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Beautiful, Innovative, and Sustainable: The Future of Green Architecture

A roundup of Architizer's favorite projects in architecture + sustainability.

Architizer is hosting the world’s definitive architectural awards program, with 50+ categories and 200+ jurors. As part of an ongoing series, we’re spotlighting projects that fit into “Plus” categories, including “Sustainability,” that tap into topical and culturally relevant themes. To see a full list of categories and learn more about the awards, visit

Today, architecture finds itself at a crossroads. Building materials and new construction, along with the operation and maintenance of buildings, account for a significant sum of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with this fact, how are architects to responsibly pursue the act (and art) of architecture without further deteriorating the planet’s environmental make-up or depleting its resources? What forms of high and low technology can be developed to curtail the injurious side of building? Can good—or even great—architecture be sustainable?

The answer, of course, is yes. The best buildings have always shown a concern for their immediate environs and how they fit in them, whether they were conscious of “sustainability” or not. Now, all architects and buildings are expected to be engaged with sustainable standards, such as LEED titles, photovoltaic cells, or green roofs—all things that these 10 projects have in common. Check out our favorite projects in architecture + sustainability below:

Bosco Verticale
Milan, Italy
Designed by Boeri Studio
Sustainable feature: The world’s first vertical “forest” that absorbs carbon and dust, while shading and cooling the residential towers.
Learn more about this project here.

London Velodrome
London, U.K.
Designed by Hopkins Architects Partnership LLP
Sustainable feature: The London Olympics’ most sustainable structure, the Velodrome is energy-efficient, collects rainwater, implements a passive cooling system, and was designed to use a significantly smaller amount of steel than its neighboring icons.
Learn more about this project here and in the Architizer database here.

Linked Hybrid

Beijing, China
Designed by Steven Holl Architects
Sustainable feature: The entire “green” complex is anchored to the site by 655 geothermal wells, which cool and heat the apartments, offices, and shops.
Learn more about this project in the Architizer database here.

Hempcrete homes
North Carolina
Designed by Hemp Technologies
Sustainable feature: Designed to be made with hempcrete, an aggregate of Cannabis sativa and a lime-based binder that’s an excellent insulator, is extremely fire resistant, and virtually impervious to termites.
Learn more about this project here.

Green-side Wall (aka “Vegitecture”)
Barcelona, Spain
Designed by Capella Garcia Arquitectura
Sustainable feature: A vertical green facade with garden terraces that is maintained by an integrated drip irrigation system. The wall generates oxygen and absorbs C02, while also insulating the adjacent apartment units and dampening street noise.
Learn more about this project here.

California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, California
Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Sustainable feature: Constructed of recovered materials—nearly 95 percent of the steel was recycled—and designed with ventilation and light pumped into all work areas. The building is armed with 60,000 photovoltaic cells that leads to a savings of 5-10 percent in energy usage.
Learn more about this project in the Architizer database here.

Centre for Virtual Engineering
Stuttgart, Germany
Designed by UNStudio
Sustainable feature: Received Gold certification by the German Sustainable Building Council for its “inclusive” approach to sustainable design that features a compact building footprint—making it easier for light to penetrate the structure on all sides throughout the day—and uses low-maintenance, recyclable materials.
Learn more about this project in the Architizer database here.

Melbourne, Australia
Designed by studio505
Sustainable feature: Australia’s first carbon-neutral office building that generates its own power and water on site.
Learn more about this project in the Architizer database here.

Sky City
Changsha, China
Designed by Broad Sustainable Building (BSB)
Sustainable feature: The 220-story skyscraper will be the first in the world to use a prefabricated structure at such a large-scale. The developers behind the project, Broad Sustainable Building, say that this type of construction is the cleanest, fastest, and cheapest building technology yet to be implemented.
Learn more about this project here.

Great City
Chengdu, China
Designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill
Sustainable feature: If it ever gets built, “Great City” would be the world’s first car-free city, with all urban destinations within walking distance from each other. The masterplan features an integrated mass transit system and expansive green parks and forests, while the entire development would use 48 percent less energy and 58 percent less water than a comparable city its size. It should also produce 89 percent less landfill waste and 60 percent less carbon dioxide.
Learn more about this project here.

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