Sustainable design, solution for global warming


“The earth belongs to the living. No man may by natural right oblige the lands he owns or occupies, or those that succeed him in that occupation, to debts greater than those that may be paid during his own lifetime. Because if he could, then the world would belong to the dead and not to the living”
Thomas Jefferson, architect [1]

From the quote by Thomas Jefferson, as man-kind started to take all they want from the earth, without control and limitation, the earth slowly starts to die. As the impact of our actions has gotten to a serious stage, people have finally start to ask questions and take actions. How do we prevent this situation from becoming worst? What can we do as part of this earth? Where shall we start?


Everything has a balance, but as the world is evolving towards the next level, the gap between people and the environment has widened, which people took the most of the sector. As the process of developing to a more developed world gains momentum, it will require more energy and wealth, in which this is leading the world to a serious problem – lack of materials/energy, meaning as time goes by, and the demand for energy is increasing everyday, every year, the amount of coal is getting lesser, and at the same time, more pollution is being produced. The temperature of the atmosphere is rising rapidly, due to the large amounts of carbon dioxide being produced, and the continuation of deforestation despite worldwide pleas to stop it. All these factors, lead to global warming (green house effect). We all know about these consequences, but very little effort is being put in to resolve this dire situation. We have the fate of planet earth in our hands, and time is running out before our actions are irreversible.

In the modern world-today

As human population expands into the natural landscape, the relationship between the land and ownership of it becomes a source of conflict. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide produced from different areas has increased significantly, since the speed that the plants absorbs these gases are way too slow, and these existed gases will be circulating within the atmosphere, unable to escape. Changes in climate, increase of natural disasters, such as tornados and droughts. Increased chances of getting skin cancer, large changes in temperature in different countries, the melting problems in South Pole and North Pole, etc. With the melting problems surfacing the north and South Pole, majority of our lands will eventually be fully submerged in water, disrupting the lives of many. As the situation begins to get worst, the more it will affect the ecosystem, as animals start to migrate to avoid the large changes in temperature, and more animals are facing extinction, polar bears, penguins, etc.

However, people have started to pay more attention to it, and they have come out with the solution to maintain balance and to reduce the damage done to the environment – sustainability. It might not be the best solution in such a short time, but the results will eventually show in the future. The definition of sustainability can be complex in theory, but we can take it as the capacity of our endurance. How does this actually solve the problem? Using lesser harmful material, recycling them and using renewable energy, such as solar, hydroelectric and etc. Producing things that can last the test of time and also require less energy. That means, lesser things will be thrown away, and at the same time, it reduces the damage done to the environment.

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In the design field

These environment issues have brought sustainable solutions into the design field, since people are now more concerned about it, and most of the power plants generate electricity to operate buildings. Therefore, designers know that buildings can be designed to operate with less than half of the energy today’s average building at little or no additional cost. This means that lesser carbon dioxide will be produced.

In any endeavor, good design resides in two principles. First, the changes the least number of elements to achieve the greatest result. Second, it removes stress from a system rather than adding it”
Pail Hawkin, the ecology of commerce [2].

Sustainable design refers to solutions that are not only environmentally, but also, economically, and socially friendly. The combination of natural energy and functions of the design make it something that endures and is cherished. Sustainable design adds to the quality of the environment, to clean air, to water, to renewing and protecting life – all by designing the connections to what is there. Designing is the linkage and a language that connects humans to the environment. Good design will enhance value to the relation, and on the other hand, bad design, brings nothing but damage.

Case studies

Konami Nasu Seminar House

This seminar house is located on a mid-slope of Mount Nasu where everyone can enjoy the beautiful sceneries of sunrise and sunset among the surrounding mountains. And by half-embedding the building along the undulation of the ground, the design succeeded in conserving the surrounding context and at the same time offering amazing views from all the rooms arranged on the south slope. The glazed corridor with top lights connecting to all different rooms and organically is indeed acting here as a ‘corridor’ for people as well as light and wind. It also minimized the fossil fuel consumption by fully utilizing natural ventilation, natural lighting, stored energy, and solar heating. A ‘human’ place that connects the ‘sky’ and ‘earth’ is created here where the user can sense the earth’s silent power.

More to the detail, the seminar house, located halfway up the Nasu range, was designed in a way that responds with the surrounding environment. The lounge, restaurant and other public spaces are located on the second floor of the west façade. Glass walls were used in these areas, which give a impressive views of the Nasu peaks. The training department and playrooms are located on the floor below. Guestrooms, bath and toilet facilities and other private areas are planned in the east wing, on the first and second floors. The guest quarters are deliberately positioned at ground level along the south wall to provide an expansive view of the foothills of the Nasu highlands. The water supply for bathrooms in the residential wing is heated by the solar power using vacuum tube type heat collectors. The sun also provides heat for other grey water uses. The solar power reduces the usage of the energy used by 46%.

The way of the façade and air ventilation were designed and planned, was the way I am looking for which can be applied into the design, engaging with the environment by playing with the reflection and different placement of the spaces to get the best effect of the energy saving, without demolished the context of the environment.


Plan B architects + JPRCR Architects

The Orquideorama is located inside the Medellin Botanical Garden, which shows an expanding wooden meshwork of modular “flower-tree” forms that branches out through the central of the garden. After the designers had study on the structure and the scale of this project, from the micro and macro views of it. The Architects Felipe Mesa and Alexander Bernal, came out the idea of making the Orquideorama to “grow” and “evolve” just like a plant does. Hence, they used one “flor-árbol” (meaning a “tree-like” plant with thick woody stems) to connect with each other, with the total of 14 pieces in 1. Which lead them to construct the installation of this “flor-árbol” structure into an interlocking series, beside that they also planned them in a variety in functions, including the flower gardens, butterfly reserves and event hall. Fittingly, this repetitious kind of cellular weave forms, they got this inspiration from the honeycomb.

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An overview of this design, the Orquideorama represents as a symbol or a display of the relationship between the architecture and the living organisms. Understand the context of the environment, and the project, hence, taking what they have and by adding value to the design, other than, breaking the relation between the environment and the architecture. In this case, the designers make use of the natural element as they were inspired by the honeycomb. The bees corporate each other and interact within the honeycomb, and that is how the designers wanted people in the spaces to react.

Applying the inspirations and concept into the space

The whole idea of taking the word “convergence” as the concept is that, as we know that Singapore itself does not have an own identity, it has always been known as a multi-culture country, but as the time goes by, “multi-culture” seems to become its identity. During the 18th century, Singapore was a fishing village, and slowly it developed into a transition port for world-wide trading, even to this day. From the world trading shipping routes, it can be clearly shown that almost all the routes were going towards the small island Singapore for refill, or trade-convergence into one point. Within this island, it might look small in capacity, but the relations between the people in different culture are endless and in abundance. That makes Singapore truly unique in comparison with other countries.

The chosen site, Asian Civilization Museum, which is located opposite Boat Quay, the exciting building was an on old building built in the 1860’s. As the world constantly develops, the building itself was a conserved building, and has remained relatively untouched over the years. However, making use of this advantage, a contrast between the building can be created by covering some portions of the existing building with glass without damaging the context of the environment and the museum. It also creates an invisible linkage between the environments visually and from the psychology point of view, the façade itself does not give any pressure to the users, and yet, it enhances the value of ACM. It also saves energy used within the building, since most of the area can be lighted up during daytime, and producing a dim atmosphere during the night time.

On the other hand, this has come to a step closer in relationship between the human and nature. The light will be shining through the façade and diffusing into the dining area and the exciting windows, in which we take a closer look at the direction of these natural light, it will be leading the view of the users to the bar area, which is the convergence point of the restaurant.

The whole design, started from the extension façade to the central bar, the different leveling gives the clients a feeling of merging towards the bar area. In a psychology of view, people will be attracted passively to go downwards.

Taking the bar area as the central point, it branches out through different angles to form different spaces. However, within the spaces, the bar was designed into a circular platform, in which the other spaces was designed angular, as it creates a contrast, through experience and visually. Beyond, the bar, it has a small performing stage for musician to do live performances.

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For the space planning in this project is by elaborating the central point, in this case it is the bar area, which branches out, through different angles to create comforting and meaningful spaces. For example, the extension on the second mezzanine level, the Asian Civilization Museum building, as mentioned above is a historical structure-converse building, destroying the original façade and creating new ones is impossible, therefore, these extensions that branch out from the central point, they extend through the original windows and doors and form a space for people to dine outside the building. This actually creates an interaction between the “old” and the “new” structure , meaning the building itself and the extension fade, beside those, this also brings the users to new dining experiences, since the extension has brought the relationship between people, building, and nature to a closer level.

The circulation is an important factor that will affect the impression of clients. Therefore, bringing the concept “convergence” into the circulation and merging them. The staircase located at the first storey window-side which leads people to the mezzanine above. This circulation will be surrounded mainly around the bar, so the user can have different experiences during their journey to their desired destination.

Back to the central point of the design, the mezzanine that is surrounded above the bar area was designed and separated into two main areas, semi-public and private. The semi-public areas are for people who would like to spend their time to enjoy the music while they are having dining and chit-chatting with a group of friends. On the other hand, the private areas, known as the VIP rooms, there are only two VIP within the restaurant, the view and impact of the live performance for these two VIP rooms will bring the best enjoyment.


The world is developing way too fast, and our planet earth can not keep up. As this situation worsens, we will be the one facing extinction and suffering in the long run. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, sustainable design should be encouraged more in a way that people will appreciate the environment. To maintain the balance between human and the environment, just like the architect Glenn Murcutt said, “Follow the sun. observe the wind. Watch the flow of water. Use simple materials. Touch the earth lightly.”[3], the future can be shaped by our hands. The fate of planet earth lies in our hands, and unless we make significant steps to protect the environment now, all will be too late.


  • Green architecture, Design for a sustainable future. Brenda and Robert Vale. Published in 1991 by Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.
  • [1],[2],[3]Sustainable design Ecology Architecture and planning , Williams, Daniel E.
    published in 2007 by John Wiley & Sons Inc. , Hoboken, New Jersey
  • Toward a new regionalism, Environment Architecture in the pacific Northwest. Miller, David E.
    Published in 2005 by the university of Washington Architecture Publications Fund
  • Sustainable architecture in Japan, the green buildings of Nikken Sekkei, Anna Ray-Jones, published in Great Britain in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  • Modern Sustainablity Residential Design, William J. Carpenter,PhD, FAIA, published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons Inc.
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  • (pic.2) ,(pic.3) Sustainable architecture in Japan, the green buildings of Nikken Sekkei, Anna Ray-Jones, published in Great Britain in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons Inc.
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