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Sustainable Architecture, Design, and Philosophy

Updated on December 2, 2011

What does it mean to be Sustainable?

Responsible sustainable design requires a full understanding of the factors involved in creating environmentally friendly products, buildings., living, and work environments. It is not enough to use a few "green" products then call the product/building sustainable. True sustainability means taking no more than you produce and leaving no trace behind when you are done. This is a high standard to meet and not everyone can do it. However, a project can still be eco-friendly even if it hasn't reached the sustainable mark. Eco-friendly typically is used to describe something that isn't causing harm to the environment and is making progress towards being a sustainable entity. Being sustainable with architecture involves a holistic approach of thinking about future use, environmental impact from site selection, environmental quality for building users, community connectivity etc. A similar approach applies to other aspects of our lives.

If you want to go beyond design and incorporate green into daily life be sure to visit Green Me Please: SimpleTips for an Earth Friendly Life.

What is Green Washing?

Ethics in eco-marketing.

Green washing is the misleading practice of changing one aspect of a product or business to something that makes it appear earth friendly when it is actually missing the mark. Examples of this are companies that make one eco friendly change, such as recycling their paper then focus all their advertising to how their company is really earth friendly. Don't get me wrong, it's great that they are making small changes, but, often these same companies are also engaging in very damaging practices that more than negatively offset the good changes. So, keep that in mind the next time you see a big chemical company telling you they are 'green'. They may be telling the truth but when going green is popular ods are good that eco-consciousness is just being used as a marketing hook.

Want to read more about ethics in architecture? Check out Ethics and the Built Environment.

Sustainable Mission - Architecture as a holistic art form.

Architecture should appeal to both the client and society as a whole. This ideal calls for an encompassing dialogue to exist between the architect, client, and neighbors. As a profession, Architecture exists due to a desire by mankind for structures which surpass that of a functional nature. Skillful design is achieved through a seamless combination of function and aesthetics. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of cost-benefit analysis and sustainable design.

Sustainability and Art

How can art be 'green'?

While most of us typically don't think of paintings, crafts, and sculptures when we think about the environment, art can do a lot for the sustainable movement. The most important thing art can do to promote green design is to make the subject of the art something that will draw attention to using less, recycling, etc. Now that you are thinking in these terms it's now probably obvious that art does indeed help the green movement; just think of all the websites, t-shirts, and bumper stickers out there spreading the message and how much they depend on good design. But this isn't the only way art can help out.

Art can be inherently 'green," and I'm not talking about color. Paintings can be made using organic paints on recycled canvas or paper. Crafts can be made out of all sorts of found, recycled, and up-cycled objects. The possibilities are endless and the practice of trying to re-use objects can spark the creative process.

If you'd like some inspiration to make your own eco-crafts check out my other lens:

Eco-Craft: Crafting for a greener tomorrow

Wanting to add some eco-art to your website or printable project? I have a lens for that too:

Free Eco Graphics

Green Architecture

Greening our world one building at a time.

Green (sustainable) architecture is the practice of designing buildings so that they make minimal impact on the environment both during construction and for the life of the building. This includes proper site selection, energy efficient design, daylighting techniques, choosing green materials, and even considering what will happen when the building use changes.

Popular green building certification programs in the United States are LEED and Energy Star. But it is not necessary for a building to have approval from an organization for it to be sustainable. The purpose of such programs is to develop standards that communicate to the designer what they need to consider and let the client and public know just how "green" the project is. In short, certification takes away the need to wonder if someone is not being entirely truthful about their projects sustainable efforts.

What are people saying about green architecture? Visit my other lens:

Best of Green Architecture on Twitter

What will the world look like 100 years from now if we don't also recognize that leading sustainable lives means controlling the size of human population? What can we do to achieve this?

Distributing birth control to everyone has been offered as a solution, yet doesn't seem like a viable option since many are unwilling or unable to medicate as directed. And there is also the additional concern of that much birth control adding estrogen to our water supply...a problem that is already starting to concern some.

What about government restrictions on how many kids one can have? Assuming our current population is not too high for the planet's resources (as some debate we may have already gone over the limit), It would be sustainable for each one of us to be allowed to have one replacement; meaning a couple could have two children. But what are the ethical implications of attempting to enforce such a rule? In China abortions are forced on unwilling mothers, is that something we are prepared to accept as the norm? I hope it doesn't have to come to that. Forced sterilization wouldn't be much better.

There is currently no good solution to this problem, but it's something we need to start thinking about.

While the built and natural environments are affected by things like population, did you also know that Aesthetics Shapes Our Lives?

What is your solution for overpopulation?

See results

Debate: Global Climate and Design - Where do you stand on this issue?

note: Climate change is commonly called 'global warming'.

Will Global Climate Change Affect Design?

Biomimicry - Design inspired by nature.

What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry is, in the most basic sense, a study of design in nature.

I'm wokring on a lens related to this topic. Those who want a quick overview can read more about Biomimicry on wiki or watch the TEDtalk below:

Using Nature's Genius in Architecture

"How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun." - TEDtalk by Michael Pawlyn

Green Design and Philosophy Videos

Reader Feedback - What are your thoughts on sustainable design and philosophy? Do you have tips or ideas to share?

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    • profile image

      cottagecrafts 5 years ago

      Thumbs up from Cottage Craft Works.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have reviewed your lens and I liked it so I added a squidoo like to your like count on your lens. I also have a squidoo lens and I have 5 friends that also have squidoo lens' If you would like to look at our lens' and add facebook likes to them, then we would all add facebook likes to your lens. I am not putting our lens addresses in this post because I do not want to be considered spam. If you would like to add likes to us so that in return we can add likes to your lens, please let us know by emailing me at

    • TheZinc LM profile image

      TheZinc LM 6 years ago

      really like this lens, specially since I am going to be studying environmental sustainability myself. Two Thumbs Up!

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      Nice Lens.....

    • WHPFord profile image

      WHPFord 6 years ago

      @Kylyssa: Thanks Kylyssa...I hope you are doing well

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 6 years ago

      Very important subject. Thank you for tackling it. And congratulations for being featured on the front page.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Lovely lens. Good luck!

    • JackNimble profile image

      JackNimble 6 years ago

      Hey cool lens! Thanks for sharing and those are great topics for discussion and thought.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      This is worth sharing.

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 6 years ago

      You make a good point about companies purporting to be "green" but in reality are just offsetting their gains with other practices. The road to sustainability can be as simple as walking or biking rather than driving your gas guzzling car to work or buying groceries. Reducing your energy consumption helps too. We really need to tackle our growing use of fossil fuels and focus on renewable energies that are more environment friendly.

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      sustainable changes are required

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      I support sustainable design and recycled houses/architectural elements. Our home in Pennsylvania is an ongoing renovation project that incorporates as many on-site resources as possible and is built around refurbished elements from other houses. Adding this lens as a link from my Eco-Friendly Tiny Houses lens.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I think it's a good idea to adopt sustainable design and philosophy before a lack of resources forces us to.

      "Blessed" by a SquidAngel.

    • profile image

      Solarhouse 6 years ago

      Hey I have reviewed your squidoo lens and I really liked it giving your lens another like.

      When you have time, please take a look at my lens. It is located at

      If you like my lens, please add a like to my lens as well. I am new to squidoo and I would appreciate any comments. Thanks Iwona

    • Leilani-m profile image

      Leilani-m 6 years ago

      Great lens! There isn't many sustainable architecture or design in Croatia, because cost is to high. I was always interested in subject, and I hope to have sustainable home some day :)

    • WHPFord profile image

      WHPFord 6 years ago

      @Brandi Bush: thanks :)

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      Very good lens, well done. Sustainable design is already a factor in many cases as of now. We in America are a bit behind on this, but hopefully we will catch up. i have a lens which shows several examples of sustainable design, called "Renewable Energy Sources". The best examples are currently in Europe. Congrats on the potential star, you will do well here with Squidoo. See you around the galaxy...

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Great lens. Congrats on your Potential Star!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      Very informative lens! Well-deserving of the You've Got Potential trophy. Congrats!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens and excellent.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 6 years ago

      I am always interested in new ideas, inspired and creative. It's good to see how things are evolving and expanding and the quality of life improving all the time. Great lens. Blessed! :)

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 6 years ago

      Wow, this is really a big picture lens, and you touch on a number of issues. Architects like yourself have the ability to make huge changes in the way we think and build. Thank you for getting the word out. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 6 years ago

      Greenwashing isn't confined to manufacturers and advertising: individuals sometimes go for the look-at-me-I'm-green instead of the truly useful as when (I'm not making this up!) people put solar collectors on the street-view side of their house, so neighbors can see it, rather than the best, southern, exposure.

    • Heatherseesthel profile image

      Heatherseesthel 6 years ago

      This is a really beautiful lens, WHPFord. So glad to see people thinking about and planning for the future. And the videos were really helpful too. Keep up the good work! :) We definitely need more architects like you.

    • GetFactsnotHype profile image

      GetFactsnotHype 6 years ago

      Really like this ! I featured it on my page titled "Green Solutions for the Environment" in the section healthy living under the addy

      It's on the right side bar widget

      I really do hope more people read this page of yours, because it is important.

    • profile image

      LensSeller 6 years ago

      A superb lens for anyone interested in ecology. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your passion for your subject. Lensrolled.

    • itsmuzza2011 profile image

      itsmuzza2011 6 years ago

      fantastic lens on a real serious issue, we either use it or lose it, many thanks

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Sustainable architecture and design is such an important calling. All the best to you!

    • natashaely profile image

      natashaely 6 years ago

      There are some great ideas here, I can see where your passions lie. Great lens :)

    • WHPFord profile image

      WHPFord 6 years ago

      @nichevalue: Great job, a 40% cut is good. I plan on adding information about the LEED process as well as Energy Star when I have time; you might find it helpful on your projects.

    • nichevalue profile image

      nichevalue 6 years ago

      Great lens. I have been very interesting in green building methods and retrofit methods for quite a while. I have been working on slowly changing my energy hogging home into one that uses the energy of a house half it's size. So, far we have cut our energy and water usage by 40%.

    • profile image

      bigredmarketing 6 years ago

      Wow, so much to read here! I really appreciate all the effort you put into compiling these sustainable links in one place. I'll have to come back and finish reading soon!

    • WHPFord profile image

      WHPFord 6 years ago

      @JoshK47: thank you.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      A very informative lens on a very important subject - good work!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens on a topic I am very passionate about.

      Green technology and environmentally friendly, sustainable new builds is where all construction should/will be heading in the very near future.

      Architects North Wales

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Yes great post.Very informative and educational lens for better understanding "green" staff in building category.Great info.

      Backyard decorations

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Cool....nice lens...I'm really very passionate about environmentally friendly things....


      Dallas Roofing

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thumbs up!

      Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.


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