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Utilizing Vertical Space for Sustainable Building Design




With desirable land becoming a precious commodity and available real estate becoming increasingly scarce, the role of vertical space is becoming an essential component of sustainable building design. However, there’s more to it than simply building taller and taller structures. After all, for most companies and individuals, space utilization comes down to the components within the various rooms rather than the building itself. In other words, a skyscraper is only put to use if the inside is desirable from a practical point of view.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at making the most of vertical space when designing sustainable homes and workspaces:

Floor-to-ceiling: For the win!

Most newly built homes and offices include rooms with ceilings nine to 14 feet in height. Making the most of this interior vertical space is critical to maximizing sustainable functionality. Thanks to technological innovations such as vertical carousel storage and smart display systems, putting upper-wall space to good use has never been more practical. The same goes for the vertical space in residential buildings.

Taller is not always better

As mentioned earlier, taller is not necessarily better when it comes to utilizing vertical space for the sake of sustainability. A recent study done by The Conversation concluded densely-built low-rise structures were more sustainable than high-rise buildings. It’s something to consider before going forward with any vertically-enhanced building design plans. Generally speaking, a three-story building with an efficiently designed interior will be more environmentally-friendly than a six-story building lacking these more nuanced upgrades.

Modulation makes it easier

Buildings tend to outlast their original occupants. Look no further than your nearest city center, where former office buildings are now luxury loft living spaces. With this in mind, modular building design helps make the most of vertical space. Built-in wall anchors and other support features baked into the cake during construction will make it easier for future inhabitants to utilize vertical space as they see fit. 

The wall can do it all

From mounting bunk beds to installing floor-to-ceiling shelving, the wall can do it all. That is, so long as it’s built to handle these loads. From bolts to studs and everything in between, builders of the future must do more than erect paper-thin walls attached to discount boards. While the materials used during construction may seem to counteract the sustainable nature of wall-mount-focused design, the benefits over time will far outweigh the investment.

Windows for light and warmth

When it comes to practical building design, windows are placed based on function and purpose. In other words, the design will forego a pretty view if the alternative means better illumination. Yes, it’s possible to include both, but then you’re robbing yourself of vertical wall space. In addition, smart window placement can lead to less dependence on heating in winter. Reduced reliance on artificial lighting and generated heating adds up to greater sustainability. However, the ultimate goal is to achieve this while also maximizing the use of vertical space. Doing both will result in a tremendous upgrade in the structure’s sustainability.

Rethink the staircase

Stairs are the most popular method of providing access to multiple floors for a good reason. However, the traditional single-file staircase is a colossal waste of space. If the local building codes allow it, consider a spiral staircase design to free up more space. Stairwells are another practical alternative, as the zigzag design creates a single column of fully used space rather than a triangle-shaped void that is infamously difficult to use.

More than a roof

It’s time to think of the roof as an extension of living and working space. It can be used for green space, a break area for employees, or the site of recreational activities like swimming, tennis, and racquetball. The possibilities are practically endless. All it takes is a design approach that considers the roof from the very beginning. With that said, any building with rooftop access has the potential to be retrofitted to use the roof as a functional space.

With property values soaring and available space becoming harder to find, builders are looking up as a way to get the most out of the land they’re developing. The good news is making more of vertical space is excellent for achieving greater sustainability. The key is knowing how to put it to use.

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