Since the 1980s, the development of green building has lasted for more than 30 years, and people’s understanding of green building has undergone different stages of change. This paper intends to review the development of international and chinese green buildings as well as the latest development trend of green buildings to look into the future development direction of people, buildings and natural environment.
Brief description of international green building development
Architecture is a place of refuge built by human beings in opposition to the natural environment. Under the impetus of the industrial revolution, the structure, form and function of buildings were fully penetrated by industrial technology. After the second world war, the rapid development of industrialisation and urbanisation in the west led to the rapid spread of urban architecture and the design of buildings became fully mechanised and equipped, with central air conditioning, 24-hour hot water systems and artificial lighting, bringing comfortable living conditions to people. At the same time, however, the rapid development of the building industry gradually led to serious damage to the environment and ecosystems. It was not until the 1970s that two global oil crises made society aware of the importance of energy conservation. As one of the world’s top three energy consumers, the construction industry is a crucial part of the planet’s environmental policy. The outbreak of the energy crisis led to a rise in energy-efficient building design, and since the 1980s countries have begun to develop energy-efficient building systems and to design and build energy-efficient buildings. For example, in the united states, the trend towards ‘induced solar design’ has been on the rise, and governments, particularly in the colder developed countries, have begun to enact building energy efficiency legislation to strengthen the insulation and airtightness of the building envelope, resulting in significant improvements in building quality.
As people become more environmentally conscious, society realises that man-made buildings are not only dangerous to nature in terms of energy. According to the united nations programme, the global construction industry consumes 40% of the earth’s energy, 20% of its water resources and 30% of its raw materials, while generating 38% of its solid waste. The bricks, steel and glass of modern buildings are a source of environmental damage, not only at the production stage, but also at the stage of waste removal. In 1990, the british environmental assessment method (breeam) was published as the world’s first green building standard. The united nations conference on environment and development, held in rio de janeiro in june 1992, first clarified the concept of “Green building”, and since then more and more countries have begun to research, practice and promote it. In 1996, the united states green building council (usgbc) released the leed (leadership in energy and environmental design) green building evaluation system, which is currently the most comprehensive and widely used evaluation system in the world for evaluating the environmental protection and green performance of buildings. 2002, japan released the casbee comprehensive environmental performance evaluation system for buildings. 2005, singapore launched the in 2006, the german dgnb (german sustainable building council) released the dgnb sustainable building rating system.
Although the evaluation criteria and assessment mechanisms of the green building standard system vary from country to country, the evaluation content and factors of concern mainly focus on the reduction of carbon emissions, conservation and recycling of energy resources, reduction of energy consumption, sewage treatment, waste recycling, outdoor environment, indoor environment, etc. Over the past twenty years or so, with the advancement of technology, green buildings have made rapid development and progress, and different stages of green buildings in various countries have followed, but their focus of attention is still limited and lacks social and humanistic assessment. Although there are requirements for the indoor environment, they are limited to some indicators of sound, light, thermal environment and air quality, and do not delve into the overall impact of buildings on human physiological and psychological health.
Innovations in green buildings
However, as the popularity of green buildings has increased, it has become clear that the general public does not have a clear perception of the improvements in lifestyle or quality of life that green buildings can bring, and that the perception of green buildings still remains in terms of green plants, or energy and water conservation in buildings. Looking back at the definition of green buildings, the fundamental goal is to create “Healthy, fit for purpose and efficient spaces” For people, which is not perceived by users. As people’s living standards improve, they are increasingly looking for a better life and a higher quality of life. In recent years, the frequent occurrence of haze in many areas of the country, the substandard quality of drinking water in households caused by secondary water supply, the excessive indoor formaldehyde and tvoc caused by complex decoration, and the ageing of the domestic population in recent years have all put forward new requirements for the development of a new generation of green buildings.
In the industry, a new human-centred model from the perspective of building users has also gradually become the new consensus for the development of green buildings. 2019 saw the third iteration of china’s green building standards, with the release of the 2019 edition of gb-50378 “Green building evaluation standards”. The new version of the green building standard is in line with the needs of the people for a better life in the new era, reflecting the basic concept of “People-centred” And expanding on the original “Four savings and one environmental protection” Dimension that focused on the relationship between the building and the environment. It has also added technical content in the areas of safety and durability, energy conservation, health and livability, and all-age friendliness, and reconstructed the five index systems of “Safety and durability, health and comfort, convenience of living, resource conservation and environmental livability”, defining the third generation of green buildings in china.
It can be seen that the new generation of green building has gradually incorporated the content of sponge city and healthy building, and the integration of healthy building concept and green ecology, aiming to enhance the experience and sense of access of building users to green building, truly combining the people-oriented and sustainable development of the building. China’s green building system is already at the world’s leading level.
Reflections on green architecture
At the stage of agricultural civilisation, the capacity of science and technology was limited and people were more in awe of nature. In the western ancient greek philosophy of nature, man is an integral part of nature and man and the natural environment should be allies. In ancient china, on the other hand, the idea of ‘the unity of heaven and man’ was put forward, and the combination of astronomy, geography and humanism was emphasized. In general, ancient architecture was characterised by its ability to cater for geography, adapt to the climate, and take advantage of the lowest possible materials. For example, in the north, where winters were cold, walls were built thicker to withstand the cold weather, while in the south, where it was hot and rainy, extra attention was paid to ventilation. In the north-west, wood was scarce and the loess was upright and not easily permeable, making the kiln the best way to live, which not only kept people warm in winter and cool in summer, but also saved raw materials and helped to maintain soil and water and ecological balance.
After the industrial revolution, the flourishing of science and technology brought mankind into an industrial civilisation, and a fundamental change in construction technology and the living environment was introduced, with a variety of technologies being used in construction. While mankind indulged in the comforts of this change, he slowly discovered the crisis that came with it. It was only with the onset of the energy crisis that attention was drawn to the sustainable development of buildings. Starting with energy-efficient building technologies and developing truly green buildings, attempts began to be made to use a shift in thinking and the power of technology to make man-made buildings develop in harmony with nature reducing the damage people do to the natural environment throughout the building process. The rapid development of green buildings in china between 2006 and 2019 has also adhered to this direction.
However, in terms of the formal definition of green building, the biggest difference between green building and normal building is that green building brings people, buildings and nature into a holistic context. People are not to be above nature, nor are they to be subservient to nature in order to protect it, thereby neglecting the human initiative and ignoring the feelings of the building’s users. The development of green buildings needs to learn from the lessons of the past and pursue the harmonious development of people, buildings and nature. In this process, we should follow the laws of nature and ecology as a prerequisite for the development of green buildings, and we need to take energy conservation and environmental protection as the basic means of green buildings, while taking “Safety, health and comfort”, which is the most perceptible to building users, as the most fundamental purpose of green buildings. Only by doing so can we achieve a harmonious development of people, buildings and nature, returning to the ‘unity of man and nature’. The rapid development of healthy buildings in recent years and china’s latest green building standards, which combine the health performance of buildings with the traditional concept of “Four sections and one environmental protection”, are also a reflection of this idea.
In terms of architectural development, it has gone through a process of succumbing to natural artificial architecture, to the expansion of human technology as the core of architecture after the industrial revolution, and then back to green architecture. Since the 1980s, green architecture has gone through a process of development from the first generation of energy-efficient buildings, to the second generation of green buildings that focus on architecture and the environment, to the current third generation of green buildings that incorporate “Human-centredness”. We should realise the goal of combining ‘human-centred’ architecture with ‘human-centred long-term development’ by re-establishing a friendly, harmonious and symbiotic relationship between architecture and nature at a higher level of ecological civilisation. Through the development of green architecture, we can provide a safe, healthy and comfortable living space for human beings, and be in harmony with the natural environment, so that people and buildings can live in harmony with the environment and develop forever.