Architecture that has overcome the odds to be sustainable

Desperate times call for innovative measures when it comes to architecture and sustainability. Here we’ve showcased four projects that have overcome the odds to be sustainable, either in a novel way or in spite of a challenging environment.


Michelle Haworth

The good news is that there are many of these projects in almost every corner of the globe. We hope those in the industry keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with regard to sustainable design.

The Sustainability Treehouse by Mithun

Situated in the dense forest of West Virginia, The Sustainability Treehouse lies unassuming and harmoniously embedded in its environment. The net-zero energy and net-zero water facility is enabled through the use of interactive building systems: photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and a water collection and filtration system. Its interactive educational exhibits and panoramic treetop views stimulate exploration and wonder for anyone lucky enough to visit the facility.

Photo: Ekberg Lous Arkitekter Photo: Ekberg Lous Arkitekter

Vega Archipelago’s UNESCO World Heritage Visitor Center

It’s only fitting that the visitor centre of the Vega Archipelago be sustainable: though inhospitable, fisherman-farmers have managed to maintain a sustainable living there for the past 1500 years with their unique ways of living in, and interacting with nature. The building alike blends in timelessly with nature. It facilitates visitors’ engagement with their surroundings with its expansive windows and bridged entranceway over a natural canal.

Photo: Studio Komma Photo: Studio Komma

The Ultimate Upcycle

A consortium of architects have planned to build 2 ‘Marine-doc Estates’ in The Netherlands and a further 16 internationally. The luxury estates will be home to between 6–14 cargo ships, which have reached the end of their useful life, and have been adaptively reused into sustainable homes. The former vessels will feature a slew of solar panels circling an expansive roof deck.

Photo: Studio Komma Photo: Studio Komma

3D Printed Homes for El Savador

Austin-based company ICON, in partnership with the non-profit New Story, have set their sights on building a community of 3D printed homes in underserved populations in 2019. Each home will occupy between 600–800 square feet, will take less than 24 hours to construct and cost ~US$4,000 per home. The project incorporates ‘participatory design’meaning they will be designed with the input of the people who will be living in them. A proof of concept home has already been built in Texas, in which ICON’s office is currently situated; the founders serving as its first test subjects.

This article was written by Michelle Haworth

This article was featured in The Beam #8 — Together for Climate Justice, subscribe to The Beam for more.

This article is also available to view on our Medium page.