RESPONSIBLE DESIGN + SITE PLANNING
The foundation of any green project starts with sustainable design. There are several key steps in designing sustainable buildings: specify 'green' building materials from local sources, reduce loads on mechanical equipment, optimize systems, and generate on-site renewable energy such as solar power and solar water heating. With site planning, we take into consideration the amount of trees that can be saved, retention of storm water to prevent run off, and the orientation and structure of the house to maximize passive solar heating and cooling.
Green buildings include two main measures to reduce energy consumption – both the embodied energy required to extract, process, transport and install building materials and operating energy to provide services such as heating and power for equipment. To reduce the embodied energy, we look for as many locally harvested or manufactured materials as possible. The closer the material is manufactured, the less energy that is used in getting it to the job site. Also, lighter materials require less energy to deliver and install. To reduce operating energy, we use details that reduce air leakage through the building envelope (the barrier between conditioned and unconditioned space) such as air sealing with caulk, spray foam, and sealed attics. We also specify high-performance windows and extra insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors.
We can reduce a homes water consumption with the use of low-flow shower heads, low-flush or dual flush toilets, grey water systems, and cisterns for rainwater harvesting.
INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
During the design and construction process, choosing construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low VOC emissions will improve Indoor Air Quality. Most building materials and cleaning/maintenance products emit gases, some of them toxic. These gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants' health, comfort, and productivity. Avoiding these products will increase a building's Indoor Environmental Quality. Also important to indoor air quality is the control of moisture accumulation (dampness) leading to mold growth and the presence of bacteria and viruses as well as dust mites and other organisms and microbiological concerns. Water intrusion through a building's envelope or water condensing on cold surfaces on the building's interior can enhance and sustain microbial growth. A well-insulated and tightly sealed envelope will reduce moisture problems but adequate ventilation is also necessary to eliminate moisture from sources indoors including human metabolic processes, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and other activities.
OPERATIONS + MAINTENANCE OPTIMIZATION
No matter how sustainable a building has been designed and constructed, it can only remain so if it is operated responsibly and maintained properly. Ensuring operations and maintenance personnel are part of the project's planning and development process will help retain the green criteria designed at the onset of the project. Replacing air filters as recommended, using programmable smart thermostats such as the NEST learning thermostat, and using exhaust fans in bathrooms that use motion sensors to come on and shut off automatically are ways to ensure your systems are doing their job as efficiently and effectively as possible.