Specifier Review
sustainable building

2019’s top 5 trends in green architecture for a livable environment

Climate change has become one of the most important environmental and social issues of the past decades, and thus mankind also faces its crucial challenges in 2019. The building industry has a special responsibility in this question, as the built environment is a great strain on the natural environment and is responsible for 23% of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions.

Besides the 11th point (Sustainable Cities and Communities) of the 17 target fields of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, other points of this document also relate to the building industry.

This means that it is crucial that participants of the sector become committed to active participation in the relevant fields. Professionals of the Hungarian sustainable building industry’s leading company group, Paulinyi-Reith & Partners, have collected the most important trends in green architecture in 2019, which support the battle against climate change on the part of the building industry.

In 2018 trends have become more transparent, taking into account the effects of the building industry both on people and the environment, and reacting to these effects with the help of innovative technologies and architectural solutions.

Green architectural solutions will gain a stronger emphasis in 2019, and this is also strengthened by new regulations and changing client needs. Global architectural trends can be grouped in five main categories, but their aims are common: to create a livable, sustainable environment.

1. Sustainable solutions

According to the 2011 analysis of the European Commission, buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of total energy consumption and nearly 36% of the total carbon-dioxide emissions of Europe. To reduce the ecological loads, local and international regulations have both set out stricter requirements of sustainability: according to the EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, after 31st December 2020 only near net-zero energy buildings can be built. Thus in the member states of the EU, from this January new public buildings and from 2021 all new buildings should meet these requirements.

According to Dr. András Reith, Director of Sustainability at Paulinyi-Reith & Partners, “near net zero energy means that buildings should be able to operate in a near self-sustaining way. To achieve this, renewable energy solutions and innovative technologies are necessary, and machinery which is able to regulate the temperature and lighting of the building according to the actual needs. The energy consumption of the building can be reduced with such architectural tools as orientation or volume.”

2. Innovative technologies

Smart city technology solutions have become common in our everyday life. In 2018 these technological solutions appeared in our homes: smart homes have become not only characteristics of futuristic luxury apartments, but also available to the wider public. This is well represented by the fact that this segment is growing rapidly: according to the 2018 analysis of Forbes, in the USA a 22% expansion of this segment can be foreseen. The role of these technologies will be equally important in the near future for residential, office or public buildings, because (besides making our life more comfortable) they contribute to a more transparent and conscious energy consumption. It is not by chance that PropTech solutions are also becoming more and more popular in Hungary, both among real estate developers and facility managers.

Smart technologies are definitive in the analysis of building usage. Data gained this way has an emphasized role in the planning process, and thanks to this, sustainable buildings can be created, which can operate in an economical way. Because of the spread of smart solutions, more and more information is available on which professionals can rely. A good example of the trends in technology is the Nordic Light office building in Budapest, Hungary, designed by Paulinyi-Reith & Partners for Skanska, which has energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. The building was chosen to be “The Most Innovative Green Building Development” at the CIJ Awards in 2016. During the design of its third phase, which will be realized this year, data gained about the operation of the first and second phase buildings was also used in order to create an energy-conscious and environmentally-friendly building.

sustainable building
View of Nordic Light Trio

3. Resilient buildings

In the case of new buildings, resilience against changing weather conditions as an effects of climate change is becoming more-and-more important. In many parts of the world people have to face floods, storms and other natural disasters, and thus there is an increasing need for buildings and urban development projects which can withstand these. After the effects of Hurricane Sandy, architects of Bjarke Ingels Group have set out a proposal of urban development which protects Manhattan Island against the increasing number of storms and is also useful for the local community in both a social and an environmental sense. According to their proposal, instead of separating the floodplain from the city, buildings with functions specific to the local community were designed which also have a flood protection function.

It is also becoming increasingly important that buildings should adapt to user needs which are constantly changing because of fast-developing technologies.

“For architects one of the biggest challenges is to design buildings that are also suitable for future generations, fitted to needs that can’t even be visualized today. We need to design future-proof buildings, and for this it is necessary to clearly see social, technological and environmental challenges. Good design can fulfill client needs while taking all these into account,” says Dr. Gergely Paulinyi, Chairman and CEO of Paulinyi-Reith & Partners.

4. Health and wellbeing

The urban lifestyle means that an average person spends 90% of the day indoors, and thus time spent in a building significantly affects the health of its residents or users. As a result, during the design process of a building the pursuit of health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important.

A study called “The impact of green buildings on cognitive function”, conducted by researchers at Harvard University in 2015, declares that employee performance is much better if indoor air quality is good. This resulted in the fact that employers and also investors focus on the quality of the environment. This trend can also be witnessed in Hungary on office buildings to be completed during the coming years. It is important to mention the principle of biophilia, which aims to bring nature closer to people living in cities with the help of natural building materials, large-scale green areas and natural lighting sources. Architectural tools make it possible for building users to get enough natural lighting and good air quality, which are extremely important in the case of office buildings.

At the large-scale office building complex Budapest ONE, being developed by Futureal and being constructed in Újbuda, Budapest, Hungary, designers managed to achieve optimal natural lighting in the interiors of the building. Besides orientation, this is also helped by the large glass surfaces of the facade, which let natural light enter the building without dazzling and thus contribute to an ideal working environment. With the help of hydrodynamical surveys, indoor air quality could be improved by natural ventilation. An inner courtyard characterized by big green areas is a great opportunity for recreation, not only for the users of the building, but also for the residents of nearby areas. The wellbeing of building users is also fostered by noise protection solutions. Budapest ONE not only aims for BREEAM building certification but has WELL Platinum pre-certification – the latter aiming to value sustainability from the criteria of the wellbeing of users.

View of Budapest ONE
View of Budapest ONE

5. Building certification systems

Some of the various architectural solutions, e.g. emission of harmful materials, can be measured in a simple way. In contrast, health and wellbeing are very difficult to quantify. Building certification systems like WELL, BREEAM and LEED play an important role in this field globally and categorize buildings according to various livability criteria. Because of changed regulations and more conscious user needs, the number of buildings corresponding to certification systems is increasing. This is well illustrated by the growing number of buildings in the database of Hungarian certified buildings, which can be found on the website of HuGBC, the Hungary Green Building Council.

The latest development of 2019 is that the European Commission is actively promoting the improvement of the building industry and the quality of the built environment, and after the development and test phases launched the Level(s) system, which makes it possible on an easy set of indicators and for to assess the impact of a building on the environment and health, and thus helps integration of the building industry into the circular economy.

The above-mentioned trends will further strengthen in 2019, and at the same time an environmentally-conscious way of thinking will become important for more and more people, as a growing number of people will realize problems caused by climate change.

“Trends in the construction industry also show that there is a need for buildings which are able to adapt to changing circumstances, relying on possibilities offered by state-of-the-art technological innovations,” says Dr. Gergely Paulinyi, Chairman and CEO of P-RP.

2019’s top 5 trends in green architecture for a livable environment 1