A futuristic idea that is becoming a reality – Self-sustaining buildings

Natural environmental conditions

Self-sustaining buildings are buildings designed, engineered and constructed in such a way that they function as independently as possible or rely minimally on infrastructure such as electricity, water, heating or cooling.

Proponents of self-sustaining buildings point out that such facilities have an extremely favorable impact on the environment and at the same time improve the safety of the facility and reduce the cost of its use.

If the building is independent of the local infrastructure, it is at the same time better insured in the event of a power outage, water, gas and other benefits provided by the infrastructure, regardless of the reason for the loss of that benefit. In this case, the facility will still have access to energy, at least for a limited time.

The forecast is that the urban population on our planet will increase by as much as 84% by 2050. With the existing growth of cities and settlements and their transformation into megalopolises, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is necessary to think in the direction of developing facilities that are much more energy efficient than the facilities that are being built today.

The focus on creating environmentally sustainable, clean urban environments should ensure a future for generations to come. Otherwise, the highly polluted urban centers of today will evolve into something much worse over the next few decades on a much larger scale.

The average modern high-rise building or skyscraper does not have self-sustainability systems such as systems to generate electricity or process and reuse wastewater as well as smart energy systems that allow monitoring of electricity use on a daily basis. Also, average skyscrapers today are not designed to make the most of daylight or natural environmental conditions and are huge consumers of water.

Because of this short-sightedness, but also a lack of concern for any issues other than earnings, most facilities in today’s big cities generate huge amounts of carbon dioxide and thus affect global warming. Today, environmental issues are, rightly, one of the big issues for many industries and for architects, engineers and urban designers who want to plan ahead, the development of innovative self-sustaining facilities has become imperative. Of course, legislation that sanctions bad and rewards good urban, architectural, and engineering practices greatly contributes to this way of thinking.

Previously, the development of self-sustaining architecture was focused primarily on residential and smaller buildings. Also, these facilities primarily produced energy for their own needs. Today, self-sustaining houses are designed in such a way that they can export part of the electricity and return it to the grid. It is increasingly noticeable that architects and engineers are beginning to think about how to apply the idea of ​​self-sustainability to other buildings such as business premises, shopping malls, factories and other public buildings. More and more buildings are being built using systems that enable their self-sustainability.

Self-sustainability is a principle that does not have to refer only to the construction of new facilities but can also be applied to old facilities by improving the infrastructure of the facility itself and installing new systems that allow the old facility to gain aspects of self-sustainability.

Self-sustainability at one facility is achieved by installing solar panels, micro-hydro systems, micro systems for wastewater treatment and reuse as well as electricity generators powered by natural gas or other systems.

In the countries of the developed world, there are new construction standards as well as legal regulations that prescribe high taxes for the construction of energy inefficient buildings, but also special economic initiatives for the use of self-sustaining elements. Because of this, many new and old buildings can be routinely equipped with technologies that will improve their self-sustainability.

One of the most important items in achieving a self-sustaining facility is electricity. reducing the need for it as well as reducing its use.

This can be achieved by using passive architecture such as the design of buildings that take into account the needs for light energy, the orientation of the room in relation to the sides of the world or in relation to wind exposure but also the use of elements such as blinds that reduce insolation and thus the need for space cooling. In addition to passive architectural measures, it is possible to use electricity generators such as solar panels or windmills. These elements allow the building to produce its own electricity and in recent years there is a trend that they are installed primarily on the roofs of buildings, but there are also innovations such as solar panels that are integral elements of the window itself.

When it comes to water consumption, which is also a very important item in today’s facilities, measures to reduce consumption or conserve water are diverse. Increasingly, the use of wastewater treatment and recycling systems can be observed in the design and construction of new buildings, especially in areas where water is a scarce and more difficult resource to access, such as deserts. When it comes to water recycling there are several methods and ways to implement it, but the system is mainly based on collecting wastewater from kitchens, sinks and bathtubs or showers which are then purified in various ways to then be used to flush toilets. There are various systems to achieve this, and countries that use this type of water treatment have developed laws and regulations that regulate the level of hygiene that needs to be achieved in order for this process of purification and reuse to be at a satisfactory level of hygiene.

In addition to the system for generating electricity and water recycling, engineers and architects are also working on a system for wastewater treatment, heating and cooling, and
ventilation.

Also, systems and ideas are being developed that will incorporate food production into a self-sustaining facility through the development of urban gardening, hydroponic gardens and other innovative measures that suit modern urban environments.

For thousands of years, people have used the energy of fire, water and wind and turned it into useful work or simply used it to heat or cool a space. Mills and windmills are probably one of the oldest examples illustrating man’s ability and desire to use and cooperate with the elements of nature. The industrial revolution led to the development of new technologies and increased the scale in which man began to use natural forces, as best seen in the example of textile plants whose looms were powered first by water currents and then, as technologies evolved, by steam. Today, thanks to much more sophisticated technologies, there are many buildings, both older buildings and new buildings, that generate electricity for their own lighting, heating or cooling needs.

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