Environmental architecture aims to minimize negative impacts on the natural environment.
Examples of five approaches to environmental architecture, identified by notable architect Dominique Gauzin-Müller, can be seen in Nova Scotia and across Canada.
The natural method of green architecture embraces and mimics nature. Materials such as wood, clay, lime, and sod are used; lighting is soft and diffused. In Nova Scotia, natural material builders, like Kim Thompson of Straw Bale Projects, have constructed homes from natural material such as straw bale and sustainably harvested wood.
A high-tech view uses new technology and materials to achieve environmental benefits.
Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller is an example of a renowned architect using this style. He invented many structures, including the Dymaxion House, a circular self-sufficient shelter made of aluminum with a steel mast. He also designed the Montreal Biosphère, now Environment Canada's nature and water museum.
Between these two extremes are architects that consider a combination of traditional and manufactured material where high-density living space is surrounded by wilderness and agriculture land. Transport is reduced due to the close proximity of work, home and food supply.
Social democratic approaches combine environmental and social objectives such as sustainable affordable housing development that use central systems to save money and energy. Examples include the collection of grey water (water from baths and sinks) and storm water for off-site irrigation and toilet water and the connection of active solar systems with a efficient district heating system. Jacob's Manor in Fairview is an example of this with environmentally friendly features inlcuding a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Environmental minimalism aims to reduce construction and dismantling costs by creating simple and easy-to-build structures. Building materials sometimes include pre-fabricated pieces that are put together like Lego blocks.
New buildings, housing developments and individual homes can follow design and construction principles promoted through programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The Atlantic Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council have members in the HRM that design and build to LEED standards.
In HRM, individual homes and buildings have received various LEED ratings and the list is growing. Ecology Action Center's has a variety of resources listed on their website including a green building directory and a manual on building green roofs. They also provide a tour of their retrofitted house that has a number of unique features such as a solar powered infloor radiant heating system.