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Towards Sustainable Development and Green Buildings

Ass. Prof. Athraa Mohammed Jawad Al-hassani
University of Kufa / Engineering Faculty
e-mail: athraam.alhasani@uokufa.edu.iq


The world’s interest at the present time in preserving the environment and the lives of human societies on Earth represents the most important scientific, philosophical, and applied trends towards which most studies and research are directed. We notice that the rapid developments that the world is witnessing in terms of population growth, in addition to the energy crisis and the problems of pollution resulting from energy consumption and its negative effects on the environment, have aroused the interest of various countries, whether they are exporters or importers of energy.
The construction sector industry are no longer isolated from the urgent environmental issues that have begun to threaten the world and have been noticed in the last few years. On the one hand, these industries are major consumers of natural resources such as land, materials, water, and energy; on the other hand, construction industry operations generate significant amounts of noise, pollution, and solid waste. The problem of wasting energy and water remains one of the most prominent environmental and economic problems for buildings because it continues throughout the period of occupancy of the building. For these and other reasons, the concept of “sustainability,” “sustainable buildings,” or “green buildings” has begun to spread in many countries around the world, with the goal of establishing and constructing environmentally friendly buildings, both in terms of internal and external environment components, as well as how to treat building waste and incorporate sustainable design methods and smart technologies into the building, and this does not just work on paper. Using sustainable building concepts reduces energy consumption and greatly reduces raw materials and toxic materials that are harmful to the environment and humans. It not only reduces construction and maintenance costs but also creates a pleasant and comfortable environment, improves the health of users and increases their productivity rates.

1. Introduction

There are many popular terms in the world today, such as “green architecture,” “sustainable architecture,” “sustainable design,” and “environmental design.” All of these terms, no matter how many there are, try to find a balance between human needs and preserving natural resources in order to reduce pollution in the environment.
One of the most prominent modern concepts is the concept of sustainable development, which is concerned with the future of the Earth. This term gained great global interest after the emergence of the Brundtland Commission report, “Our Common Future.” Prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, where the first definition of sustainable development was formulated as “development that meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” (Blowers, 1993).
Over time, it has become clear that sustainable development is not a passing fad. Instead, sustainability is a continuous, dynamic, and sophisticated way of life. It is not a specific and understandable result that can be reached after a certain amount of time. Instead, it is a process and a political approach, not a design problem that needs specific solutions.
Sustainable urban development is directly concerned with the issue of sustainable development. Urban activity is a major consumer of energy, or in other words, a major cause of environmental pollution and a major consumer of natural resources and depletable materials. For example, in the United States of America, 40% of all the energy used is by the urban sector (نصير، رضا، أحمد، (2003. The architect James Wines )2009) indicates in his book “Green Architecture” that buildings consume 1/6 supply of fresh water in the world, 1/4 production of wood, and 2/5 of fuels and manufactured materials, and at the same time produce half of the greenhouse gases, and he adds that the area of the built environment in the world will double within a very short period ranging between 40 and 20 years ahead. These facts make the construction and operation of urban buildings one of the most energy and resource consuming industries in the world. Despite the lack of statistics in developing countries, where the focus is on development, building and construction work and relative neglect of other sectors, it is expected that the percentage of urban energy consumption will reach about 80% of the total energy consumed at the national level on the scale of energy consumption. Studies show that 40% of the gases released into the air and about 25% of solid waste come from cities. Also, 20% of the waste that ends up in rivers and seas comes from cities. (نصير، رضا، أحمد، (2003
From this point on, the advanced industrial countries became very interested in the new ideas and methods for designing and putting projects into action. Among these concepts are “sustainability”, “sustainable design”, “sustainable architecture”, and “green buildings”.
All of these ideas show that urban areas are becoming more interested in economic development issues related to protecting the environment, using less energy, making the best use of natural resources, and relying more on renewable energy sources.
The main objective of this study is to give a call to deal with the environment in a more balanced manner, especially by planners, architects, and designers, and to search for planning and design alternatives for modern cities and new residential complexes by taking advantage of new and renewable natural energy sources.

2. The concept of sustainable development and sustainability
2.1 Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is defined as a development that reconciles environmental, economic, and social development, thus creating a valid link between these three poles: economically effective, socially just, and environmentally feasible. The social goal, which is manifested in the search for justice (SART COGITERRA, 2006) The researcher (Ghanaym, 2001) said that sustainable development is growth that meets the needs of the present without hurting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development is a three-dimensional, interconnected and overlapping development called the 3E principles, as shown in Figure 1, where the environmental, economic, and social dimensions overlap, in addition to a fourth dimension, which is the dimension related to municipal and local policies (the decision-making body).That is, there are no longer dividing lines between the environment and the economy since the emergence and spread of the concept of sustainable development, which emphasizes beyond any doubt that ensuring the continuity of economic growth cannot be achieved in light of the threat to the environment from pollutants and waste, the destruction of its vital systems, and the depletion of its natural resources.

Figure (1) The Ingredients for Sustainable Development (Ree, H.J. van 2003)


Any discussion of sustainability that doesn’t include the environment and its problems is weak and pointless. For this reason, it’s important to briefly mention some of the most important environmental problems (Ratcliff & Stubbs, 1999).
1. Current urban land-use policies exacerbate environmental issues such as increased fumes, rising gases, and high temperatures. In contrast, sustainable planning policies must achieve sound urban growth.
2. Global warming by increasing carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, nitrogen oxides, methane, and others, all of which increase the Earth’s temperature.
3. Damage to the ozone layer, which protects the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and the negative effects these rays have on humans, plants, and animals.
4. Changes in climate and the environment have led to the loss of forests, which means that they can no longer cool the air.
5. Industrial pollution in the air, sea, and land.
6. There is a depletion of non-renewable sources of fuel, minerals, rocks, sand, and others, so there is a need to replace energy sources with renewable energy sources.

2.2 Sustainability

As for the definition of sustainability, it is generally difficult to find a specific text for it. It varies according to what is meant by this definition, and it comes with various definitions, including:
A. Sustainability is defined as “achieving a budget that allows for economic prosperity and social justice for future generations” (2008 ). (2008نجيل كمال وشمائل محمد وجيه الدباغ،( .
B. Sustainability is “development that provides real improvements to human life while preserving the vitality and diversity of the Earth for future generations.”.” (ممتاز، رنا.(2006
C. Sustainability represents a multi-dimensional path that aims to achieve creativity and improve the quality of life for each person by reducing waste and pollution, improving community livelihood, preserving natural resources, working to achieve close links between people, promoting cooperation and efficiency, and developing local assets to revive economies Hillier and Gill (1987).
Green sustainable architecture is concerned with the relationship between economic development and environmental conservation (Ratcliff and Stubbs, 1999). The effects of urban activities and buildings on the environment have clear economic dimensions, and vice versa. Energy consumption is directly related to the phenomenon of sick buildings, which arises from a greater reliance on air conditioning and artificial lighting.

3. Pillars of environmentally friendly buildings

Several pillars have been developed for sustainable buildings in order to facilitate the process of monitoring and evaluating the specifications of design, implementation, and operation, and they can be summarized as:
1. The location and surroundings land.
2. Energy management and renewable energy.
3. Water management and treated water.
4. Material and waste management.
5.The quality of the environment.

First – The location and surrounding land.
This part emphasizes and encourages:
1. Reusing buildings and sites to protect the land and reduce the impact of new expansions at the expense of the environment, particularly on sites damaged by previous use, such as industrial sites.
2. utilizing the surrounding environment in such a way that the building site is selected to fulfill environmental goals, such as reducing consumption via the direct or indirect use of sunshine, shadow, and topographic surface characteristics.
3. Increasing the density of plant cover around the structures, which serves to enhance the interior environment and offer shade, reduces heat loss in the winter and provides cooling in the summer, as shown in Fig. 2.
4. Encouraging the use of different forms of transportation, except for individual ones, and planning them to be as close as possible to the current transportation methods.

Figure 2. Vegetation around buildings.

Second- Energy management and renewable energy
The development and effective management of energy resources is one of the most essential pillars of sustainable development. Energy sources in the world vary between fossil sources represented by oil, natural gas, coal, water sources, and renewable sources. Renewable energy is essential to conserving fossil fuel supplies for future generations and safeguarding the environment by lowering polluting gas emissions.
The concept of renewable energy and its sources
Renewable energy sources are characterized by the possibility of their continuous exploitation without this leading to the exhaustion of their sources. Renewable energy is that which we obtain through energy cycles that are automatically and periodically repeated in nature (زرزور ابراهيم 2006). We also mean by “renewable energy” the electricity that is generated from solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, energy extracted from the ground, as well as biofuels and hydrogen extracted from renewable sources (هاني عبيد 2000).
The most important renewable resources that can be used in our region are:
1. Solar energy:
The use of the sun as a source of energy is among the hoped-for alternatives to oil since it is a clean and endless energy source. Because of this, a lot of countries want to develop this source and have set it as a goal to reach. Currently, solar energy is used for home water heating, swimming pool heating and cooling, as it is in Europe and the United States, Fig. 3.

Figure 3. Solar technology.

2. Wind Energy:
Wind energy is the energy derived from the movement of air and wind, and today the concept of this energy is linked to its use in generating electricity by “windmills” and generating stations established in a specific place, and the needy areas are fed through electric wires. According to estimates by the International Standards Organization, it is possible to generate 20 million megawatts from this source Fig. 4.


A. windmills to generate electric power

B. Combined solar and wind technology
Figure 4. wind energy.

3. Biomass energy

The importance of biomass energy resides in the fact that it comes in the fourth place for energy sources at the present time, as it constitutes 14% of the energy needs in the world, and the importance of this energy increases in developing countries, where this percentage rises to 35% of the energy needs in those countries. especially in rural areas. Biomass energy, or as it is sometimes called bioenergy, is basically organic matter such as wood, agricultural crops, and animal waste, and this energy is renewable energy because it converts the sun’s energy into energy stored in plants through the process of photosynthesis. As long as there are green plants, there is solar energy stored in them, so we have biomass energy that you can get in different ways from these plants as shown in Fig. 5.

Figure 5. Examples of bioenergy.

Third- Water management and treated water

In this regard, the following points must be taken into consideration:
1. Effective water management: by reducing losses from water leakage, repairing pipes, and using low-flow equipment in bathrooms and taps to reduce consumption.
2. Faucets: Using a number of technologies, such as automatic control and control by sensors or devices that release a set amount of water and then close the faucet, helps to control consumption.
3. Use of gray water: gray water is defined as water produced by showers, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, washing machines, drinking water springs, and air conditioners. It can be used directly for some applications, such as irrigation, cooling, industrial purposes, bathroom siphons, and firefighting equipment. It should be noted that it is preferable not to use it for irrigation of vegetables and fruits, and its disadvantages are that there must be a separate stream for gray water from sewage water from other sources, and it must be checked to ensure its validity and the use of a filter in the system. It is self-cleaning and easy to clean. For sanitary reasons, the system must be used below ground level.
4. Collecting rainwater and using it for irrigation or drinking after purification, it should not be stored for long periods before being used for irrigation. Rainwater harvesting and utilization have many benefits for the environment as it reduces flooding and reduces pressure on specific water sources. Rainwater has a lower mineral content for both arsenic and the natural toxins found in groundwater, making it of higher quality than other water sources.

Fourth- Material and waste management

In this section, emphasis and encouragement are placed on:
1. Using recycled, repurposed, and renewable building materials to reduce environmental impact. The use of materials that are easy to clean and maintain, recyclable and low in emissions of harmful gases should be encouraged. And it must be taken into consideration when choosing paint and covering for walls that there are no volatile organic compounds in it. They must be painted in light-reflective colors, which reduces the amount of light that must be used.
2. The use of construction waste, which is solid non-hazardous waste generated from construction and demolition activities, and the main component in general is concrete, Figure 6. The following are the most common wastes:
Recycled concrete aggregates (RCA) can be used to protect bridge sides, backfill, as aggregate in asphalt concrete, under bedding for roads and in paving, as a substitute for aggregate, under railway tracks, as a filling and filtering material. Generally, recycled aggregate is partially or completely replaced by natural aggregates, according to the size of the granules Hendricks, C. And Janssen (2001), U.S. Corps of Engineers (2004), Pun S., Lui C. et al. (2006).
Wood: reuse, reduce the size of the sector, or use as a filler.
Waste of bricks, stones and ceramics, can be used as fine or coarse aggregate in concrete mixtures, as well as it can be used in thermal insulation.

Figure 6. Recycled aggregate


Fifth, the quality of the internal environment:

Due to his need for food, drink, air and movement, man is considered a source of pollution to the internal environment in which he lives.
1. The main causes of pollution (سامي عبد الله محمد, (2008:
1-1 Organic matter such as mold, bacteria, and dust that forms as a result of leakage and moisture.
1-2 Smoking: Because of this, there needs to be a way to stop people from smoking inside the building, either by giving them places with air filters or by not letting them smoke inside at all.
1-3 Construction Materials: There are many chemical compounds that are used in the manufacture of building materials and modern finishes and are responsible to a large extent for air pollution inside buildings and housing.
1-4 Dyes and paints, which alone contain about 300 chemicals, find their way into the air.
1-5 Insulating materials in construction are considered an important environmental and economic requirement aimed at saving energy consumption, but when using them, we have to control the isolation of these materials from the internal environment because any volatile materials pose a threat to health.
1-6 Industrial carpets, since they are regarded as a polluting source owing to the toxic chemicals used in their production. In addition to holding dirt and dust, carpets provide an ideal environment for the growth of many germs and fungi, and are thus considered a pollutant to the air we breathe and the food we eat.
1-7 Energy consumption, which is closely related to the phenomenon of sick buildings, arises from relying more on air conditioning while neglecting natural ventilation and relying on artificial lighting to illuminate buildings, which leads to an increase in energy consumption and at the same time reduces the environmental and health benefits in terms of if the sun’s rays sometimes enter the building. Recent research has shown that long-term exposure to artificial light hurts both the physical and mental health of people in very bad ways.

2. Factors to be taken into consideration for an environmentally friendly building:

2.1 The use of natural energy in order to achieve the two main goals, which are in the winter, taking into account the maximum benefit from heat gain through solar radiation while reducing heat loss from inside the building. In the summer, it is taken into account to avoid solar radiation, reduce heat gain and work on heat loss from inside the building.
2.2 The use of environmentally friendly building and finishing materials that are not high-energy-consuming materials, whether in the manufacturing, installation, or even maintenance stage, and do not contribute to an increase in the building’s internal pollution, i.e., they are made from so-called healthy building materials, which are often natural building materials.
2.3 Good ventilation of the building is one of the most important factors in overcoming the concentration of pollutants in it. It is also worth noting here that the use of some porous materials with the condition of using them without covering them or coating them with paints that block their pores will have the greatest impact on controlling the humidity inside the building, as these materials retain moisture in their pores. At night, when the humidity is higher (especially in dry areas), this moisture spreads out from the pores of these materials during the hot days of the summer, which balances the humidity levels in the dry climate. Examples of these materials are bricks, natural stones or wood.
2.4 Providing lighting inside buildings in two ways: the first is through natural light from the sun, and the second is through artificial lighting. The selection of artificial lighting units that saves on electrical energy consumption is taken into account.
2.5 The philosophy of using colors as they have an important place in all the different activities of the human being, and unlike the aesthetic effects of colors in the case of using them in harmony and thoughtful integration, colors also have psychological and physiological effects on humans.
2.6 Taking into account the acoustic design and avoiding noise. Sound, like light, has tangible effects on human health. So, it should be thought about using walls, floors, and ceilings that are good at stopping sounds or noise from getting through.

Sustainable design criteria for the building:

Several criteria for evaluating sustainable buildings have emerged, the most important of which are:
1. The American Green Building Council (USGBC), which established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system (LEED).
2. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHARE).
3. Building Research Foundation to support environmental assessment, which serves the United Kingdom, Europe and Canada.
4. BREEAM, which was implemented in the United Kingdom in 1990.
The LEED Certificate is now awarded for outstanding projects in green sustainable architecture applications in the United States of America. LEED standards aim to produce greener built environments and buildings with better economic performance. These criteria that are provided to architects, engineers, and investors consist of a simple list of criteria used to judge the extent of the building’s commitment to green controls, and according to these criteria, points are awarded to the building in various aspects. The energy efficiency of the building is awarded within (17 points), and the efficiency of water use is awarded within (5 points), while the internal environment quality and safety points in the building reach 15 points. Additional points can be earned when adding specific features to the building, such as renewable energy or carbon dioxide monitoring systems. After estimating the points for each aspect by the relevant committee, the total points that reflect the LEED rating are calculated and classified for the intended building. The building that achieves a total of 39 points gets a rating (golden), and the building that achieves a total of 52 points gets a platinum rating, which means that the building achieves a reduction in environmental impacts of at least 70% compared to a similar traditional building.


1. Applying the concept and practices of “green architecture” to various buildings, through architects and engineers qualified in this field. Green buildings have an effective role in protecting the environment and thus a healthy life, preserving water resources, using energy efficiently and recycling the resources used in their construction, in addition to the possibility of using renewable energy.
2. “Sustainable architecture” is not an academic luxury, nor a theoretical orientation, or aspirations and dreams that have no place in reality. Rather, it represents a global applied orientation and conscious professional practice, and this in turn requires attention to its teaching so that engineering colleges, especially architecture and civil engineering, become an “incubator” of sustainable architecture and green buildings.
3. Getting to know the experiences of developed cities towards green architecture and trying to transfer these experiences to our country in a way that suits our needs and values.
4. Studying the architectural heritage from the point of view that they are environmentally friendly buildings and inventing new solutions that meet our modern needs in a harmonious and balanced green manner.
5. The various sectors of the state, such as urban, agricultural, industrial, tourism, social and economic development, should support and work to encourage green architecture projects, issue laws and legislation to achieve this, and implement research and training policies.
6. We must know that if we do not adopt sustainability as a way of life, we have endangered the lives of future generations.
7. Adopting the principle of sustainability and green building for all construction operations, from site selection to the final stages, with an emphasis on taking sustainability into account by choosing materials made from recycled materials instead of choosing materials that go to sanitary landfill sites, which occupy an area in the sanitary landfill site and exhaust resources, so these materials can be used once again.


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