Whereas Art Deco drew its aesthetic energy from the ornamental panels of the Art Nouveau tradition, and Modern Architecture propelled the rise of monolithic geometric forms (still the dominant style for many corporate headquarters), the burgeoning Sustainable Architecture movement might bring us back to the sunny side of the road (or hill, depending on your project site).
Scouring the Internet for examples of sustainable buildings, I came across the lists of top green building projects (updated annually) by the American Institute of Architecture's Committee on the Environment (AIA's COTE) and some of the projects selected by TIME as part of its Green Design 100 for 2009. (You can locate these projects and more in our catalog of case studies here.)
Many of these buildings make the most of the prevalent natural light, wind patterns, and climate conditions at the site. Chatwell school in Seaside, California (LEED Platinum), for example, uses "north-facing windows and clerestories" to "provide excellent daylighting, support the net-zero electrical goal, and improving student outcomes" (AIA/COTE). Similarly, World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, employs "practical, straightforward, low-tech, low-cost strategies for sustainable design such as siting, orientation, natural daylighting and ventilation, and high-efficiency mechanical systems" (AIA/COTE). Shanghai Tower, poised to become one of the tallest in China, incorporates a "spiraling design" to "[reduce] wind load, and the parapet collects rainwater, to be used for heating and cooling systems."
Since most architects now construct and study their projects digitally before breaking ground, they rely on not only architectural modeling software (like Autodesk Revit, Bentley Architecture, Vectorworks Architect, and Graphisoft ArchiCAD) but also energy analysis software (Autodesk Ecotect Analysis, Bentley Hevacomp, Bentley Tas, and IES).
The importance of local climate data is evident in the efforts software developers have made to acquire and incorporate macro and micro climate data into the analysis process. In November, at the Green Building Expo in Phoenix, Arizona, Autodesk announced it just added data from more than a million global weather stations into its Green Building Studio Web-based analysis software.
"Giving our users access to a huge data set of hourly, site-specific, and more relevant weather information represents a significant step forward," noted John Kennedy, senior manager, sustainable analysis products, for Autodesk AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) solutions.