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  • Writer's pictureJohn Mastera, Architect, AIA

An Architect’s Advice With Decades of Experience on Green Building

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

The green building aims to reduce the overall impact of the “built” environment on both human health and the natural environment. This is done by efficiently using energy, water, and other natural resources, and by reducing waste and environmental degradation.

Though the green building industry has been around since the turn of the last century, architects have been trained since the ’70s to design sustainable, green buildings. It was the rise in oil prices that made people think about relying so heavily on fossil fuels.

And architects have been doing that since the 19th Century. When the pioneers built “Soddy’s” they were way ahead of their time and they didn’t even know it – they were actually building modern-day Geothermal Domes (earth roofed homes) that are thermally efficient and kept them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Eco-friendly construction has a lot of benefits too such as low maintenance, and operation cost, material, water, and energy efficiency, reduces strain on local resources, better health, and environment and enhances indoor environmental quality.

However, one much-criticized issue about building environmentally friendly buildings is the price. Yet the cost of green construction has decreased over the years, it’s still generally more expensive than traditional building.

Sometimes building new, isn’t always the most environmentally friendly. A study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Green Lab, found that demolishing an existing building and constructing a new one almost always has a more negative environmental impact than reusing an existing building. It can take ten to eighty years for that building’s energy efficiency to offset its negative environmental impact during construction.

So don’t get obsessed with green labels. Many things labeled “green” are falsely labeled and your design will cost three times more to build, yet it will not be any more efficient than your neighbor’s new construction.

Things to Consider in Designing a Green Home

Material Choices – Choose materials that do not contain any harmful chemicals. This way, you already have a strong eco-friendly and health beneficial foundation for your house, to begin with.

Air Tight Enclosures – This is to prevent outdoor pollutants to enter your home. An airtight enclosure for the walls, roof, and floor that separate the indoor air from the outdoor air needs to be properly designed before construction begins to avoid any unplanned and unintended infiltration.

Separate Garage From Home – Separating the garage from your home with an airtight enclosure reduces the transfer of outdoor pollutants from harmful fumes released by cars. You can also physically separate the garage to ensure the prevention of these pollutants entering your home.

Operable Windows – Provide natural light, noise reduction, and fresh air.

Mechanical Ventilation – is the best way to bring fresh air into your home aside from the operable window. It allows you to fit and temper the air to fit your liking and health.

Keep Water Out and Let the Walls Dry – To prevent the growth of molds that will turn into air pollution. When water gets into the walls of your homes and can’t dry out, molds will grow. And when water gets into walls, the walls need to be designed and constructed to allow them to dry out.

Clean Up After Construction – A thorough cleaning after construction is a must - all surfaces and air ducts - to ensure chemicals and debris are removed from the house. Provide an air flush that will replace the current indoor air with fresh air, removing any lingering pollutants inside in the process.

It’s a great idea to build for the future with sustainability, and energy efficiency, and going green. Earth, at this rate might no longer be able to sustain us certain natural resources that we need to survive in the future.

Your architect has decades worth of training to create a built environment that cuts down energy usage, reduces carbon, saves money, and the environment.

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