The Different Aspects Of Design Sustainability Environmental Sciences Essay

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The introduction of the essay defines sustainability and sustainable design, and highlights the importance of sustainability. It discusses how development has threatened the balance of eco systems that ensure our survival. A point of focus is how there is a conceptual shift from "protecting ourselves from the environment" to "protecting the environment from ourselves"

Under the section which illustrates the "Contexts of sustainability", the different aspects of sustainability are highlighted.

The design solution section analyses a chosen case study to show how spirituality, tranquility and nature has been sustained within the design with the use of material and design strategies.

The section on Sustainability and Energy describes how the use of energy plays an important role in sustainability, with example case studies. It discusses topics such as energy conservation and green energy, and how these concepts have been implemented to achieve energy efficiency.

"The earth belongs to each … generation during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of debts and encumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not the living generation." - Thomas Jefferson (1789)

1. Introduction

Sustainability in general terms, is the ability to maintain on a long term, the balance of a certain process. A realization has been dawning on society within the past few decades.

This realization when it initially came into consciousness seemed like a distant dark cloud with no imminent danger. Yet we have now come to a point in time, where this realization has reached proportions of threatening our very existence. What is this realization? To put it simply, the realization started when man began to understand that resources that support life on this planet are limited, and that human development is taking a toll on the planet. This realization grew, as we started experiencing shortages of clean air, water, depletion of fossil fuels, lack of greenery, global warming etc. Now we are at a point where each discipline which plays a role in development needs to focus on ensuring that the act of development does not disrupt the balance of the eco systems that sustain and support life.

Architects and designers have come to understand that the design of buildings should fundamentally take account of their relationship with and impact on the natural environment and it is this understanding and the concepts arising from it that is seen as "Sustainable Design"


2. Analysis

This essay is on sustainability in general, and how sustainability can be incorporated into design, with a focus on a case study where spirituality, tranquility and nature of the surroundings has been sustained within a design space. It also discusses how the importance of achieving energy efficiency is important for sustainability.

2.1 Adversary Becomes Victim - A Conceptual Shift

A conceptual shift is taking place in the realm of design. At the start of civilization, designing shelters was mainly to keep occupants safe from the environment protecting them from rain, and extreme weather conditions. This basic consideration continued to grow as we developed into a complex society, and building design paid attention to making the buildings "suitable" for the activities that were to take place within, while keeping the occupants safe from the surrounding environment. However, with the realization that our development was endangering the planet and its resources, we have now begun to realize that it is the environment itself which now needs to be safeguarded, as opposed to the structures which were initially built to safeguard occupants from environmental hazards. This is the conceptual shift that is now taking place in the realm of design. As time goes by, Architects and interior designers are focusing on designing and constructing buildings in such a manner that the balance of the eco systems in the surrounding environment is undisrupted. Therefore the conceptual shift is from "Protecting ourselves from nature and the environment" to "Protecting the nature and environment" from ourselves.

"Species of plants and animals are disappearing a hundred or more times faster than before the coming of humanity, and as many as half may be gone by the end of this century. An Armageddon is approaching at the beginning of the third millennium. But it is not the cosmic war and fiery collapse of mankind foretold in sacred scripture. It is the wreckage of the planet by exuberantly plentiful and ingenious humanity" - WILSON - 2002


2.2 Contexts of Sustainability

The below diagram depicts how sustainability is achieved in a combination of environmental, social, and economic contexts.




This essay from this point on focuses mainly on sustainability in social and environment contexts in general.

The project I have chosen as a case study is the renovation of Celestial Resorts, Pulau Ubin , Singapore. Pulau Ubin has a history as a place of spiritual importance. Its untouched environment provides a sense of serene tranquility. The specific focus of this write up is how spirituality, tranquility, and are sustained within the design with an emphasis on energy conservation as well.

2.3 Design Solution

2.3.1 Site Overview


Celestial Resorts, Pulau Ubin is located in the valley between a lake and a lagoon, in a quiet and tranquil atmosphere surrounded by a tropical forest with breathtaking views of nature. In view of the spiritual importance of Palau Ubin and the tranquility of the surrounding environment, the focus of this case study is how these aspects are sustained within the design space.


2.3.2 Sustaining Spirituality

Pulau Ubin has a highly spiritual culture and history, and is home to a few ancient temples and shrines. In order to respect the spirituality of the site, I have decided to renovate the "Celestial Resort" into a spiritual retreat, and include a spa, yoga center and a meditation area, which taken in sequence, creates an odyssey (or journey) through spaces, to a destination of heightened spirituality (which is the meditation center) .

By adopting this approach, I have ensured that the cultural backdrop of the location is sustained within and through the design.




2.3.3 Sustaining tranquility

Diffused light has been used as an important element to create a tranquil feel within the design space. Instead of resorting to artificial lighting, the spaces are architected in a manner where natural light is brought in to enhance the tranquility within. This approach is more in line with concepts of sustainable design, as opposed to resorting to elaborate artificial lighting. The light which is brought in to the design space through openings also provides the function of guiding a visitor through the spaces along a journey, in line with the design concept of "An odyssey to tranquility". A spa area is designed for relaxation in order to enhance the tranquility of the experience. The meditation space which is the culmination of the journey, is a place where a feeling of total tranquility is showcased. A bamboo thatched roof is used for the design, which enhances the tranquil feel inside by reducing the transfer of heat from the outside to the inner spaces.

FIG 10 FIG 11


2.3.4 Preserving Nature and Conserving Energy

In addition to the measures discussed above which preserves the spirituality and tranquility of the site within the design, the below systems are used in the design to ensure that nature and its eco systems sustain their balance in an energy efficient complex.

- Grey water systems

- Clean power generation (eg. Solar)

- Recycling processes for synthetic material

FIG 12 FIG 13

Open spaces have been incorporated to the design to ensure cross ventilation and stack ventilation induced through the thatched roof in order to ensure that dependency on artificial cooling mechanisms is not required. A water certain is incorporated into the design where it flows along the granite wall. Aiding further in cooling the atmosphere within and purifying the air by trapping dust particles which in turn further reduces the need to use air-conditioning.


2.3.5 Choice of Material

Pulau Ubin was once well known for its granite quarries, and these abandoned quarries exist up to this day, adding a unique feature to the island. In order to reflect this feature and the heritage of the site, I have decided to use unpolished granite as a material for cladding some walls in my design. While this would help the design blend with the outside environment, it also adds a touch of spirituality with a "rock temple" like feel, in line with my design concept of "An odyssey to tranquility". Bamboo is the other natural element which is abundant in the site, which I have chosen to create the roof of the design and partitions. While the bamboo helps the design space connect with the surroundings, the partitions made of bamboo also enforces the design concept of an odyssey to tranquility, by providing the visitor a glimpse of what is to come, as they go along the journey. Unpolished timber floors are used as opposed to artificial flooring material such as cement or concrete, in order ensure that all material used for the design are material which can be sourced from the surrounding environment, and this has also ensured that a feel of being "one with nature" is emphasized whilst inside the building.

FIG 14


2.4 Sustainability and Energy

In addition to the "site specific" aspects of sustainability specific to the proposed design for Celestial Resorts discussed thus far, a general point of focus when in sustainability is the use of energy in a responsible manner to ensure minimum dependency on depleting energy sources, and minimum environmental pollution during the process of generating energy. Energy efficiency over the entire lifecycle of a building is the single most important goal of sustainable building design . Architects and designers use many different techniques to reduce the energy needs of buildings and increase their capacity to capture or generate their own energy. Some methodologies, and strategies that can be used to achieve energy efficiency are described below, with example case studies on chosen topics.

(a) Ensuring heating, ventilation and cooling systems efficiency

Case Study : University of Central Florida energy conservation project

With approximately 4,000 students in 39 buildings, Orlando's University of Central Florida (UCF) was used to receiving an enormous energy bill. Energy manager David Norvell from UCF's Physical Plant, a recipient of the Davis Productivity Award for Open Energy Information Systems (OEIS) had discovered a new thermostat unit that sensed room occupancy. He initially tested this unit, in comparison with a traditional unit and discovered considerable energy savings through managing room temperature at specified comfortable levels only when the room was occupied. Upon installation of this system, UCF managed to achieve an average energy saving of 56%.

(b) Alternative energy production (Solar panels, Wind turbines, Solar water heating, heat pumps etc)


Case Study : Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC)

"MAREC" has deployed two elements for power generation, I.e. A fuel cell that can generate upto 250 KW of electricity from natural gas, and Solar panels on the roof that can produce upto 30 KW of electricity. This distributed energy generation mechanism was founds to be far more energy efficient than a fossil fuel based centralized energy generation system. Whereas in the fossil fuel based system only 23 percent of source material was actually converted to energy, this figure rose to 60% in the distributed energy generation model ands with heat recovery systems in place, MAREC has managed to achieve 80% source material to energy conversion.

(c) Use of sustainable building materials (eg. Recycled materials, Lower volatile organic compounds)

Case Study : David L Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh

During the construction of the David L Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, the project mission a floor covering that was environmentally sustainable, as well as durable enough to withstand the construction phase and projected foot traffic of hundreds of thousands of conventioneers. The design team used a carpet with Antron© Face Fibre on the principle that "the less often a carpet has to be replaced, the fewer resources are consumed, and lower the environmental impact". With the use of this unconventional carpet with face fibre, the convention center is saving the equivalent of 18,050 gallons of fuel, as much global warming as 56,083 trees can absorb in one year, enough air emissions to fill 135 thrash cans, enough land emissions to fill 7.9 18 wheeled tractor trailers, and enough water to flush 51,141 toilets. (source: Antron© TEI chart -

(d) Waste management

(e) Water management

(f) Building replacement


3. Conclusion

Sustainability is the act of ensuring the balance of a given system to ensure its long term uninterupted continuity. Sustainable design focuses on minimizing the impact of the built environment on the natural, social, cultural and economic environment that the design space lies within, thus ensuring it's successfull long term survival.  

This is a discussion which falls within the broader spectrum of how the environment from which we once safeguarded ourselves is now becoming what we need to strenuously focus on safeguarding, in order to ensure our very survival.

The case study discussed in this essay describes how spirituality, tranquility and nature has been sustained within the design with the use of specific design strategies and material. The use of energy in nature, to ensure sustainability is discussed with case study examples to show the importance of energy conservation and energy generation in a responsible manner.


List of References

Simon Guy, Steven Moore [2005], Sustainable Architectures, Spon press, New York

Boon lay ong, Joo Hwa Bay, Tropical Sustainable Architecture, Architectural Press, Oxford

Andrew Cott [1998], Dimensions of Sustainability, Spon press, London

Peter Smith[2003], Sustainability at the Cutting Edge, Architectural Press, Oxford

Paula Sassy[[2006]. Strategies for Sustainable Architecture, Taylor & Francis Ltd, New York

Allenby, Braden R, and Deanna J.Richarda, eds.1994. The Greening of Industrial Ecosystems. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.