Buildings generate nearly 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions—and since two-thirds of the buildings that exist today will still be around by the middle of the century, architects need to rethink their design now to have a chance of meeting goals for a net-zero economy. The industry is shifting, and sustainability has become a standard part of the architecture. But some projects go further than others.
Each year, the American Institute of Architecture Committee on the Environment selects the 10 best designs—and there are some absolute beauties on this year’s list that champion sustainability and inspiring aesthetics.
For instance, the Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is not only a beautiful, efficient building; it also shows us that we’re learning from past mistakes. In 2005, the previous education center at this University of Southern Mississippi lab was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina—and storms hit the site again during the new building’s design and construction. The new design was carefully sited on higher ground, with floors 20 feet above sea level. A canopy of pine and oak trees serving as a wind buffer; instead of one larger building, the design is split into multiple small energy-efficient buildings that are tucked into the existing forest, preserving as many trees as possible.
The Austin Central Library is another feature on the list. Located downtown, this public library has a 373,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system; some of the water is used in a garden designed to attract pollinators on the rooftop. A soaring six-story atrium fills the building with natural light, and reading porches and outdoor dining help connect visitors with nature. The project is certified LEED Platinum, the highest rating in LEED’s green building certification program.
Want to see the other designs featured in the top 10 best sustainable buildings of 2020? You can find them right here in this story from Fast Company.