There is no greater testament to mankind’s drive for progress than the world of architecture. Buildings have been used as a display of wealth and sophistication since the days of ancient civilisation, leaving us with monuments as timeless and awe inspiring as the Pyramids of Giza and The Taj Mahal.
In more recent times, commercial enterprises and nation states have pushed architects to go higher. Buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York have become tourist attractions in their own right based on their dizzying height alone.
But the focus is shifting. These days, ultimate prestige lies in feats of sustainable engineering.
Whilst it may be only the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower is top of the pile when it comes to green credentials. It may look as though the spiralling façade serves no greater purpose than to create visual appeal, but the design is just one of many innovations that contribute to the buildings sustainability credentials.
A precise 120° rotation through the length of the structure creates a more aerodynamic profile, which reduces the amount of materials needed for construction by 24%, saving millions of pounds.
Towards the top of the impressive structure are 270 wind turbines that produce enough electricity to power over 100 homes for an entire year. The heating and cooling systems used in the tower are fuelled by geothermal sources and rainwater is collected to irrigate green spaces and maintain sanitary functions.
These sustainable engineering innovations allow the Shanghai Tower to achieve a reduction of 34,000 metric tonnes in its annual carbon footprint compared to buildings of a similar size.
Back Down To Earth
The green credentials of the Shanghai Tower are impressive, but sustainable engineering can have the biggest impact in the millions of smaller developments that happen all around the world every day.
Taking the innovations and lessons learned from big-budget projects and applying them to more everyday buildings can have huge positive consequences, on everything from energy usage to water wastage.
Globally, sustainable engineering is developing so that new buildings utilize natural resources and minimise waste in ways that reduce the short and long-term impacts on the environment.
Modern housing developments, for example, are being built with sustainability at the forefront of the decision-making process. Every aspect of the development is considered in relation to the resources needed to maintain both the individual households and the immediate environment, from sustainable drainage design, to insulation and in some cases energy production.
The Impact of Sustainable Engineering
One of the criticisms levied at sustainable engineering is that it costs significantly more to produce a sustainable building than a similar structure without the same level of environmental consideration.
While this is true, studies have shown that over a building’s lifetime there is a 400% to 500% payback on the initial added cost due to efficient use of utilities.
There have also been studies that show direct correlation between peoples’ productivity and their satisfaction with their environment. Sustainable engineering can maximise natural light and ventilation to create workspaces that people love, maximising output for businesses.
In terms of bottom line, buildings that achieve accreditations with sustainable engineering bodies such as LEED have been shown to attract higher rents, occupancy levels and sale prices.
Our expertise, on projects such as the CUBRIC building, Cardiff, have enabled us to complete projects that have achieved a 30% reduction in energy consumption and an Excellent accreditation from BREEAM, the World’s longest standing body for assessing the sustainability of buildings.
For more information on sustainable engineering, talk to one of our chartered civil engineers.