Green Design

“Finding the right balance between a commercial restaurant and an environmental friendly one”

We currently live in a world where design and the built environment are integral to survival. Everyday we are surrounded by innumerable objects that are designed and built out of which some of them are not healthy to the human body as well as the environment. So, it is our responsibility as designers to put an end to such items being produced and buildings being built. Taking these thoughts into consideration a sustainable approach can be taken. Sustainability in the Design Industry has been a major issue for a while now. In this essay I wish to address issues regarding sustainability in the context of a Food and Beverage outlet.

The main reason for exploring such issues relates to the environment, today most establishments pay little attention to the environment. The main aim of creating a restaurant that is eco-friendly and sustainable is to educate the public and increase awareness on topics concerning sustainability and eco-effectiveness henceforth making the planet a better place to live in.

The first step is to identify current restaurants practices and it's shortcomings. By scrutinizing these shortcomings, eco-effective and sustainable solution can be implemented to solve the problems.

The most pressing issue currently evident in a Food and Beverage outlet would be the principles it runs on. Most F&B outlets give top priority to customer service and pay hardly any attention to the environment. Such outlets should start by changing their mindset and be more mindful of the environment. The environment should be the primary matter prior construction and well as during the process of construction. Yes, the customer are the main source of income and are of prime importance to any F&B outlet, but by shifting the focus to the environment and switching to a sustainable manner the F&B outlet can benefit as well. Reduction in electricity cost, healthier environment to work in and low maintenance are some of the benefits acquired.

Malaysian architect Ken Yeang in his essay “What is Green Design?” states: “Ecosystems have no waste, everything is recycled within. Thus by imitating this, our built environment will produce no waste. All emissions and products are continuously reused, recycled within and eventually reintegrated with the natural environment, in tandem with efficient uses of energy and resources.” We should strive to imitate such ecosystems and produce as less waste as possible. Waste products can be controlled if certain measures are taken. William McDonough writes in his book Cradle to Cradle, “Waste equals Food.” He sites a simple example of a cherry tree, “A Cherry tree makes many blossoms and fruits to (perhaps) germinate and grow. That fall to the ground, decompose, feed various organisms and microorganisms, and enrich the soil.” The idea can be applied in an F&B outlet too. Waste products that are biodegradable can be dumped into a composite pit, which over time fertilizes the soil. Other waste products that are not biodegradable like paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminum cans etc. can be sent for recycling or reused.

Acorn House, a sustainable restaurant located in London is based on the philosophy of reducing waste. Their menu changes with the soil. In other words they have a monthly menu that changes on the fist day of each month. They serve their food based on the crops that grow during that particular season. The order only what is necessary and what ever is bought is used for that particular day only. This way they have total control of their waste products.

“Every second, the sun sends us 15,000 times as much energy as the 6.7 billion people on our planet currently need.” (The Message of the Century, The sun won't send us a bill, Franz Alt)

But we do not fully utilize the energy provided by the sun. We are still blinded by oil, coal, gas and uranium that are readily available. What we do not realize is that the fossil fuels are depleting and one day there will be no more. But the energy bestowed by the sun is free or in the words of Franz Alt, “The sun won't send us a bill.”

Various methods can be implemented to harness the sun's energy. The most common being photovoltaic panels. It can be installed on rooftops to furnish electricity. Solar panels can be used for the heating of water. F&B outlets nowadays are too dependent on energy provided by the power plants. They do not take the initiative of producing their own energy. Remember the sun is inexhaustible. Harnessing the suns energy reduces costs and enables one to be self-sufficient. Norman Foster believes, “Solar energy is not just a passing fashion, but a question of the survival of mankind”

Mechanical ventilation is another crucial issue we need to review. Yes, Singapore has a tropical climate and the need for ventilation is indispensable. Mechanical ventilation is not the only way we can ventilate a building or an interior space. There are other more eco-friendly and sustainable ways. The most traditional way is by creating openings. But such openings must be strategically located to allow for maximum ventilation. Openings should be placed on opposite facades to facilitate cross-ventilation of rooms. Openings should be placed not only on the external wall but also internal walls. Openings should be located to allow air movement to occur at body level. This will help in cooling the body. Openings can be placed in certain areas to facilitate the stack effect. In the stack effect openings are created at low height to allow cool air to enter the building and opening at the upper levels for the warm/hot air to escape. Roof gardens can be installed to reduce heat radiation thus keeping the temperatures relatively low. Various plants can be placed within the interior spaces to reduce the temperature internally.

A restaurant in London named Water house has it own unique method of ventilation. Being located beside a canal, it uses the canal water as a heat source and heat sink. In summers, the space is conditioned using chilled cooling sails suspended from the ceiling. Cold water generated by the heat pump is passed through the cooling sails, which provide radiant cooling overhead. Further cooling is provided by fresh air displacement ventilation system, which supplies conditioned air at low levels.

Material used in an interior space plays an important role to the overall environment. We are not only taking about the ambience of the space but also about environmental and health issues. Careful consideration must be taken while choosing materials and in doing so a few question must be kept in mind.

1. Is the material eco friendly?

2. Is the material biodegradable?

3. What other function does it attain other than it's primary function?

Hemp is gaining its popularity in the building industry. A certain species of hemp called Cannabis sativa that contains no narcotic qualities is being processed as a construction material. With a mixture of hemp and lime binder, the compound can be poured and cast like concrete or formed into bricks. Hemp has many benefits: it needs no pesticide or herbicide to grow, it is the second fastest growing agricultural crop in the world (after bamboo), it does not take up much surface area - one hectare provides enough material to build one house. Hemp also take in large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during it growth and emits no carbon dioxide making it a zero carbon emission material. (Financial Times, Weekend, House and Home. Saturday January 23 - Sunday January 24, 2010)

Local material should be used as much as possible. It not only benefits the local industry but also saves cost. As a result material don't have to travel miles to reach its consumer hence saving fuel and reducing pollution. Paint is another material widely used. Instead of using the conventional paint, organic paints using natural ingredients can be used.

Water is valuable and should be used sensibly. Water can be recycled and used over and over again. The water used to wash our hands and dishes can be reused to flush the toilets, water the garden or cleaning. The dirty water can be purified by mechanical filtering where organic impurities are broken down and the water is passed to special filters. Rain water can also be stored in tanks located underground and be used to water the garden and cleaning.

Being an organic restaurant the source of the goods obtained is vital. One way of solving such problem is by having your own farm. It is much easier to regulate the food if it is grown in your own farm. It may be impossible to grow all the items needed in the restaurant but certain vegetables, herbs and fruits that are conducive to the climate and season can be grown. Other food items must be sourced from organic farms that do not use chemical fertilizers or genetically improve their crops and animals. Having a farm saves transportation and labor cost. The menu plays a significant role in such a situation. The dishes being served is directly linked to the ingredients required, therefore the menu should be discussed among various people. (Ideally the owner, chef and an environmentalist) On a basic level the consumption meat should be reduced as much as possible and the in take of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged. SOS Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia is an Italian-inspired, ‘veg-aquarian' restaurant with a sustainable philosophy on both food and interior. Their food source is limited to seafood that is either farmed in or harvested from the wild in a sustainable manner. They work in close collaboration with the Marine-conservation Organization.

Nature gives and nature takes. With that notion in mind the antonyms Extraction and Insertion have been chosen to guide me through my design process. I wish to create a sustainable restaurant serving organic gourmet dishes. Hort Park being a gardening hub was chosen as the site for the proposed restaurant. Hort Park is a one stop gardening lifestyle hub that bring together gardening-related, recreational, educational, research and retail activities under one park. Being a gardening hub the concept of an organic restaurant fits in perfectly. There are ample opportunities to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and other ingredients need for the restaurant.

The structure is currently a glass house that is to be transformed into a restaurant. The main issue we are dealing with here is natural ventilation and the reduction of waste products. Various solutions mentioned above are implemented and considered during the design process. For example openings are created at strategic location to allow for maximum cross ventilation. Gardens have been placed on rooftops where the distance between the ceiling and floor are low. This reduces the temperature internally and also the surroundings. Photovoltaic and solar panels have been installed on the roof to generate renewable energy that powers the entire restaurant and provide hot water to the kitchen respectively.

Creating such a restaurant hopefully will encourage other restaurants to follow the same path and strive for a sustainable approach too. This applies not only to a Food and Beverage outlet but to other industries and to individuals as well. What is important is not what's gone but what remains. We still have time to amend out ways and save the planet. We all have the power to change, so what are we waiting for?

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