Sustainable design is the balance between reducing the energy needs of a building while maximizing living quality.
When people think of sustainability they usually think of solar panels. You put them on your roof and they start converting sunlight to electricity. That’s great! However in Kuwait air conditioning is the main reason why we need so much electricity and rooftop solar is not nearly enough.
Let’s say you want to be ‘sustainable’ and decide to have solar panels installed. Your house also has big windows because you like sunlight. This heats up the glass which radiates heat into your room which makes the AC work harder using up more electricity. The direct sun is also causing uncomfortable glare indoors and you decide to close the curtains but now it’s dark and you turn on the lights during the day, wasting more electricity.
A better, cheaper and more sustainable solution is to design the building so that windows are not facing the direct sun. Simply shading your windows with overhangs or orienting the building to not face the sun will lower your electricity consumption much, much more than what rooftop solar can ever provide.
The challenge that a designer faces is how to balance the needs of lowered energy demands with maintaining a high quality of life for the occupants. How do you flood the room with indirect natural light without much heat gain? How do you insulate and keep the inside cool without resorting to always keeping the AC on? How do you orient and arrange the building mass to maximize shade while increasing livability? These are all design problems that an architect solves to create a truly sustainable design.