“Sustainability” has become part of our every day vocabulary. People are becoming more aware of our affect on the environment than at almost any other time in modern culture. Even if we are not individually aware of the explosion in energy-related technologies, we are collectively more educated about the principles of sustaining the natural world for future generations.
Environmental health and architecture are linked at every level. When we design a building every decision we make determines how much energy the building will consume over its lifetime.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), homes in the U.S. account for 22% of the total energy and 74% of the water consumed, and 21% of the carbon dioxide produced. So building an energy and water efficient home can go a long way toward preserving our natural resources. Energy efficient design, however, doesn’t start with deciding what “green” features to incorporate. For new construction it starts with a thorough understanding of the place, the site, the climate, and the region’s natural resources.
For a renovation, a sound and sustainable design process starts with a deliberate review of existing building fabric to determine what to keep and what to remove. The simple fact is that the cycle of demolition and rebuilding of houses accounts for more energy use than refurbishing. A 2008 study commissioned by the British government found that building a new home emitted four and-a-half times as much carbon dioxide as refurbishing an existing dwelling, and that building new accounts for 30% of the energy consumed over the lifetime of the home! So in terms of sustainability, saving existing building fabric makes good ecological sense.
There are other considerations besides energy and water efficiency that go into designing a green building. These include site conservation, choosing materials that are responsibly produced and require minimal energy to transport, and providing safe indoor air for the inhabitants to breathe. On the next page are some of the questions we get asked by homeowners about sustainable design, which also happen to be the things that are important to us when we design a building. We hope you find the information helpful. Call us if we can help you go greener.