ustainable architecture is the design of buildings with the environment in mind. It aims to reduce the environmental impact by utilizing materials with low carbon footprints, designing for energy efficiency, and choosing local or recycled materials over those that require more resources to produce. There are many books on sustainable architecture, so it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time. Here are some of the best books on sustainable architecture that you should consider reading if you want to learn more about this fascinating topic.
Best Books on Sustainable Architecture: THE LIST
1. Sustainable Construction | By Charles Kibert
The leading green building reference, updated with the latest advances in the field
Sustainable Construction is the leading reference for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. With broad coverage including architecture, engineering, and construction, this book nevertheless delivers detailed information on all aspects of the green building process, from materials selection to building systems and more. This new fourth edition has been updated to reflect the latest codes and standards, including LEED v4, and includes new coverage of carbon accounting. The discussion has been updated to align with the current thinking on economics, climate change, net zero buildings, and more, with contributions by leaders in the field that illustrate the most recent shifts in thinking and practice. Ancillary materials including an instructor’s manual and PowerPoint presentations for each chapter help bring this clear and up-to-date information into the classroom, making this book a valuable reference for working construction professionals. Also, Interactive graphics found throughout the course help activate the content and highlight key concepts for students.
Sustainable construction has gone mainstream, and will one day be the industry norm. This book provides a comprehensive reference to all aspects of a project to show you how green building concepts and principles apply throughout the design and construction process.
- Get up to date on the latest green building codes and standards
- Learn about the newest technology in green building materials
- Adopt the best practices in procurement and delivery systems
- Apply sustainability concepts to all aspects of construction and design
Green buildings operate at a very high level of efficiency, which is made possible only by careful consideration every step of the way. Appropriate land use, landscaping, construction materials, siting, water use, and more all play a role in a structure’s ultimate carbon footprint. Sustainable Construction provides clear guidance for all aspects of green building, including the most recent advances and the latest technology.
2. The New Net Zero | By William Maclay
The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.
In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously–among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.
Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.
The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences. Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail.
The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.
3. Understanding Sustainable Architecture | By Antony Radford
Understanding Sustainable Architecture is a review of the assumptions, beliefs, goals and bodies of knowledge that underlie the endeavour to design (more) sustainable buildings and other built developments.
Much of the available advice and rhetoric about sustainable architecture begins from positions where important ethical, cultural and conceptual issues are simply assumed. If sustainable architecture is to be a truly meaningful pursuit then it must be grounded in a coherent theoretical framework. This book sets out to provide that framework. Through a series of self-reflective questions for designers, the authors argue the ultimate importance of reasoned argument in ecological, social and built contexts, including clarity in the problem framing and linking this framing to demonstrably effective actions. Sustainable architecture, then, is seen as a revised conceptualisation of architecture in response to a myriad of contemporary concerns about the effects of human activity.
The aim of this book is to be transformative by promoting understanding and discussion of commonly ignored assumptions behind the search for a more environmentally sustainable approach to development. It is argued that design decisions must be based on both an ethical position and a coherent understanding of the objectives and systems involved. The actions of individual designers and appropriate broader policy settings both follow from this understanding.
4. Building a Sustainable Home | By Melissa Rappaport Schifman
Learn the logistics of choosing windows, insulation, appliances, and lighting. Find out about FSC certified wood and about using reclaimed materials. Here is everything you need to make your home sustainable.
Whether the reader is building a new home or doing a minor remodel, a homeowner needs a framework by which to guide their decisions. These decisions are based on values, and the author posits that there are really only three reasons to go green:
- For Our Health: By building more sustainably, we reduce our exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.
- For Our Wealth: By building a more durable home and being more efficient with resources like water and electricity, we reduce our monthly utility bills and ongoing maintenance expenses.
- For Our Soul: Collectively doing the right thing for our planet does make a difference—and that is soul-nourishing.
The green building movement has produced hundreds of “how-to” books and websites that are filled with tips about green building and what homeowners should do to go green. While helpful and informative, when it comes to making actual purchasing and installation decisions, these books do not make it any easier for a homeowner to prioritize against a budget. Here, Melisssa Rappaport Schifman shares her knowledge and experience for others to use in their journey toward a greener way of living.
5. Eco House Book | By Terence Conran
A complete guide to home improvement the environmentally friendly way: whether you want to redecorate or redesign your home, this essential book provides all the information you need to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and improve the quality of your life.
For 40 years, Terence Conran has been a leader in intelligent design, changing the way we think about and furnish our homes. No, Conran shows us that it is possible to convert our existing homes into greener, healthier places without starting from scratch. Whether you want to redecorate or resign your home, Eco House Book explains how relatively small and economic changes can be made, including simple repairs to improve energy efficiency, water saving tips, and productive gardening, to more dramatic overhauls such as redesigning room use, converting basements and extending your home.
Environmental issues should be part of every decision you make on the home front–from selecting fabric for soft furnishings to designing and siting a home extension.
Special focus is given to reducing the vast amounts of energy and water that homes consume on a daily basis, with advice on low energy lighting strategies and decorative choices, improving insulation and reducing energy use, the latest green heating systems, alternative ways of generating power, and electricity reducing appliances. As we are urged to change our lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprint and consumption of water, there has never been a better time to green your home.
6. Micro Green | By Mimi Zeiger
From treehouses to pre-fabs, this book presents sustainable, micro-green living at its best. Micro Green delves into the concept of compact living and demonstrates the possibilities of living with less while maintaining a rich life. As sustainable architecture becomes mainstream, many architects and designers are using technology and wit to experiment with what it means to be green, and the results are both effective and enthralling. The rustic treehouses, airy domes, and recycled-scrap structures of Micro Green are presented through vivid photography and detailed building plans, and display a range of environmental influences. Here living spaces are carved out of hillsides, trees rise through decks and floors, and walls melt seamlessly back into the surrounding woods. Though many of the homes chronicled in Micro Green are unique in design, their economical size and ingenious interior spaces are the epitome of practicality and illustrate an acute understanding of compact living and its potential for rural, suburban, and even urban ecosystems. Small in both carbon and architectural footprint, the dwellings in Micro Green have large implications for the global movements of eco-consciousness and sustainability.
7. Biomimicry in Architecture | By Michael Pawlyn
When searching for genuinely sustainable building design and technology – designs that go beyond conventional sustainability to be truly restorative – we often find that nature got there first. Over 3.5 billion years of natural history have evolved innumerable examples of forms, systems, and processes that can be applied to modern green design.
For architects, urban designers and product designers, this new edition of Biomimicry in Architecture looks to the natural world to achieve radical increases in resource efficiency. Packed with case studies predicting future trends, this edition also contains updated and expanded chapters on structures, materials, waste, water, thermal control and energy, as well as an all-new chapter on light.
An amazing sourcebook of extraordinary design solutions, Biomimicry in Architecture is a must-read for anyone preparing for the challenges of building a sustainable and restorative future.
8. Ten Shades of Green | By Peter Buchanan
In this book documenting a major traveling exhibition organized by the Architectural League, curator and critic Peter Buchanan uses ten buildings that combine environmental responsibility and design excellence to argue that sustainability is not just good for the planet but offers architects new opportunities for creativity and innovation. He shows that there is no single route to sustainability and no such thing as a green aesthetic. Rather, through a range of building types, he demonstrates that increased awareness of a building’s setting combined with advances in technology create unlimited opportunities for responsive design. Generously illustrated with four-color photographs and plans, the book includes work by an international roster of architects, including Norman Foster, Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, Herzog + Partner, and Renzo Piano. 164 color photos and drawings
9. Thinking in Systems | By Donella Meadows
In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth―the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet―Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.
Thinking in Systems is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.
Some of the biggest problems facing the world―war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation―are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.
While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.
In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.
10. Prefabulous + Sustainable | By Sheri Koones
Prefabulous and Sustainable dispels the negative myths associated with prefab homes and shows the reader how beautiful and remarkably green prefab homes are.
In this guide to prefab home-building author Sheri Koones, demystifies the prefabricated house by using 25 unique homes to showcase how factory-built homes are greener, more efficient, sturdier, and more cost-effective than site-built homes. The book is divided into 3 categories—green, greener, greenest—and the homes featured vary in style, design, type of construction, and size. All of the homes included in Prefabulous and Sustainable have been customized to create a level of sustainability beyond the inherent qualities of prefab.
Written in an easy to understand and approachable style, author Sheri Koones walks the readers through each of the homes, explaining the materials, strategies, and systems used to create a sustainable living environment. Photographs, captions, floor plans, and sidebars illustrate to readers that green living is not as complicated as one might think, and attainable for everyone. Also included is a resource guide, making this book a hand-on guide for homebuilders.
11. Vitamin Green | By Joshua Bolchover
Vitamin Green provides an up-to-the-minute look at the single most important topic in contemporary design: sustainability. This new attention to the life of the things we make is changing the way design is practiced at every scale and will be at the center of discussions about architecture, landscape architecture, and product design in the twenty-first century.
Projects nominated by an international collection of designers, curators, critics and thinkers were selected to create the best possible sourcebook of the most exciting and original green designs at all scales, from eyeglasses to landscapes and from motorcycles to skyscrapers. The result is an inspirational survey of the enormous amount of innovative work being done in this field, as well as a directory of products, ideas and techniques for both designers and consumers.
Filled with projects that are built and in production, Vitamin Green provides a lively and inspiring visual definition of the term ‘sustainable design’, showing people what really can be achieved today.
12. Strategies for Sustainable Architecture | By Paola Sassi
Filling a gap in existing literature on sustainable design, this new guide introduces and illustrates sustainable design principles through detailed case studies of sustainable buildings in Europe, North America and Australia. The guide will provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the design issues involved in delivering sustainable buildings, and giving detailed description of the process of integrating principles into practice.
Approximately one hundred case studies of sixty buildings, ranging from small dwellings to large commercial buildings, and drawn from a range of countries, demonstrate best current practice. The sections of the book are divided into design issues relating to sustainable development, including site and ecology, community and culture, health, materials, energy and water. With over 400 illustrations, this highly visual guide will be an invaluable reference to all those concerned with architecture and sustainability issues.
13. Cradle to Cradle | By William McDonough
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. But as this provocative, visionary book argues, this approach perpetuates a one-way, “cradle to grave” manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world?
In fact, why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective; hence, “waste equals food” is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new-either as “biological nutrients” that safely re-enter the environment or as “technical nutrients” that circulate within closed-loop industrial cycles, without being “downcycled” into low-grade uses (as most “recyclables” now are).
Elaborating their principles from experience (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, William McDonough and Michael Braungart make an exciting and viable case for change.
14. Green Building Illustrated | By Frank Ching
In the tradition of Building Construction Illustrated, Francis D.K. Ching and Ian M. Shapiro offer a fully illustrated guide to the theory and practice of sustainable design. This guide provides architects, designers, and builders in the green design professional community a framework and detailed strategies for designing substantively green buildings. With a focus on sustainable sites, approaching and reaching net-zero energy, low and zero-water usage, minimum-impact materials and superior indoor environmental quality, this guide explains why we need to build green, as well as green building theory and advancements in the industry. This Second Edition includes:
- All-new case studies featuring geographically diverse buildings with proven zero energy performance
- Expanded coverage of zero energy building design, as well as zero water and zero waste buildings
- Practical guidance for the schematic design of high-performance buildings, heating and hot water system selection, building envelope details, and integrating renewable energy
- Advanced strategies, such as the concept of shape efficiency, and the optimal location for stairwells in buildings
- Additional strategies for affordability in green design and construction
- Updated references to the latest codes and standards
This Second Edition of Green Building Illustrated is an excellent resource for professionals, students and those interested in the design and construction of sustainable buildings.
15. Earth-Sheltered Houses | By Robert Roy
An earth-sheltered, earth-roofed home has the least impact upon the land of all housing styles, leaving almost zero footprint on the planet.
Earth-Sheltered Houses is a practical guide for those who want to build their own underground home at moderate cost. It describes the benefits of sheltering a home with earth, including the added comfort and energy efficiency from the moderating influence of the earth on the home’s temperature-keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer-low maintenance, and the protection against fire, sound, earthquake and storm afforded by the earth. Extra benefits from adding an earth or other living roof option include greater longevity of the roof substrate, fine aesthetics, and environmental harmony.
The book covers all of the various construction techniques involved including details on planning, excavation, footings, floor, walls, framing, roofing, waterproofing, insulation and drainage. Specific methods appropriate for the inexperienced owner-builder are a particular focus and include:
- pouring one’s own footings and/or floor
- the use of dry-stacked (surface-bonded) concrete block walls
- post-and-beam framing
- plank-and-beam roofing, and
- drainage methods and self-adhesive waterproofing membranes.
The time-tested, easy-to-learn construction techniques described in Earth-Sheltered Houses will enable readers to embark upon their own building projects with confidence, backed up by a comprehensive resources section that lists all the latest products such as waterproofing membranes, types of rigid insulation and drainage products that will protect the building against water damage and heat loss.
16. Greening Modernism | By Carl Stain
For the past quarter-century, mainstream architecture has proceeded on the underlying belief that we have the resources to build whatever and as much as we want and that technology can overcome any problems we create for ourselves through our building activities. The serious shortages that now confront us demand a thorough reevaluation of this premise. Carl Stein, nationally recognized for his contributions to the field of sustainable design, connects the impact of individual building design decisions to the global energy and environmental crises. He sets out the argument for sustainability inherent in Modern design, identifying tenets that are intrinsic to contemporary ecological thinking, and he provides the nuts-and-bolts information to assist practitioners and students of architecture, engineering, planning, and environmentalism in specific building-upgrade projects. While not a how-to handbook, Greening Modernism provides quantitative data and describes the environmental benefits from the continued use of the vast inventory of modern buildings, including reduced demand for energy and other finite resources and reduced need for waste processing. Greening Modernism explains the relationships between design and technology in the pre-petroleum, early-petroleum, and late-petroleum eras and goes on to suggest opportunities for architecture in a post-petroleum world.
17. Sustainable Architectural Design | By Kuppaswamy Lyengar
This book is a guide to a sustainable design process that moves from theory, to site and energy use, to building systems, and finally to evaluation and case studies, so you can integrate design and technology for effective sustainable building. Kuppaswamy Iyengar shows you how to get it right the first time, use free energy systems, and utilise technologies that minimize fossil fuel use. Each chapter has a sustainable design overview, technical details and strategies marked by clear sections, a summary, and further resources. Heavily illustrated with charts, tables, drawings, photographs, and case studies, the book shows technologies and concepts integrated into cohesive project types, from small and large office spaces to single and multiuse residences, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and warehouses to demonstrate implementing your designs to meet clients’ needs now and for the future.
Includes an overview of alternate assessment and evaluation systems such as BREEAM, CASBEE, GBTool, Green Globes alongside LEED, ECOTECT, energy 10, HEED and eQuest simulation programs. The guide reveals the importance of the building envelope―walls, superstructure, insulation, windows, floors, roofs, and building materials―on the environmental impact of a building, and has a section on site systems examining site selection, landscape design, thermal impact, and building placement.
18. Sustainable | By Avi Friedman
This book begins with an introduction describing current societal transformations that merit new urban designs, including depletion of non-renewable natural resources, elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions, large numbers of aging “Baby Boomers,” and climate change. Dr. Friedman then examines these challenges through thirty chapters of interest to urban designers, architects, civil and construction engineers, and town planners. Each of these topics represents an aspect of urban design and describes an innovative solution and offers a detailed description of underlying principles. The highly illustrated text presents innovative urban design strategies based on sustainable principles. Integrated with each chapter are several international case studies illustrating design implementations.
19. Elements of Sustainable Architecture | By Rosa Urbano Gutierrez
For sustainable architecture to become a reality, the way we design buildings needs to change. Many architects are concerned that sustainable technologies may interfere with a building’s aesthetic appearance, and so these are often ‘added on’ once the design process is complete.
Elements of Sustainable Architecture solves this dilemma by helping students to develop the design skills they need to create sustainable buildings – ensuring that ecological considerations are applied throughout the design process. Restoring the primacy of aesthetics and creativity to sustainable design, the book focuses on strategies that have the greatest impact on building design. It also shows the influence of sustainability considerations on choices about aspects such as composition, form, space, tectonics, materials, color, textures, proportion and position.
Specifically designed to offer a new way of understanding architecture, the book:
- introduces students to the basic principles and methods of sustainable design;
- features current examples and inspiring case studies to support learning step by step;
- presents information in a visually appealing, intuitive, easy-to-understand way;
- includes over 500 high-quality color diagrams, drawings, sketches and photographs.
A clear, visual introduction to creating aesthetically beautiful and sustainable buildings, this is essential reading for students in sustainable architecture courses.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Sustainable Architecture
Sustainable architecture is the design, construction, operation and maintenance of structures that focus on using resources wisely. This can involve designing structures that consume less energy without sacrificing functionality. However, it also includes the use of green building materials, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, low-flow toilets and other sustainable systems. Traveling to a new city? These books on sustainable architecture you should check out!
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.