Sustainable architecture" is now well known, especially as a reaction to the risks inherent in climate change, but the Aga Khan Award for Architecture has been giving out its prize to projects that are good for people and the planet for at least 40 years.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) notes that although selection is always based on the principle of excellence, the independent Master Jury has nonetheless chosen many projects that are eco-friendly.

Sustainable architecture that has received the Award ranges from Ken Yeang's ground-breaking bioclimatic office building in Malaysia (1995) – a "high-rise in the tropics - with a difference" – to a primary school in Burkina Faso whose "clay walls are topped with a double roof structure of adobe and tin that blocks the heat of the sun" designed by architect Diébédo Francis Kéré (2004).  It includes the Wadi Hanifa Wetlands project in Saudi Arabia (2010), which incorporates an "environmentally sensitive wastewater treatment facility that provides additional water resources", and an amphibious school in Bangladesh designed by Saif Ul Haque (2019) "that does not disrupt the river environment, but adapts in response to flooding in the monsoon season with the innovative use of traditional local building methods and materials".

Sustainable architecture is architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, development space and the ecosystem at large.  Sustainable architecture uses a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment.