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Six pillars of sustainable design

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger.

Many organizations are trying to be the leader of the sustainability movement. You’ve got

  • World Green Building Council
  • USGBC 
  • Green Building Initiative
  • Green Building Alliance
  • and on and on

Each with several rating levels, guidelines, fees, and review process. As architects and owners sift through all the choices everyone has to simply keep a few key concepts in the forefront.

Call them the six pillars of sustainable design. Focus on these and you can’t go wrong!

  1. OPTIMIZE SITE POTENTIAL. Can you find an existing building that will work? Should it be closer to bus routes? Can it take advantage of natural ventilation and daylight?
  2. OPTIMIZE ENERGY USE. Do all you can to use as little fossil fuel as possible. Install the most efficient mechanical systems.  Consider geothermal and solar.
  3. PROTECT AND CONSERVE WATER.  Use as little water in the building as you can and conserve what falls on the site. Harvest rain water. Retain water on site with swales.
  4. OPTIMIZE BUILDING SPACE AND MATERIAL USE. Design spaces to fit the need. Build with long lasting materials. Use recycled materials. Build with naturally replenished materials.
  5. ENHANCE INDOOR AIR QUALITY.   Buildings are for human use so the human condition is paramount.  All the green efforts are in vain if the patient dies or is unhealthy.
  6. OPTIMIZE OPERATIONAL AND MAINTENANCE PRACTICES.  For too long buildings have been designed with sophisticated systems and turned over with no communication as to how to operate the building.  Designers and users must work together to reap the benefits of planning.

Let me know if you have any other pillars to add to the list. Contact me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com


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