10 Green Structural Engineering Marvels

Whether you favor a house with walls made from compact cardboard or a school built with recycled bottles, engineers and architects have made great strides with green design. © Jacob Maentz/Corbis

Architects design buildings.

Civil engineers build bridges.

Structural engineers keep it all from twisting, crumpling and shaking apart.

It's a tricky business. As one much-bandied quote puts it, "Structural engineering is the art of molding materials we do not wholly understand into shapes we cannot precisely analyze, so as to withstand forces we cannot really assess, in such a way that the public does not suspect the extent of our ignorance" [sources: AGCAS; Merriam-Webster; Schmidt].

Such know-how is vital to mastering green construction's novel materials and envelope-pushing practices, whether used in a high-rise, a home or a structure built to harness the wind, yoke the waves or orbit high overhead and monitor the climate.

Whether traditional or out there, green structures excite us by emphasizing particular goals -- like zero emissions -- and accomplishing them via potentially beautiful, arresting forms. As the selections in this list demonstrate, green structural engineering poses new architectural questions and new criteria for evaluating the answers.