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The world of sustainable design is fast paced and filled with constant innovation.

However, sometimes going forward means looking to the past for inspiration. Current movements such as using locally sourced materials and utilizing nature as is – without the need to manipulate it – are techniques humans have used for thousands of years.

Norwegians still use turf as a roofing material due to its thermal properties. Rural homes in Japan are often built from wood found in surrounding forests. In the Polynesian state of Tonga, traditional homes were built with curved roofs to create aerodynamic protection against storms.

In the Andes, traditional houses were built from reeds due to the insulating properties of the stems. Alleyways in southern Taiwan run east to west as this orientation best harnesses the cooling powers of the island’s winds. Preserving these customary construction practices – and combing them with new technologies – is the key to a more sustainable building industry.