Within the field of sustainable design, space, or the use thereof, is paramount. Sustainability in building design means can the building be wholly constructed from renewable resources, and can it support a system within itself that aims to use renewable resources, such as bio-fuel or solar power? If the initial design of a potential new build is planned in an environmentally and energy-efficient way, then the construction and operation of the building will follow in the same manner.
In the design plan, careful consideration will be given to the internal space within a building – how will the space inside be used, and how can it be used most efficiently and healthily, within the remit of sustainability. Human well-being is also at the heart of sustainable design, and so the health of the buildings users is a priority. Studies have shown that ventilation and air circulation affect buildings users, so this is a key issue in the internal design – how will air be refreshed and cleansed? Will the space appear stuffy, cramped and claustrophobic to its occupants? Or could it be spacious, open plan, and energised, thus health-giving or health-maintaining for its users?
Other Key Areas to Consider
The extensive use of glass, both as vertical and horizontal or angled windows, allows a greater amount of light to penetrate the building. Using natural daylight, when possible, to be the only or main source of lighting, has been shown to create more conducive conditions for human productivity. The less we are boxed in with closed walls, the less we work well. The more we are able to see and relate to our external surroundings, and feel there is some transparency between inside and outside, the better we function.
Insulation & Heating
Getting the temperature right is crucial, no matter what fills the space: if it is too hot or too cold, it is un-productive space. An under floor heating & cooling system may be an option. This removes radiators and obtrusive fans or other space-consuming hardware. If the light is good, a solar heating system should definitely be considered, or a combination of systems. See our page on heating system options for more ideas.
Energy-Efficient Materials and Design Factors to Consider
Here are some examples of materials and design choices that could be considered in a sustainable design:
- Recycled flooring and/or carpeting made from recycled components
- Using ecologically-friendly cleaning materials
- Energy efficient light bulbs
- Recycled gypsum wall boards, which can create a smart wall system
- A green ‘living’ roof: literally a turf-based garden upon the roof
Using Space Sustainably
Here the debate around sustainable design and the creation of internal space within a building becomes an aesthetic one. What will happen in the space? Will pathways between objects allow the free flow of people and other objects? Will areas be divided or partitioned off, possibly using a smart wall system mentioned above, that is not fixed, and can be moved to many different permutations? How much clutter can be allowed – and how do we define clutter? Thinking and planning sustainably not only includes thinking about the physical things we need, but the actual meta-physical space we operate within, and usually take for granted.
Think about how you are using the space around you while reading this!