Integrative Bio-Systems Design.

Shelter - Green Building


Shibam, Yemen - Image courtesy CraTerre

The need for shelter is as ancient as humanity itself, and the ways in which this need has been met over the millennia has been one of the most durable manifestations of human culture. The collective quest for shelter, community, and livelihoods gave rise to the settlements that nurtured civilisations around the globe.

The built environment crystallises many generations of personal and collective choices to satisfy the need for shelter and comfort.

Why Green Building?

In the postindustrial era of globalisation, urbanisation and population growth, the pace and intensity of building is unprecedented. Mainstream building technology is capital intensive, depends on the cheap availability of fossil fuels and generates large amounts of pollution. Currently, most buildings are not designed according to ecological principles: they are often placed without sensitivity to the immediate environment, inefficient in their use of energy and materials, and encourage wasteful and consumptive resource streams. It is unsustainable in the extreme, generating ever-increasing costs throughout their life-cycles and placing great strain on the environment and on human health.

Sustainable building technology emphasises the revitalisation of traditional skills, ecological design and the use of locally-available resources to build dwellings that are energy-efficient, in harmony with nature, and healthy for people to live and work in. Open Synergy can assist with design, training, and implementation of sustainable building projects, working with individual buildings as well as with large-scale settlements.


Earthbuilding technologies make use of earth as a primary building material. Earth is one of the oldest and most widely used building materials in the world. Earthbuilding traditions are found around the world in most cultures. The origins of civilisation and urbanisation are closely entwined with earthbuilding technology, esp. The monumental buildings of great civilisations were built and supported by people who lived mostly in earthen dwellings. Today, earthbuilding is experiencing a renaissance as ecological designers, architects and home owners become aware of the solid, thermally efficient and aesthetically pleasing structures that can be built of local resources with low embodied energy. There are many different earthbuilding traditions, including adobe, cob, rammed-earth, strawbale, and many others.


However, with clever design and modifications, most buildings can be retrofitted. Retrofitting involves the conversion of an existing structure along ecological guidelines to make it more resource-efficient, comfortable, and aesthetic.

In doing so, we avoid generating a completely new ecological footprint by using space and materials that have already been assembled. In this way, we avoid generating the emissions associated with the embodied energy of new materials. Coherent retrofitting projects represent one of the most effective ways of achieving a more sustainable built environment.

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