"Green Building" approach:
Sanuel Mockbee, Auburn University
A "Green" approach to the built environment involves a holistic approach to the design of buildings. All the resources that go into a building, be they materials, fuels or the contribution of the users need to be considered if a sustainable architecture is to be produced. Producing green buildings involves resolving many conflicting issues and requirements. Each design decision has environmental implications.
Measures for green buildings can be divided into four areas: (a) reducing energy in use, (b) minimising external pollution and environmental damage, (c) reducing embodied energy and resource depletion and (d) minimising internal pollution and damage to health.
A "Green" Building places a high priority on health, environmental and resource conservation performance over its life-cycle. These new priorities expand and complement the classical building design concerns: economy, utility, durability, and delight. Green design emphasizes a number of new environmental, resource and occupant health concerns:
• Reduce human exposure to noxious materials.
• Conserve non-renewable energy and scarce materials.
• Minimize life-cycle ecological impact of energy and materials used.
• Use renewable energy and materials that are sustainably harvested.
• Protect and restore local air, water, soils, flora and fauna.
• Support pedestrians, bicycles, mass transit and other alternatives to fossil-fueled vehicles.
Most green buildings are high-quality buildings; they last longer, cost less to operate and maintain, and provide greater occupant satisfaction than standard developments. Sophisticated buyers and lessors prefer them, and are often willing to pay a premium for their advantages. What surprises many people unfamiliar with this design movement is that good green buildings often cost little or no more to build than conventional designs. Commitment to better performance, close teamwork throughout the design process, openness to new approaches, and information on how these are best applied are more important than a large construction budget.
"Sustainable Design" is the thoughtful integration of architecture with electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering. In addition to concern for the traditional
aesthetics of massing, proportion, scale, texture, shadow, and light, the facility design team needs to be concerned with long term costs: environmental, economic, and human.
The Rocky Mountain Institute outlines five elements for sustainable design:
• Planning and design should be thorough. Sustainable design is "front loaded" compared with traditional design. Early decisions have the greatest impact on energy efficiency, passive solar design, daylighting, and natural cooling.
• Sustainable design is more of a philosophy of building than a prescriptive building style. Sustainable buildings don't have any particular look or style.
• Sustainable buildings don't have to cost more, nor are they more complicated than traditional construction.
• Integrated design, that is design where each component is considered part of a greater whole, is critical to successful sustainable design.
• Minimizing energy consumption and promoting human health should be the organizing principles of sustainable design. The other elements of design can be organized: energy saving architectural features, energy conserving building envelope, and energy-efficient and health-promoting mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.
The main principles of Sustainable Design are:
• Understanding Place - Sustainable design begins with an intimate understanding of place. If we are sensitive to the nuances of place, we can inhabit without destroying it. Understanding place helps determine design practices such as solar orientation of a building on the site, preservation of the natural environment, and access to public transportation.
• Connecting with Nature - Whether the design site is a building in the inner city or in a more natural setting, connecting with nature brings the designed environment back to life. Effective design helps inform us of our place within nature.
• Understanding Natural Processes - In nature there is not waste. The byproduct of one organism becomes the food for another. In other words, natural systems are made of closed loops. By working with living processes, we respect the needs of all species. Engaging processes that regenerate rather than deplete, we become more alive. Making natural cycles and processes visible brings the designed environment back to life.
• Understanding Environmental Impact - Sustainable design attempts to have an understanding of the environmental impact of the design by evaluating the site, the embodied energy and toxicity of the materials, and the energy efficiency of design,materials and construction techniques. Negative environmental impact can be mitigated through use of sustainably harvested building materials and finishes, materials with low toxicity in manufacturing and installation, and recycling building materials while on the job site.
• Embracing Co-creative Design Processes - Sustainable designers are finding it is important to listen to every voice. Collaboration with systems consultants, engineers and other experts happens early in the design process, instead of an afterthought. Designers are also listening to the voices of local communities. Design charettes for the end user (neighbourhood residents or office employers) are becoming a standard practice.
• Understanding People - Sustainable design must take into consideration the wide range of cultures, races, religions and habits of the people who are going to be using and inhabiting the built environment. This requires sensitivity and empathy on the needs of the people and the community.
"Sustainable architecture involves a combination of values: aesthetic, environmental, social, political, and moral. It's about using one's imagination and technical knowledge to engage in a central aspect of the practice -- designing and building in harmony with our environment. The smart architect thinks rationally about a combination of issues including sustainability, durability, longevity, appropriate materials, and sense of place. The challenge is finding the balance between environmental considerations and econmic constraints. Consideration must be given to the needs of our communities and the ecosystem that supports them." --