The most intuitive interpretation of green architecture is the integration of the building with the natural environment, and some projects choose to be superficially ‘green’ at the expense of other aspects of environmental impact. For example, a high-rise in Taipei has a rotating main structure and a large number of trees planted on each terrace to create a pro-nature environment and create a unique architectural form that looks very ‘green’. In fact, in Taiwan, which is prone to earthquakes and typhoons, the twisting and rotating structure requires special engineering solutions and consumes more steel and concrete than an ordinary shaped building, resulting in a waste of building materials. Such projects may be more distinctive, but they are not truly green.
Some projects simply emphasise the engineering aspects of the building without integrating building design with function, for example, by not optimising natural ventilation and lighting and relying too much on artificial lighting, air conditioning and mechanical ventilation; or by not using equipment and technology appropriate to the local context, such as ground-source heat pumps or photovoltaic power generation, which are unreasonably designed just for the sake of green building certification, but are not used for long periods of time in actual operation, or are used far less effectively than The design of such green buildings emphasises engineering and technology. Such green design emphasises engineering but neglects the integration of design and practical functionality.
More importantly, many green designs are not closely integrated into the whole building design process, and green consultants do not become involved until late in the design phase, at which point it is difficult to make major adjustments to the design and only fine-tune it to green standards to add technical points. This approach does not optimise the early design framework, and treats green design as if it were an exam, with pre-test cramming and then changing the design according to the standard answers, but even if it gets high marks, the building is not green.
“What does an ‘ungreen building’ look like? Firstly, it is a building that is a huge waste of resources, destroys the environment, creates a poor quality indoor environment that does not meet functional requirements, or is left unused for a long time; secondly, it is a mediocre or unreasonable design that fails to meet or optimise the functional requirements of the building from an architectural and engineering perspective, resulting in excessive resource consumption. True green design is required to avoid these situations.
Where are the benchmarks in specific designs, and how do you go about comparing and judging them? Commonly used benchmarks are national codes and green building certification, but each project is so different that there is neither a uniform benchmark nor a standard answer. Green design relies on creativity and requires a break with existing results or conventional understanding. Perhaps the best benchmark is for designers to choose the best solution for the environment, based on their own perceptions or by referring to industry averages, through empirical judgement or rigorous analysis, within a set of constraints. “Green or not green” should be compared not only to one’s own solution (i.e. the initial building solution without any optimisation) but also to the industry average in order to stand up to peer review.
With much of the green design currently being done by MEP engineers and green building consultants, what aspects of green design should architects be promoting? A survey in the US showed that building design in terms of building bulk and shape, window-to-wall ratio and shading design directly affect the ventilation, lighting and air-conditioning loads of a building; some passive design strategies also need to be proposed and promoted from an architectural perspective, and these are core parts of green building design, which need to be co-ordinated by architects and carefully studied and discussed with engineers, owners and others. Today’s advanced building technology allows many whimsical designs to be realised, but at a potentially high cost. The architect is the leader of the design team, weighing up the pros and cons and presenting a sound design strategy to the owner and the design team as a whole. Although the final design decision is often influenced by the owner’s preferences, project conditions, return on investment and other factors, the architect is expected to do his or her best to move the project in a green direction.
After many years of development, green building certification at home and abroad has objectively advanced the development of green building, raised the average level of the industry and put forward many new requirements for the majority of practitioners, but deviations have also occurred in practice. Green design is not about coping with exams, nor is it about staring at standard answers and changing solutions, but rather about running through the entire design process, improving the utilisation of resources and energy; protecting the environment, reducing the consumption of raw materials, paying attention to recycling and reuse, and ultimately creating a healthy and comfortable living environment. Only by keeping these concepts in mind, accumulating new knowledge and skills, and presenting the design and analysis process to the project team, can we design green buildings that are recognised by the industry.