The ten best sustainable structures around the world – Part One

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From Winnipeg to Shanghai, these buildings stand out in their sustainability efforts.

Sustainable architecture works to reduce the collective environmental impacts in the design, construction, and life cycle of a building. In this two-part series, we’re reviewing the most noteworthy sustainable buildings around the world and their efforts to offset climate change impacts.


10. Manitoba Hydro Place, Winnipeg, Canada

The Manitoba Hydro Place is precisely designed to integrate with the natural features of its environment and the people in it. 

When the original on-site structures were taken down, the team ensured that 95% of the materials from the old structures remained intact. The remains of the original buildings were reused, recycled, or salvaged. Every aspect of the building design from the sunny open floor spaces, high ceilings, windows, modern workstations, to the 100% fresh air ventilation system is designed to maximize employee productivity and minimize energy consumption. 

The Manitoba Hydro Place received a LEED Gold rating by achieving 100% of the cooling load and 50% of the heating load covered by the geothermal heat pump system. It also has:

  • A living “green” roof with mosses, grasses, and lichens
  • Exposed radiant ceiling slabs — maintained at 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round
  • An atrium to provide fresh air conditioning
  • A solar chimney to enhance fresh air ventilation
  • Glazing designed to maximize daylight and reduce artificial lighting
  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Pumps, drives, and a double external wall to reduce heating and cooling requirements in extreme temperatures


9. Sun-Moon Mansion, Dezhou, China

The Sun-Moon Mansion is one of the largest solar structures in the world. This solar-powered hotel provided the main conference hall for the Fourth International Solar Cities Conference in 2010. 

With a fan-like design, the building covers an area of 750,000 square meters. The arched roof of the facility is covered with over 5,000 square meters of solar panels. This building was designed to bring together a plethora of event spaces including: a hotel, exhibition centers, research facilities, meeting rooms, and convention centers. 

According to Solaripedia, “The solar roof of the complex enables utilization of solar energy with solar thermal, photovoltaic, and energy-saving technologies.” More than 30 advanced technologies are used to power the facility and boost energy efficiency to 88% such as:

  • Photovoltaic grid-connected power generation
  • Photo-electricity sun-shades
  • Northern grilling sun-shades

“The building is reported to save an estimated 2.5 tons standard coal, 6.6 million kWh of electricity, and more than 8.6 tons in toxic emissions.”


8. Bahrain World Trade Center, Manama, Bahrain

The Bahrain World Trade Center is the first skyscraper to incorporate wind turbines into its design. 

The impressive, eco-friendly building is located in the city of Manama and is 50-floors, 1,291,669 square feet, and has a twin-tower structure. The towers are connected by three sky bridges supporting three industrial wind turbines that are roughly 95 feet in diameter and face north. The wind turbines are effective in these skyscrapers because with higher elevation comes more wind. According to A Sustainable Architecture Marvel, “The wind turbines on their own generate 225 kilowatts of power, totaling 675 kilowatts together. The power the turbines generate provides roughly 15 percent of the building’s 1.1 gigawatt-hours power consumption.”

In addition, the building is covered in high-quality, shaded solar glass that is connected to a district cooling system. Together they reduce the building’s air temperature. The Bahrain World Trade Center takes seawater from the Persian Gulf, pumps the water through a pipeline, and uses it to chill units. These units then pass the chilled water through air conditioning units. These innovative, cost-effective designs reduce carbon emissions more than traditional heating and cooling systems.


7. The Crystal, London, UK

The Crystal is the first building to achieve the highest certification in both the BREEAM and LEED. This iconic building draws structural inspiration from the many sides of a crystal, creating unique internal spaces. The Crystal includes an auditorium, conference facilities, meeting rooms, and office spaces. This all-electric building uses solar power and a ground source heat pump to generate its own energy and increase efficiency. In addition, it incorporates rainwater harvesting, black water treatment, solar heating, and automated building management systems.

Its 160 deep energy piles and an array of deep geothermal bores provide 100% of the building’s space heating requirements, and the majority of its hot water and heat demands. 

According to the ISG Case Study, “Two-thirds of the roof is covered in photovoltaic panels generating 17-20% of its electrical energy.” In addition, “solar thermal panels provide heat to the domestic hot water system. Only 10% of the water used within the building is sourced from the public main due to the installation of a 60,000 litre rainwater harvesting tank and black water treatment.” The building will have a low carbon footprint throughout its lifetime thanks to its highly insulated and airtight cladding, renewable energies, and energy-efficient lighting and fittings.


6. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Tower relies on 43 types of sustainable technologies to keep the building temperate and improve wind resistance.  The Shanghai Tower reduced its total energy consumption by 21% through using multiple renewable energy sources, extensive landscaping, and structural wind resistance. In fact, through careful design they reduced its carbon footprint by an estimated 37,000 metric tons yearly and saved $58 million in material costs. The structure has earned the American LEED Gold certification. 

Is the Shanghai Tower the world’s first eco-friendly skyscraper? explains, “Comprised of nine vertical zones of 12-15 stories each, the ‘city within a city’ holds offices, housing, cultural facilities, and commercial space. Cutting-edge technologies include wind turbines at the building’s crown that produce 54,000 kWh/year in renewable energy, powering external lighting. Two curtain walls envelope the building, creating an air pocket to insulate in winter and cool in summer.”

Check back for Part two (next week) to learn about the top five most sustainable buildings in the world!

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