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12 Attributes of Green Architecture and more!

June 23, 2010

This is taken off the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Position Paper initiated by the Green Practice Committee.

The paper outlines twelve principles of sustainability that are applicable to the design, construction, operation and disassembly of the built environment across its varying scales, from standalone buildings to neighbourhoods and cities. Implicit in these principles is a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, whole-life perspective, reflecting the complexities of how these are designed and managed from concept to end-life. Elements of the built environment – either singularly or collectively, directly or indirectly – impact the planet’s climate and ecology by consuming resources, emitting waste and displacing natural habitats. The global and local impacts of buildings and cities have been noted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Singapore Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development (IMCSD), and shown by the scientific community to be detrimental to our collective future.

There are several qualifiers to this list in its present form:

  • The role of the architect, and the importance of design as an integrating framework, is implicit in all attributes even if, in some cases, the architect may not drive the process.
  • Some attributes listed here speak of impacts that are quantifiable for which there are established metrics (for instance, carbon footprint); others do not offer ease-of quantification as yet. They are, in our view, important nonetheless.
  • Many developments seeking to be sustainable do not address all twelve attributes equally. This list offers a framework to discuss what is on the drawing board, to question if something pertinent and important has been missed out. It also gives us a means of comparing one development with another.

The twelve attributes are:

  1. Natural Capital
  2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  3. Resilience to Climate Change
  4. Urban Infrastructure
  5. Replenishable Resources
  6. Resource Efficacy
  7. Longevity = Adaptability + Re-Use
  8. Harmonization with Place
  9. Wellness of the Inhabitant
  10. Integrated Landscape
  11. Food Security
  12. Design Process
Read the full paper here. SIA-GPC seeks your comments and feedbacks by submissionto or posting on SIA website Visit SIA website for more detail explanation of each attributes, its date of release will be announced in the website in the near future.
I think this is a great effort on the part of the Singapore Institute of Architects in developing somewhat of a framework to tackle environmental and climate issues. For starters, the paper accurately outlines some urgent issues that are facing cities today, such as the need to integrate ecological design with urban infrastructure. Just as buildings need to harmonize with place, buildings also need to find the balance with nature. The paper rightly points out that “a sustainable environment seeks to be in harmony with its locale, by investigating and appropriating local knowledge”. This is manifest in its choice or materials, climatic response, and respect for site and ecology.
Also, there are three pre-conditions of Place that a sustainable development must address:
a) History and Culture
b) Ecology and Terrain
c) Climate
This is a fairly important point that needs to be considered, especially in the tropics! ChannelNewsAsia just reported that the cooling of Hong Kong is actually making the city hotter! Sound familiar? It’s the same for Singapore, where mechanical air-conditioning warms building exteriors and makes the micro-climate temperature rise… this combined with the urban heat island effect, can result in a highly uncomfortable environment to live in!
Perhaps on a lighter note, I came across another initiative called the Skyrise Greenery Initiative by NParks, Center for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) and the International Green Roof Association (IGRA).

Skyrise greenery are separated into two different categories: Roof Top Greenery and Vertical Greenery. Rooftop greenery refers to the greening efforts and landscaping on rooftop surfaces. In general, there are two main categories of rooftop greenery – green roof (extensive rooftop greenery) and roof garden (intensive rooftop greenery).

Read about rooftop greenery

Vertical greenery on the other hand represents a new dimension in greenery-related infrastructure, where plants are incorporated within vertical surfaces. Traditionally, vertical greenery commonly involved climbing plants with adventitious, self-clinging roots growing directly on coarse building surfaces, twining plants growing on trellis and pergolas, or plants growing within the crevices of stacked rocks. In recent years, numerous contemporary systems have been developed for the growing of plants on vertical surfaces.

Read about vertical greenery

So I guess here are just a couple of cool, green initiatives in the local architecture scene to build Singapore from the ground-up in becoming a better city to live in. That also brings to mind the theme of the 2010 ArchiFest which is aptly themed “Happy Cities”. Find out more here!



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