Sustainable construction is becoming increasingly popular as engineers and architects design and build more eco-friendly structures to meet the demand from an ever more environmentally conscious public.
Consequently, sustainable buildings are popping up all over the world and helping to reduce the construction industry’s environmental footprint. Ongoing advancements in construction technology are making it possible for builders to create some of the most eco-friendly buildings ever conceived.
Eco-friendly buildings encompass water and energy efficiency, renewable energy generation and efficiency, conservation of natural resources, and a superior indoor environment. These features help mitigate the over 50% of climate change that the construction industry is responsible for.
In this article, I’ll discuss the 23 most eco-friendly buildings on the planet. You’ll discover where these buildings are located and how they contribute to a greener world.
1. Shanghai Tower, China
This is the tallest LEED Platinum-certified building on the planet. It’s 128-stories and 632 meters (2,073 feet) tall.
The building earned a LEED Platinum certification due to its unique features that make it energy and water-efficient. It has a spiraling parapet for rainwater collection and an internal air conditioning system.
Besides its design, Shanghai Tower has the following green building features:
- Wind turbines on the top to generate electricity.
- Gray water collection and management systems.
- Energy-efficient HVAC systems.
- Smart sensors for lighting control.
2. Marco Polo Tower, Germany
Built in 2009 in Hamburg, Germany, Marco Polo Tower is one of the most eco-friendly buildings on the planet. It utilizes a holistic ecological building design that makes it green.
The building has vacuum collectors on the roof, which uses a heat exchanger to convert the sun’s heat into a cooling system for all apartments. The system reduces the demand for central heating and ventilation, conserving energy.
Other eco-friendly features of the building include:
- Overhanging terraces for protection against direct sun.
- Natural ventilation systems.
- Smart sensors for light control.
3. Bank of America, USA
Built in 2010 in New York, the Bank of America’s building is a commercial skyscraper that meets the requirements for eco-friendly construction.
The bank incorporates a biophilic design that connects people to nature. The design maximizes daylighting and free air circulation to reduce reliance on artificial lighting, heating, and ventilation.
Moreover, the building has heat-reflecting ceramic frit curtain walls and low e-glass windows that minimize heat gain. These features create a conducive indoor environment while conserving energy.
4. PricewaterhouseCoopers, United Kingdom
Located in London, the U.K., PricewaterhouseCoopers building utilizes features that minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it environmentally friendly.
The building’s tri-generation power and heat system reduces its dependence on electricity. The system is fuelled by recycled waste vegetable oil generated locally.
Moreover, it uses chiller beams instead of air conditioning to lower its dependence on electricity. The building’s other eco-friendly features include the following:
- Lower-power lift braking.
- Eco-friendly carpet tiles.
- Airy atria and open plan design for natural lighting.
- A green wall and roof garden.
5. India Tower, India
Located in Mumbai, India, this is intended to be one of the most sustainable buildings in the world.
The 60-story, 301-meter (988 feet) tall skyscraper is designed to utilize natural ventilation and lighting design to reduce its demand for artificial lighting and, thus, conserve energy. It also has a rainwater collection and recycling system that makes it more water efficient.
Moreover, its design uses eco-friendly materials like recycled concrete to conserve non-renewable natural resources.
6. Bullitt Center, USA
Located in Seattle, USA, Bullitt Center incorporates sustainable architecture, eco-friendly construction, energy, and resource management. These features make it one of the greenest office buildings in the world.
The building has 575 rooftop solar panels that generate more than enough energy. It also incorporates energy-efficient systems and structures, such as triple-paned windows, air-tight construction, and excellent insulation.
The building’s other green features include:
- Digital power controls.
- Energy-efficient HVAC system.
- Energy-efficient lighting.
- High-performance appliances.
7. One Angel Square, United Kingdom
Located in Manchester, UK, One Angel Square is an energy-efficient building due to its double-faced architectural design. The design facilitates natural heating in winter and cooling in the summer. It’s also powered by rapeseed oil and biodiesel to lower its dependence on the national grid.
The building features exposed concrete that acts like a thermal sponge. This absorbs the interior heat, lowering the energy needed for cooling.
Moreover, One Angel Square’s ventilation system has a contemporary, bright atrium for efficient heating and cooling.
8. Cube Building, Germany
Based in Berlin, Germany, this office building incorporates some of the most eco-friendly features. It has a unique double-skin facade that uses glass and solar control coating for lighting and indoor temperature control.
It also has a heat control system, air ventilation system, smart technology for energy-use control, and a rooftop terrace.
9. Bosco Verticale, Italy
Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy, features a unique design that incorporates plants to offset pollution through oxygen production. The residential tower complex has over 20,000 square feet (1,858 square meters) of outdoor plants and shrubbery for pollution control. Besides pollution control, these plants enhance biodiversity in the middle of a major city.
Bosco Verticale has an efficient geothermal heat pump for indoor temperature regulation. It also has rooftop solar panels to supplement its power needs.
The building’s energy conservation features contributed immensely to its LEED Gold certification.
10. Sun-Moon Mansion, China
This building has one of the largest solar structures in the world. Its fan-like roof has over 5,000 square-meters (53,820-square-feet) of solar panels that save 6.6 kWh of electricity and 2.5 tons (5,000 lb) of coal.
Moreover, using solar panels for energy has made it possible to eliminate over 8.6 tons (17,200 lb) of emissions like carbon dioxide. Therefore, it contributes immensely toward a greener planet.
The building’s other sustainable features include:
- Photo-electricity sun shades.
- Northern grilling sun-shades.
- Photovoltaic grid-connected power generation.
11. The Edge, Netherlands
The Edge incorporates renewable energy sources, energy conservation, and efficiency. Most of the building’s structural core encompasses materials such as wood and concrete for heat retention. This lowers the energy demand for heating, especially in winter.
Moreover, it uses sun-shading technology to reduce glare while conserving energy. It also reduces its carbon footprint through rainwater harvesting systems, rooftop solar panels, and electric car charging spots.
The building’s green roof provides additional insulation while controlling the heat island effect.
12. Crystal, UK
Located in London, UK, Crystal is one of the most eco-friendly buildings on the planet due to its use of renewable energy.
Built in 2012, Crystal has geothermal, wind, and solar energy systems for power generation. These renewable energy sources are essential for achieving the building’s zero-carbon footprint goal.
Furthermore, Crystal has an insulated green roof that makes it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This natural heating and cooling feature conserves more energy for the building. It also has transparent inward-facing glazing to maximize daylighting and reduce the building’s dependence on artificial lighting.
13. Council House 2, Australia
Council House 2 is one of Australia’s greenest buildings. It was the first building to be awarded the Six Green Star Rating in the country due to its energy conservation initiatives and low carbon emissions.
Council House 2 has rooftop solar panels generating enough energy to power most of the building’s activities. Furthermore, it reduces its carbon emissions through gas-fired cogeneration units.
Its cutting-edge lighting system also facilitates energy conservation.
14. Clock Shadow Building, USA
Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Clock Shadow Building was mainly built with salvaged materials. It incorporates reclaimed wood siding, rusted steel panels, and cream city bricks. These materials were salvaged from other buildings to conserve natural resources.
Clock Shadow Building also features a roof garden that provides added insulation for energy conservation.
The building has a stormwater management system that makes it highly water-efficient.
15. SEAT’s Martorell Plant, Spain
Located in Barcelona, Spain, SEAT’s Martorell Plant is an automotive company building with some excellent sustainable building features. It has approximately 4,000-square-meter (43,056-square-foot) photocatalytic pavement, which reduces air pollution by about 40%.
The company also has the largest solar panel inventory in the automotive industry. Its 53,000 rooftop solar panels generate about 17 million kWh annually, sufficient to power most of its activities.
16. Suzlon One Earth, India
Suzlon One Earth is among the most eco-friendly buildings in India. It was designed with sustainable features to cut its operating costs by 35%.
The building is water-efficient due to its rainwater harvesting and recycling system. The system collects and recycles rainwater for reuse to reduce reliance on municipal water. It also has an onsite waste collection and recycling facility to remove waste from landfills.
17. Olympic House, Switzerland
Built in 2019, Olympic House boasts LEED v4 Platinum certification due to its effective use of resources and energy conservation measures. Over 95% of the materials used for construction were recycled to conserve natural resources.
Moreover, the building has a green roof that plays a crucial role in energy conservation. The green roof provides insulation to keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer. This natural heating and cooling mechanism reduces reliance on artificial heating and cooling systems, saving money and reducing carbon emissions.
18. Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes, USA
This is an educational and research facility that meets all the six highest green building certifications. The building’s main sustainable feature is its use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. These energy sources reduce its dependency on mains electricity, minimizing its carbon footprint.
Moreover, the facility has rain and stormwater harvesting and management systems. The water harvested from these sources is treated with sand and UV filters to make it usable.
19. One Central Park, Australia
Located in Sydney, Australia, One Central Park is a mixed-use building that houses residential apartments and offices.
The 130-meter (427-foot) skyscraper features a green wall that covers 50% of its skin for energy conservation. It also has indoor and outdoor loggias for protection against noise, sun, and wind.
The building’s other green features include:
- Rainwater harvesting system: It harvests and recycles rainwater for reuse, reducing pressure on municipal water.
- Green roof: It provides additional insulation to make the building energy-efficient by keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer.
- Recycled materials: Most materials used in its construction were recycled from demolished structures to conserve natural resources.
20. Amherst College Science Center, USA
Located in Massachusetts, the Amherst College Science Center is an education building designed for maximum daylighting to reduce its dependency on electrical lighting. The roof combines photovoltaic panels and skylights for artificial and natural lighting.
Also, the center has vertical windows to maximize sunlight penetration for light and warmth. Therefore, occupants don’t always have to rely on electricity for light and heating, conserving more energy in the process.
21. Museum of Tomorrow, Brazil
Based in Rio de Janeiro, the Museum of Tomorrow is a science-based building known for its extraordinary design. The museum has a cooling system that utilizes the nearby bay for temperature regulation. The design facilitates energy conservation, reducing the museum’s bills.
The structure’s spines consist of solar panels that can be moved depending on the sun’s orientation. This maximizes incident solar radiation to generate more energy for the museum’s operations.
More solar heat gain means the building doesn’t rely heavily on electricity for heating, lowering its carbon footprint.
22. Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, India
Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre is a 20,000-square-foot (1,858-square-meter) institutional and commercial facility in Hyderabad, India. Its LEED Platinum certification is a testament to high energy efficiency standards.
The building has between 50 and 60 percent green roof for energy conservation and increased biodiversity. The remaining part of the roof has photovoltaic cells for solar energy generation.
The building’s wastewater recycling facility captures and purifies stormwater for reuse in irrigation. Purifying wastewater for reuse has made this building more water-efficient.
23. Pixel Building, Australia
This is the country’s first carbon-neutral building that houses offices. It demonstrates the highest sustainability standards due to its score of 105 points on Australia’s sustainable rating system.
The building’s main sustainable features include:
- Waste reduction system: It promotes sustainability by encouraging recycling and reuse to minimize waste generation.
- Water harvesting: It has a system that harvests and stores rainwater from the roofs.
- Green roof: It provides additional insulation to minimize energy consumption.
- Renewable energy sources: It has solar panels for energy generation.
Final Thoughts On Eco-Friendly Buildings
These are the most eco-friendly buildings on the planet and I hope they inspire you to follow environmentally friendly construction principles in your own building projects.
You can implement similar energy, water, and natural resource conservation tactics to make your next structure more eco-friendly.