Green Architecture: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Works


In the age of climate change, we should all address this planet-wide issue contribute. The call to action is no longer merely for the policymaker or environmental organisation. The architecture field could also play an important role to become a part of the global crisis solution. Enter green architecture, an eco-friendlier approach to design, which is seen in innumerable sustainable constructions.

What is Green Architecture?

As you might expect, green architecture is a sustainable approach to building that reduces the detrimental effects of construction projects toward human health and the natural environment. In short, the key of green design or sustainable architecture is creating energy-saving, environmentally friendly buildings.

It’s actually not a new thing. If we trace back, we could discover the roots of green architecture in many ancient civilisations as our ancestors were moe in tune with the environment and utilised natural elements to construct public buildings and private houses.

For instance, the use of geothermal energy as natural heater for baths and residences was popular in ancient Rome, whereas the Persians invented natural ventilation through the earthly elements, namely windcatcher.

Illustration of Roman Geothermal Hot Spring | Source:‌‌
Windcatcher in Persian architecture | Source:‌‌

However, it’s undeniable to consider green architecture as a contemporary movement since the eco-awareness just emerged these past few decades and began to attract a sea of faces. Since then, more and more green projects have been initiated, such as One Central Park by Jean Nouve in Sydney (2008 - 2014) and Robinson Tower by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in Singapore (2015-2018). The architects oftentimes encompass futuristic style, yet always attempt to bring sustainability into the forefront of design, building materials, construction methods and operational tactics.

One Central Park | Source:‌‌
Robinson Tower | Source:‌‌

Why Green Architecture Matters

We’ve talked about global crisis that has been happening over the past few decades, right? But in what ways can green architecture help solve this issue?

Greenhouses gas emissions and overbuilding pose threats to environment | Source:

In the early 21st century, buildings have already occupied half of the worldwide resources. Not to mention, architecture was responsible for 40-50 percent of landfills waste, let alone accounted for 20-30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Along with global warming, the earth also even suffers in the aftermath of other issues, such as water stress, nonrenewable energy resources dependence, sick building syndrome, as well as air, water, and soil degradation. At this point, the urgency of green design plays a crucial role in the quest to resolve the environmental emergency.

How It Works

Postulates that guide the design of green architecture incorporate several elements that reduce energy use, be it through the leverage of solar cell, wind turbine, greenery roof, sustainable material, water conservation, or natural lighting and ventilation. Be prepared, here are some of the most breathtaking examples of this order.

To exemplify the solar cell installation in green architecture, Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is likely the perfect choice. Designed by Miller Hull, the six-storey building fully derives its energy from renewable resources, thanks to its 575 solar panels. These panels on the roof could even generate energy that's greater than the amount the building needs.

Bullitt Center | Source:‌‌
Panels on the roof of Bullitt Center | Source:

For wind turbine, the famous Bahrain World Trade Center by architect WS Atkins, located in the city of Manama is worth mentioning. This sail-shaped building features three huge wind turbines producing clean energy. Undeniably, the 50-storey complex is considered as one of the green architecture pillars in the Middle East region.

Bahrain World Trade Center | Source:‌‌

Turning to the green rooftop, ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall built in the middle of Fukuoka City is an impressive example. It speaks the remarkable fusion of local green vegetation and ecological architectural concept. A staircase-shaped rooftop garden beautifies the structure and looks like merging with the green park. What makes the building by architects, Emilio Ambasz & Associates “greener”, the greenery can lower the temperature inside and improve local air quality at the same time.

ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall | Source:

Green Architecture in Indonesia

As we've covered in one of our print editions, the rise of green awareness has been influencing several eco-designed projects in Indonesia. From Green School in Ubud, Bali to Allianz Tower in Jakarta and Holy Stadium in Semarang, these are some of the constructions that prove the nation's green architecture landscape is a work in progress in the right direction.

Unlike the common school buildings across the archipelago, Green School is built almost exclusively using bamboo—the sustainable material that's easy to cultivate—in various functions, such as railing, columns, stairs, roofing frames, top floors, and even furniture. What's more intriguing, designed by PT Bambu Bambu, the bamboo structure is mostly formed in a unique, curved shape. Not only that, the open concept allows the wind and daylight knock inside. For more energy saving mode, the hydroelectric power plants from the nearby river supply the electricity.

Green School, Bali | Source:
Interior of Green School, Bali | Source: Indonesia Design

Meanwhile, Allianz Tower by PT Duta Citra Mandiri greatly demonstrates how the skyscraper in the midst of concrete jungle can be at one with nature, making it as notable portrait of sustainable design. The open book-shaped tower provides environmentally friendly utilities, such as water absorption and natural light.

Since Jakarta is one of the densest areas but lacks absorption surface, the construction of the high rise office-block allows 70% of 7,000 sqm area to function as natural rainwater absorber. It also doesn't have a parking basement level so that the supporting cobblestones of the street that have hollow spaces may help with retaining water.

In terms of natural lighting, all-glass facades enable the sunlight to flood interior spaces. There's no need to worry about the urban heat thanks to advanced double glazed windows that block some of the heat and reduce infrared rays.

Allianz Tower | Source: Indonesia Design

Another great example of green design is the Holy Stadium or the Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Injil Kerajaan, which received the 2009 ASEAN Energy Awards. It's equipped with eco-friendly technology to overcome the heat and to facilitate air circulation. This beachfront worship site is oriented to the west, which is adjusted to the sea onshore breeze that blows to the landmass during the day and the offshore breeze that blows into the sea at night.

Architect Jimmy Priatman designed the top of the building to be insulated so it could hold heat and serve as a shield-like structure to eliminate the heat in the core of the stadium. It can effectively reduce the heat by 25-30 percent and minimise the cooling workload of air conditioner inside the grand church that could house up to 16,000 worshippers.

Holy Stadium (The Church of Gereja Kristen Indonesia Injil Kerajaan) | Source: Indonesia Design

Part of this article was originally published in the Indonesia Design edition titled "Green Designs", vol 6, no. 36 in 2009.

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Awal Hidayat