The term “sustainable design” has existed used in multiple disciplines, including but not limited to product design, architecture design, interior design, and graphic design. They refer to the design process that integrates an environmentally friendly approach and considers nature resources as part of the design. Sharlyn Underwood, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Virginia chapter president and interior designer with SmithLewis Architecture, defines sustainable design in the architectural sector this way; “Sustainable design is the practice of designing buildings so that they exist in harmony with natural systems”.

Here is the article to explain, How to define Sustainable Design its Features, Strategies, and Principles!

Sustainable design acts as a philosophy that applies by different companies, governmental entities, and non-governmental organizations to achieve a better future for the human race through the wise and low-volume consumption of Earth’s resources. Companies and governments that have advanced design strategies have more potential to apply sustainable design than others. Companies such as IKEA, for example, are taking advanced steps toward building sustainable products. Additionally, many governments that implement national design policies have provided positive steps toward applying sustainability.

Features of Sustainable Design;

Sustainability is an emerging topic of contention that many people see as a simple passing trend. However, there have been extensive studies conducted by scientists and researchers that indicate that sustainable practices need to adopt by people to ensure the longevity of Earth. Now, the term “sustainable design,” has been extensively used across various fields. This term means sustainable practices and materials used to construct a building, office, or home. Private, semi-private, and public enterprises have different parameters to define “sustainable practices”; but they all have one thing in common, which is an intelligent utilization of Earth’s natural resources. Additionally, many governments have implemented certain design principles that all firms have to follow to consider sustainability.

First and foremost, the building material an architect chooses has a significant impact on a building’s sustainability rating. The most sustainable materials are those that can easily break down, i.e., are compostable. These materials also need to be renewable and recyclable while being sturdy enough to support a structure. Local materials such as wood, bamboo, and stone can also consider sustainable as the transportation costs and emissions will be zero. Architectural salvage is easy to obtain in metro cities.

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Features part 01;

This practice refers to using old scraps and materials used in old demolished buildings to make new homes and buildings. Materials that harvest locally, are non-toxic and are non-synthetic preferred. Another philosophy that underscores sustainable practice is that of smart and renewable sources of energy. These steps can easily conduct while constructing a building, emphasizing the use of renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal, or wind energy. There also needs to be a smart application of energy sources. It is the architect’s job to maximize the dependence of a building on these renewable energy resources.

For instance, seasonal changes can factor in to maximize its energy output. In the scorching summers, the structures can use solar panels, and energy-efficient lighting/appliances can install as well. While the use of energy has to be smart, it needs to focus on energy conservation as well. So, passive energy protection techniques like smart insulation to trap the heat or cool air in the building and appropriate window glazing can also use to reduce the energy consumption in the building massively.

Features part 02;

While all these measures are taken are essential; it is also the architect’s job to ensure how a user feels in the indoor environment of the building. Therefore, a healthy indoor environment is essential for the sustainable architect, with a renewed focus on proper ventilation, temperature control, and smart use of non-toxic materials.

Mitigation of natural disasters can also take into consideration; so that underground shelters can make in a particular building located in a natural disaster-prone zone. Earth shelters, outdoor gardens, and roof gardens are some ways in; which the architect can ensure the user feels more comfortable in the building. To achieve true sustainability, an architect has to look into various ways in; which they can maximize the feeling of comfort and use of sustainable materials; while cutting down on the use of non-recyclable and non-renewable materials. This is a tricky balance that can only achieve through years of practice and honing the skills.

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Strategies of Sustainable Design;

The chief goal of any sustainable design strategy is to provide healthy and comfortable interior spaces, in structures that are both energy and resource-efficient. To this end, several different, but sometimes overlapping, strategies have existed developed; such as ‘passive solar’, ‘bioclimatic’, ‘low energy, and more recently ‘Autonomous’, ‘Zero CO2’, ‘Passive House’ and ‘Low-Heat’. These will explore in detail later, following an examination of some common themes.

In practice, decisions have to make fairly early on in the design process that influences the construction method, materials used, recyclability, durability, and the energy efficiency of the whole project. Put simply, the choice at this stage is between a heavyweight or lightweight building; which in turn presupposes a choice between a monolithic or framed structure. A heavyweight building will tend to be of monolithic construction. That is, all the walls are fully loadbearing and cannot move or pierce without supporting the structure above.

In this case, the structure also provides thermal mass, sound insulation, and impact resistance. In lightweight buildings, made from timber, steel, or concrete posts and beams, the frame itself provides all the necessary structural support. The walls are non-loadbearing and complete the envelope by ‘infilling’ between the posts. These framed buildings can incorporate high levels of insulation and energy efficiency and offer a greater degree of ‘planning freedom’ (internal organization) and flexibility for future use.

Principles of Sustainable Design;

For the designer to consider sustainable design throughout the process; the question becomes what are the stages of the design process and design development that you can consider changing to make a more sustainable product? Below are some ideas on how to implement sustainability in design for each design area:


The form represents the visual shape of the product and stands usually perceived to be the main element of the design. Before designing a product’s layout, however, the designer should ask questions like how will the shape affect energy consumption; and how will the size affect the packaging, transportation costs, and fuel emissions? IKEA’s flat packing strategy, for example, helped it reduce transport costs, fuel usage, and emissions.

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Function and Usability;

The function and usability of the product contribute to its sustainability indirectly; as it helps consumers use the product more easily in less time and with less energy consumption. People do not want to keep hard-to-use products, so usable products can ensure less waste and throwaways.

Cost-Effective Solutions;

For many of today’s sustainable products, the cost is one of the key barriers that prevent many customers from making the switch from their dependence on non-sustainable products. Therefore, the designer and decision-makers are responsible for reducing the cost of current sustainable products.

Renewable Energy;

Designers should stop depending on carbon energy and think in terms of building products that depend on renewable energy, such as solar panels and wind farms.

Materials and Recycling;

Similar to energy, materials play an essential role in sustainable design; as every designer should search for materials that can stand easily recycled or for which the planet can recreate in a short amount of time. For example, IKEA depends on mixed woods and innovative materials to replace traditional varieties of wood that can take a long time to grow in forests. The mixed and recycled materials can also help reduce production costs.

Durable Design Solutions;

To reach zero waste, products have to either be durable enough to last for a long time or stand fully recycled and transformed completely into new products. Depending on both methods can help recycle products more than one time and decrease the dependence on Earth’s resources.

Constant Improvement and Sharing of KnowledgeEvaluation and improvement are important parts of any design process; but, they take on even more important to evaluate sustainable initiatives and improve them enough that they attain the same or better quality than existing products.

The principles above are general considerations that designers can depend on to build a sustainable design or service. Overall, the above design principles take into consideration the environment, people, economy, and culture. Every product or service design should consider these four factors. For example, the materials embedded in products should reflect concern for consumer safety and fit the cultural context in which they will use.



Sustainable Design Features Strategies and Principles Image
Sustainable Design Features, Strategies, and Principles; Image by Muhammad Ihsannudin from Pixabay.
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