• Environmentally Sustainable Design
08/07/2024 Vania

Sustainable Design – A Path to a More Sustainable Future

Date Published: July 8th, 2024

Written by: Vania Dian Gunawan, edited by Sean Nino Lotze and Charlene Octavian

A sustainable luxury villa highlighting its sustainable design aspects

Rumah Rubah | Architecture by Studio Jencquel

Climate change is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere, which warms the Earth’s temperature. Considering that 2023 has been declared the hottest year on record, we need to increase our sense of urgency. Buildings account for more than 40% of global energy consumption and up to 33% of GHG emissions, making them a major contributor. In times when this is an undeniable reality, sustainable design emerges as a solution.   

So, what is Sustainable Design? Sustainability itself means meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainable Design aims to maximize the building’s performance while balancing the environmental, social, and economic pillars throughout the process to minimize the negative impact on the environment and building occupants.  These principles are applied across the building’s lifecycle from design, construction, maintenance, renovation, and eventual destruction. This is to ensure that the structures and the process are resource-efficient and environmentally responsible and the creation of safe, comfortable, productive, and livable built environments.  

Buildings consume resources like energy, water, and raw materials. They also generate different types of waste, release potentially harmful atmospheric emissions, and change the land function (ex. impact the land’s capacity to absorb and retain water in the soil). The good news in this is that compared to other major emitting sectors, the building sector also has the largest potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions. With the correct design, strategies, and the utilization of available technologies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption by 30-80% in both new and existing buildings.   

Here are the 6 key principles of sustainable design according to the National Institute of Building Sciences: 

6 Key Principles of Sustainable Design  

1. Optimize Site Potential  

The building’s location, landscaping, and orientation determine the energy usage, transportation methods, and impact on the surrounding ecosystem. So, choosing the proper site and considering options for reuse or renovation are important to create a sustainable building.   

2. Optimize Energy Use  

Energy efficiency, reducing consumption, and transitioning to net zero energy buildings are crucial steps to address global warming caused by fossil fuel demand. 

3. Protect and Conserve Water  

A sustainably designed building should minimize its impact on freshwater resources by using water efficiently and reusing or recycling it on-site whenever possible.   

4. Optimize Building Space and Material Use  

As the global population grows, so does the demand for natural resources. Sustainable design buildings aim to use materials efficiently and in an eco-friendly manner throughout their lifespan to reduce the environmental impact, enhance worker safety, and minimize disposal costs.   

5. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)  

IEQ of the building significantly impacts occupants’ well-being, productivity, and comfort. Sustainable building designs minimize volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, maximizes daylighting, ensures effective ventilation and moisture control, improves acoustic performance, and give occupants control over temperature and lighting systems.  

6. Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices  

Incorporating operational and maintenance needs during initial design enhances working conditions, boosts productivity, saves energy, prevents system failures, and ensures efficient more environmentally friendly operations. Designers can choose materials and systems that simplify maintenance, conserve resources, reduce costs, and enable energy, water, and waste monitoring 

Environmentally Sustainable Design Aspects of Rumah Rubah Villa

ESD Aspects of Rumah Rubah| Architecture by Studio Jencquel

Benefits of Sustainable Design  


  • Reduce air pollution and GHG emissions by implementing energy-efficient design, building commissioning, and using renewable energy sources.  
  • Design buildings to store and collect recyclable waste, implement construction waste management practices to recycle or reuse debris, and choose environmentally friendly materials with recycled content, and high durability. 
  • Minimize natural resource use and ecosystem impacts by, for example, using existing facilities, avoiding building on agricultural land, locating a building amidst existing trees, and near public transportation to decrease pollution and avoid building new roads.   


  • Lower (or equal) preliminary design and construction costs: Form a multidisciplinary team to integrate designs and solutions that stay within the budget while meeting sustainability goals. Solutions include optimizing the site, reusing existing buildings, and eliminating unnecessary features.  
  • Annual energy and water cost savings: Implementing energy-efficient architectural and mechanical designs reduces energy consumption and expenses while maintaining comfort. Similarly, technologies like recirculating water systems, leak detection, and dual-flush toilets reduce indoor water consumption, saving both annual cost saving and lifecycle costs. 
  • Lower facility maintenance and repair costs: Sustainable design enhances durability and reduces maintenance costs with long-lasting products—for instance, stormwater management, sustainable landscape design, forecasting of future weather change and climate change informs us how to properly plan and build resilient properties.   


  • Better health of building occupants: Sustainable design practices improve indoor air quality and reduce environmental agents which create healthier indoor environments. For example, allergy and asthma symptoms can be mitigated by HVAC maintenance, improved ventilation, cleaning, and moisture control.  
  • Improved comfort, satisfaction, and well-being: Buildings with natural light, views, a path to nature, and areas for social interaction, have positive psychological and social effects such as stress reduction, enhanced emotional health, and a stronger sense of belonging.   
  • Community and societal benefits: indirect benefits extend to other societal groups. For instance, positive behavior changes in occupants such as buying green products, recycling, and using energy-efficient equipment, can occur. Choosing locally produced products boosts the local economy and jobs in the community.    

Sustainable design offers a crucial solution to address climate change and resource depletion in our built environment. By following key principles like energy efficiency, water conservation, and improved indoor quality, buildings can reduce their environmental impact while enhancing economic value and occupant well-being. Embracing sustainable design practices not only supports environmental goals but also builds resilient and prosperous communities for the future. 

It is essential that these “examples” of design principles are integrated into the beginning of each and every development project. Planners, Architects, Developers and Investors must think more outside of their box, how to make available time and resources so that integrative design practices can be realized and are not just an afterthought.  

Eco-Mantra is an environmental engineering consultancy that employs an integrated design approach and can assist you in integrating Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles into your property. If you are interested in implementing ESD on your property, kindly contact us here https://eco-mantra.com/contact/ 

Explore Eco Mantra’s projects to understand more about sustainable design

Get In Touch

Let's Work Together

Find out how we can create sustainable destinations and experiences for generations to come.

Keep In Touch

Eco-Mantra Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to connect and learn about the built environment, sustainable design and how we value the environment.