Have you noticed buildings with solar panels and rooftop gardens popping up in your neighborhood? “Green” buildings have been increasing in popularity – and for a good reason! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes, offices, and other buildings account for about 39 percent of all energy used in the US. Thoughtful design by architects could significantly reduce the environmental impact of these buildings, while also lowering individual energy costs.
Going green is a win-win, and there are even certifications available to buildings that meet specific criteria. In this blog, we will answer some of the most common questions about green buildings… but as always, please reach out to us if you have further questions. We would love to help you!
Green buildings are valuable to the environment, and they help reduce energy costs as well.
(Image courtesy of Unsplash)
Does my building need to have a LEED certification to be considered green?
No. A certification is a fantastic achievement, and can absolutely be the goal of the design if desired. However, even without a LEED or other environmental certification, your building can incorporate features that reduce energy and lessen its impact on the surrounding environment.
So, what makes a building green?
The World Green Building Council (WGBC) defines green buildings as ones that “in design, construction, or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment.”
A pretty broad definition, right? The purpose of the building doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a restaurant, office, grocery store, residential home, or another type of structure, it can be a green building! The thing to remember is, while any building can be a green building, not all of them will (or should) have the same features. Each building needs to be built with its surrounding environment in mind. Constructing site-specific buildings and homes saves you money in the long term because you can maximize the existing site elements like wind, sun, shade, and trees to reduce the energy use over the life of the building.
Xeriscaping is a perfect example of this in Green Landscape Architecture. A xeriscaped landscape incorporates plants that can tolerate very little water or even drought. It makes sense to do this in Arizona, Nevada, or here in Utah, where we have a desert climate. In some of the other states where we are licensed that get more rain (like Washington or Florida), it wouldn’t make sense at all. The plants would ultimately get too much water and die, costing the business or homeowner more time and money replacing the plants in the long run. Xeriscaping there wouldn’t benefit the local environment, but using native plants and trees that are used to the area’s rainfall would.
The owners of this luxury desert home chose to xeriscape their landscaping. (Image courtesy of Unsplash)
Do I have to use solar panels?
Green building is about more than apparent exterior features like the solar panels and rooftop gardens we mentioned earlier. While these are great options if they make sense for your project, there are many other, more subtle elements that can be incorporated. In fact, most “green” fixtures and features may even go unnoticed in a completed building.
Here are a few examples of green choices you can make in the design of your building:
SELECTING GREEN MATERIALS
Choosing locally-sourced, non-toxic materials is beneficial to the local economy and the health of anyone who will occupy the building in the future.
EFFICIENT USE OF WATER, GAS, AND ELECTRICITY
Years ago, there wasn’t much a home or business owner could do to reduce the usage of natural resources, other than living or working in the dark. Now, there are a variety of energy-efficient water valves, appliances, light fixtures, and many more items available!
BUILDING ORIENTATION AND PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN
Keeping the sun’s angles in mind allows us to maximize warmth in winter and protect from the heat in summer. This is done through site orientation, adding overhangs, placement of windows, and more. These methods are easy to implement and make a big difference in the long term energy costs.
Passive Solar Design maximizes natural light inside the Oculus in New York City.
(Image courtesy of Unsplash)
Can I incorporate green architecture into a renovation project?
Absolutely! We can incorporate almost all green choices available for new buildings into existing structures. Some things, like Passive Solar Design, may take a little more creativity in this situation…but hey, that’s what we architects do!
Are you craving a more sustainable lifestyle? Do you want to reduce energy costs from the get-go in your new building? We would love to chat with you about how to design an energy-efficient building. Contact us to schedule a consultation today!