What is green design and what are the steps to achieving it?

June 2014

Green design is the ‘creation of buildings which are energy-efficient healthy, comfortable, flexible in use and designed for long life’ (Foster + Partners, 1999). Green design should have a minimal impact on the environment, both in terms of products and materials used in the construction but in the functionality of the building.

A sustainable design should always seek to amalgamate environmentally-preferred outcomes throughout the whole life-cycle of the building. The choices that are made during the design stage can have a huge impact on how sustainable a building can be. Therefore, if a building can adapt over generations and still remain environmentally friendly it is truly sustainable. This is what is at the core of sustainable design, the ability to adjust to changes through time.

The steps to achieving it


Designing for the future is a key part of design, but is of particular importance in green design. How the space will function for its original purpose and how it could be used in the future are at the heart of this concept.

Sustainable building also considers whether a space can be used for multiple purposes at different periods during its life-time. Also, factors such as how easy the space can be converted and retrofitted, without replacing existing products and technologies and lessening the impact of the building will have on the environment will also make it more sustainable.

Thus consideration should be given not only to how environmentally friendly a product/technology is but how they will degrade overtime, how often they will need to be replaced and what are its long-term limits.

BIM is contributing hugely to the drive to improve green design. Not only does BIM help with cutting down on waste during the initial construction phase but the technical data that is attached to a BIM object can help predict the life-cycle of that object – from specification, to construction and lifetime use, and ultimately to possible reuse.

Green design can often be viewed as a complicated concept, but it need not be. Green design, and how to incorporate it with ease into a design project, will be looked at in detail at the RIBA Journal one-day Sustainability Conference [LINK REMOVED - NO LONGER CURRENT] in London on Tuesday 24 June.

RIBAJ Sustainability Conference

Green design and sustainability experts Rab Bennetts, from Bennetts Associates, and Chris Twinn from Twinn Sustainability Innovation will be discussing key issues and benefits of green design and how we successfully measure sustainability. Many other high profile industry speakers will be sharing their views and experiences of sustainability and for a full speaker list and conference programme visit the RIBA Journal website at www.ribajournal.com externallink.

For further details on this conference, held on Tuesday 24 June, or to book your tickets visit [LINK REMOVED - NO LONGER CURRENT]

NBS will be live tweeting from the event – you can follow it here on our sustainability blog [LINK REMOVED - NO LONGER CURRENT] or keep an eye on the conference hashtag #greenfuture for updates.

*References: Rough Guide to Sustainability: A design Primer, Brian Edwards, RIBA Publishing, 4th Edition, 2014