Designing with Purpose: Six Fundamental Principles of Sustainable Building

Sustainable building is more than just a buzzword; it’s a vital approach to construction that prioritises environmental responsibility and resource efficiency. As the world grapples with the consequences of climate change, the importance of sustainable building practices has never been more apparent. 

This blog delves into six fundamental principles of sustainable building, offering a detailed exploration of how they contribute to creating a more sustainable future. Stay connected with Imarat for more details. 

The Concept of Energy Efficient Building

Energy use in the building typically includes air conditioning, heating, ventilation, lighting, and facility support. Although every commercial building consumes resources, generates waste, and contributes to pollution, buildings have become more fuel-efficient and less labour-intensive over the years.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), buildings in the United States account for:

  • 36% of total energy use
  • 65% of total electricity use
  • 12% of total water use
  • 30% of total CO2 emissions
  • 60% of total non-industrial waste generated (from construction and demolition)

The EPA also notes that approximately 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. This waste presents a significant opportunity for building owners and managers to save on operating costs through sustainable building designs.

Energy Efficient Buildings

Energy and resource-efficient, eco-friendly designs aim to decrease the depletion of resources, reduce pollution, and create a safe and productive environment for occupants. Green buildings have minimal impact on the environment and utilise natural resources efficiently. They benefit the community and environment, are socially responsible, and often represent the most economical and best operational choice for businesses.

According to the EPA, green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:

  • Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
  • Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation

Fundamental Principles of Sustainable Building

Six fundamental principles of sustainable building are listed below:

1. Optimise Site Potential

Choosing the right site is crucial for the success of any sustainable design project, whether you’re creating a new building or retrofitting an existing one. Optimising site potential involves considering location, orientation, installation, and landscaping. This principle addresses how the building will impact local ecosystems, energy consumption, and transportation methods.

According to the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) Sustainable Committee, “The site of a sustainable building should reduce, control, and/or treat storm-water runoff. If possible, strive to support native flora and fauna of the region in the landscape design.”

2. Conserve and Safeguard Water Resources

Freshwater is becoming an increasingly scarce resource, making its conservation vital in sustainable building design. This can be achieved by incorporating water-efficient fixtures, such as bathroom faucets and fittings designed to reduce water use. By protecting and conserving water, sustainable buildings contribute to the preservation of this critical resource.

3. Improve Energy Usage

In commercial buildings, natural gas and electricity are the main sources of energy, making up about 93% of total energy use. Electricity is the most used, with natural gas accounting for around 11%. The biggest energy users are lighting, refrigeration, and ventilation, while computers and office equipment use less than 15%, and space heating uses the least. Knowing how energy is used helps engineers and architects design buildings that use less energy, aiming for net-zero energy buildings. Making both new and existing buildings more energy-efficient improves energy independence and reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

4. Maximise Building Material Use

This principle focuses on using reusable and recycled materials in the construction of sustainable buildings. Engineers and architects design these structures to use and reuse materials sustainably throughout the building’s lifecycle. This approach not only conserves resources but also reduces waste and environmental impact.

5. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

The indoor environment of a building greatly impacts how comfortable, healthy, and productive its occupants are. Sustainable buildings improve this environment by letting in plenty of natural light, providing good ventilation, reducing noise, and avoiding materials that release harmful chemicals. Also, upgrading the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can further enhance air quality in commercial buildings.

6. Improve Operational and Maintenance Procedures

Architects, engineers, and contractors need to work together to choose systems and materials that make building operations and maintenance easier. These practices aim to reduce energy and water use and cut down on toxic chemicals. Simplifying maintenance and cleaning not only makes buildings last longer and keeps occupants healthier but also saves money through:

  • 35% energy savings
  • 15-30% savings on cleaning costs
  • 20-60% water savings

By following these six fundamental principles, sustainable building practices can create structures that are environmentally responsible, economically viable, and beneficial to the health and well-being of their occupants.


Sustainable building is a holistic approach that requires careful consideration of energy use, water conservation, material selection, indoor environmental quality, site selection, and the entire lifecycle of the building. By adhering to these principles, we can create buildings that are not only environmentally responsible but also healthier and more enjoyable places to live and work. As we continue to face environmental challenges, sustainable building practices will play an essential role in shaping a greener, more sustainable future.

For more information on Sustainable building designs, visit Imarat.