Green Architecture

Green by Need

Principles of Modernism could be applied universally around the world and innovative technical materials such as concrete and steel allowed for limitless possibilities. Locally rooted materials and building cultures lost out against an industrialized global building culture. Most modern building materials, however, are produced using resource-intensive processes; they generate considerable waste; and they are also responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. We are now confronted with climate change and destruction of natural habitats as part of Modernism’s heritage. Therefore, it’s time to radically rethink and revise our frame of reference.

The concept of circularity relies on ways of doing and being in the world that date as far back as antiquity. For many, circularity represents a different way that human society is interrelated with nature (Prieto-Sandoval et al., 2018). In this section of the module, Carola attempts to trace the origins of green architecture and how the concept evolved over the years. ‘Green by Need’ is the first of three videos that discusses the historical foundations of circularity. How did the principles of circularity manifest in the production of the built space and the social relations of the communities that produced them in traditional, vernacular architecture?

Main Takeaways

  • Humans sourced basic materials locally, materials were constantly reused and recycled, construction was carried out by locals and was also adaptive to local climates.
  • Construction was a manifestation of communal living and was accompanied by other types of social interaction like festivals and celebrations.
  • The specific climate conditions of each region gave way to different typologies, although some limitations did exist: for example, Japanese vernacular buildings were lifted from the ground to allow air circulation whereas their wooden pillars were based on stones to provide resilience to earthquakes. On the other hand, being constructed exclusively with wood and bamboo they could not be built high, whilst the tatami floors made of igusa grass could not accommodate heavy furniture.

Have the traditional practices of building persisted? Are there any indigenous communities you know of that preserve these practices? In Section 04. Materials, Mo discusses similar contemporary examples of traditional building. Click here to watch Mo’s video.


Carola Hein
Carola Hein

Prof. Dr. Ing. Carola Hein is Professor and Head of the Chair History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft. She has published widely in the field of architectural, urban and planning history and has tied historical analysis to contemporary development. Among other major grants, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue research on The Global Architecture of Oil and an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship to investigate large-scale urban transformation in Hamburg in international context between 1842 and 2008. Her current research interests include the transmission of architectural and urban ideas, focusing specifically on port cities and the global architecture of oil. 

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Circularity for Educators

The platform is intended to provide with content on either circularity or pedagogy for and about circularity. It is one of the outcomes of the Circular Impulse Initiative (CII), a project intending to enhance the integration of circularity in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment education. The platform mainly aims to help tutors get better acquainted with circularity in the built environment by providing a series of resources on this subject that they can either view to get better informed or directly share with their students in class or online. A large number of the Faculty's professors and researchers have contributed substantially both in creating a coherent narrative for circularity in the built environment as well as further elaborating on different aspects of it. Besides this one, a new platform for interaction and direct exchange was also established in parallel that we call ‘Educators for Circularity‘. This one offers the opportunity for all of us to meet and share our experiences and learn from one another.

Visit Educators for Circularity