Top 10 Gorgeous Green Buildings That Actually Exist

Posted August 18th, 2009 in Green Design 18 Comments

We all know that high-tech green buildings can be stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately, though, many of these buildings won’t be built for years, if ever. Creating these impressive structures is a very difficult and expensive process, so it makes sense that many of the concepts don’t yet exist.

But, some of these beautiful buildings have been built. In this list, we’ve found a collection of incredible green buildings that actually exist right now, as in, you could walk into them and take a look around. Additionally, each of these buildings is LEED Platinum certified, which is the highest green rating available to a modern structure.

With that in mind, here is a list of the top 10 beautiful green buildings that actually exist. Check them out if they happen to be nearby, or just get excited about the fact that such beautiful eco-friendly architecture is actually a reality.

1. Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, IL

jewish-reconstruct-centerZoning ordinances limiting the size of the building and how it manages stormwater made this congregation get creative in how they looked at space. By mapping out the building’s hourly space use during the week, they were able to determine where they could manipulate the space for its most efficient use — and they found a 25% space savings. The building also used an extensive amount of reclaimed cypress and other viable building materials.

2. Shangri La Botanical Gardens

shangri-laBuildings on the garden’s premises include indoor and outdoor educational spaces, a visitors’ center, theater, and administrative offices. The center had some challenging environmental concerns, and the buildings located on wetlands and other natural areas are floating above the land with solar panels as their source of energy. The center also used fallen trees from the September 2005 hurricane Rita, which directly hit Shangri La’s property.

3. Queens Botanical Garden, NY

queens-gardenThe garden rests on the site of the former 1939 & 1964 World’s Fairs and is free to the public. It manages all stormwater on site, and has reduced its water consumption by 55% by reusing graywater and installing waterless urinals. It also makes use of natural lighting and solar panels to reduce its energy consumption. Interestingly, about 1/3 of the materials used for the building came from a 500 mile radius.

4. Arizona State University Biodesign Institute

ASU Biodesign Building
It’s only fitting that a bio design institute would have such a gorgeous, LEED Platinum certified building. 15% of the material used in its construction came form recycled materials. The building is only 4 floors — with the hope that stairs will be used more frequently than the elevators. The building also uses multiple shade and sun control techniques. There’s even sensors that adjust the artificial lighting automatically based on whether or not a room is being used. And that’s only a glimpse of the features that help this building lower its energy and water consumption. Arizona State has achieved not only a beautiful LEED certified building, but it has more creative and productive students and faculty and receives an enormous amount of biomedical research funding.

5. California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of the Sciences
This building is quite an interesting one. It’s all under a 2.5 acre green roof, and it holds over 38,000 animals. The roof itself absorbs 90-98% of the rainwater, and surrounding the roof are solar panels that supply the building with 5-10% of its energy supply. Inside, you’ll find an aquarium, a tropical forest exhibit, natural life museum, and more.

6. Heifer International Headquarters, AR

heifer-internationalHeifer International is an organization devoted to eliminating world hunger. Their offices are close to public transportation and in walking distance of a pedestrian entertainment district. Its technology allows it to use 55% less energy than similar buildings, and it has extensive water-saving features that reuse rainwater and graywater for irrigation, toilets and cooling. What’s really interesting about this building is that it has selected durable and maintainable building materials that are expected to last for about 100 years.

7. North Arizona University ARD Building, AR

nau-ardNorthern State University’s Applied Research and Development building stands above the rest — being the only building at such a high altitude to achieve LEED’s Platinum rating. The building stands at 7,000-ft altitude, which creates different and more challenging problems when compared to buildings at lower altitudes. Technology used throughout the building has decreased its energy consumption by 60% compared to normal buildings, and its solar panel system produces 20% of the energy it does use.

8. Hawaii Gateway Energy Center

hawaii-energy-center
This building’s purpose is to house offices, commercial space, conference facilities, and educational facilities relating to the energy and technology fields. The facilities take advantage of natural sunlight, allowing for less use of artificial lighting, and it boasts a creative and exciting ventilation and heating/cooling system that mechanically circulates the air and uses seawater to cool the hot air captured on its copper roof. It also has solar panels that provide 100% of the energy used to run the the buildings entire systems — in fact, it exports energy.

9. Environmental Nature Center, CA

enc-newportThe Environmental Nature Center, located in Orange County, CA, produces more energy through its solar panels than it uses. It takes advantage of natural light and sensors to decrease the amount of artificial lighting needed, and it has a ventilation system that uses the ocean air to eliminate the need for air conditioning. The center also used a large amount of recycled materials in its construction and has drought-resisted landscaping, which means they don’t need an irrigation system.

10. Gerding Theater at the Armory, OR

gerding-theater-armoryThis theater is home to the Portland Center Stage theater company and is a re-purposed building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. By reusing rainwater and installing water-saving technologies, they’ve decreased their potable water demand by 88%. Sensors help control the artificial lighting to reduce energy costs, and chilled (or heated) beams that are connected to district-chilled-water plant are used for cooling & heating.

What do you think? Which are your favorites, or have you visited any of these buildings? Share in the comments!

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18 Reader Comments

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  1. Jenn August 18th

    Beautiful buildings in a nice and digestable post. Love!

  2. Victor August 18th

    cool! really green!

  3. Nicole Foster August 18th

    Those are some amazing buildings! I really like California Academy of Sciences’ building. It’s amazing!

  4. kelly August 20th

    Cool - I was thinking of a green roof on a small urban house - ever see any good info on that?

  5. alex August 20th

    hawai`i represent!!!

  6. Rochelle Veturis August 21st

    Beautiful piece. Talk about architectural eye candy. And yes, I’ve visited the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach (my firm designed it), and it is just as fabulous in person. Cool inside without HVAC even in the heat of Summer.

    For more, here’s the online photo gallery: http://www.lpaimages.com/ENC/

    Enjoy, Rochelle

  7. Susan James August 21st

    All of these are great but I particularly like the green roof. Wish all new bldgs would do that- provide homes for birds and bugs, makes shade, lower heating costs, all good.

  8. Michele August 21st

    WOW! Those are beautiful. I especially love the Environmental Nature Center. I think it is amazing that they can use a ventilation system that uses the ocean air to cool the building. I live in FL and have to have air conditioning but am a huge fan of geothermal technology. It is interesting to see the different ways each building cools or heats in different areas of the country.

  9. Sally August 24th

    Wow! Those are beautiful buildings =) I am so happy to see the ways of living green are being spread. There has never been a better time to begin living green!

  10. Eve August 24th

    I think the Heifer Int. Headquarters is amazing. Thanks for the article. It is great to see what others are doing to make this world better and more beautiful.

  11. WilliamN August 27th

    I like the botanical garden, I mean how green could this architecture could get. Solar power home has no doubt is the next big thing in a couple of years. And as these materials get more and more affordable, it’s just a matter of short time that building solar panels will be the mainstream in the grid.

  12. mark August 27th

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s nice to know these all have the platinum rating. I really liked the one with the green roof. I thought the waterless urinals were a little weird. It seems like they would stink…

  13. sanaa October 27th

    now that it is what we call tru architecture

  14. Michael February 11th

    Hey … you left out the Manitoba Hydro Building! That is not acceptable.

  15. rishabh September 13th

    is any architect here???

  16. Zarina February 28th

    That is so cool!!!!! Those are beautiful buildings:)

  17. What Follows Is A Technique That’s Also Aiding bag-pros Grow

  18. CameoBrigade March 31st

    Regarding #7…. there are so many errors on this entry! First, it’s NORTHERN Arizona University. It’s in Arizona, not Arkansas, so the state should be AZ not AR, and in the description it says Northern State University… which is actually in South Dakota. I’m an Alumni of NAU, and we are very proud of our green buildings, especially the ARD, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not being noted properly.

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