wood obtained through sustainable forestry, clay, natural stone and brick as well as natural insulators made from wood fibres, flax, hemp or cellulose. Concrete, on the other hand, should be avoided wherever possible, as producing it is highly energy-intensive and is therefore considered harmful to the environment.  

  • Prioritise locality when considering building materials as well as construction companies and craft businesses. This means shorter, less energy-intensive transport and journeys to the building site. 

  • Make sure the construction company also prioritises sustainability when it comes to the topic of building services. It’s important for them to have experience in planning efficient heating technology based on regenerative energy sources. Testimonials and independent construction reports can give you important insights into this. 

  • The same applies to planning photovoltaic systems for generating solar power and rainwater harvesting systems. 

  • Enquire as to whether the building company values the conservation of nature and space-efficient construction. 

  • Ask to what extent deconstructing the building is environmentally friendly and what kinds of after-use there are. 

  • Ensure the floor plan is future-proof and flexible so that the house can still be used if there’s a change in living conditions.  

  • In general, you should consider longevity and future viability when planning and constructing the house and, for example, allow for a Wallbox for an electric car in the carport or garage. 

Sustainable architecture is part of the BORA company’s philosophy 

Operating sustainably is also part of the BORA company’s philosophy. This can be seen in its buildings which were erected over the last few years at the company’s sites. In Raubling, the company renovated an office complex condemned to demolition into a building that unites innovative modern energy technology and high-quality jobs for the staff. The company building located in Niederndorf, Austria, not far from the headquarters in Raubling, continues the practice of progressive and sustainable BORA architecture that began with this renovation. It was occupied in 2018, after just one year’s construction time. Thanks to huge glass elements, the futuristic building that was gently adapted to the landscape offers a captivating mountain view. The façade is made of natural larch shingles.  

Company founder Willi Bruckbauer always had many ideas to bring to the table for each of the construction projects, including the company’s newest building in Herford, the East Westphalian heart of the German kitchen furniture industry. This new construction is impressive because of both its spectacular architecture and its comprehensively sustainable planning. Its ecological footprint is kept to a minimum. By using regenerative energies through geothermal technology and maximum usage of the roof space with photovoltaic modules, the building meets the KfW-55 standard (Reconstruction Loan Corporation – Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) for energy-efficient buildings. The building stands on steel supports, taking up as little space as possible. Electric charging stations can be found on the parking area underneath the build. Depending on usage, the new BORA company site in Herford will be a “nearly zero-energy building” (NZEB).