Sustainable design blog for progressive architecture

The Sustainable Design Blog

For the love of beauty, functionality, and the planet Earth

Grenfell Apartment Tower- Putting Cost Before Safety: Lessons and Loss

Don't let code minimums and first cost doom your design.

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Drawing Parallels between the Civil Rights & Sustainability Movements


We face EXTREME opposition:


Since participating in the Women’s march in Washington DC in January 2017, my awareness of civil rights issues has been heightened. Moreover, I am beginning to see many similarities between those opposing minority groups in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, as they fought for equal rights and those opposing movements today fighting for a cleaner world.


In an exercise to draw out the similarities I took some profound statements from a book I just finished reading (Deep Denial by David Billings), and re-wrote them to fit into my perspectives on the current sustainability effort in the US.  I hope these help you to see the connections.  

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Topics: sustainability

Net Zero Energy: how Sustainable Design is Changing Your Future



Hi everybody, and happy 2017! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and were able to celebrate the New Year with good people and good times.


Speaking of, I wanted to kick the year off with a little celebration of my own - because we just received report back on our 2016 Gold LEED certified nature center at Audubon - and it turns out that just by existing, our building is contributing to solving our energy crisis!


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Topics: Sustainable Design, solar, Net Zero Energy Design

How to Get Your Energy Efficient building With new Light bulbs


Reinventing the first BRIGHT idea:

Thomas Edison’s 19th century invention of the incandescent light, which has an electric current running through a wire filament and heating it until it starts to glow, has been phased out by federal legislation.

So, what's the right answer for YOUR business? Is it CFLs? LEDs?

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Topics: Energy Efficiency, Commercial Architecture

Net Zero Building Design is Going to be the Standard Sooner than Later

Change is coming:

If you do not yet sense an urgency for change, you will soon.

Sure, there's market resistance, and there will continue to be, and so far, it doesn't seem to have moved very fast. But that's because the market will only transform so fast without a crisis.

The sweet spot for now may be where both sides are angry:  The market is uncomfortable with the required rate of change, and those that understand the current and pending risks are angry that change is not happening fast enough.  

The question today: Why do something different?  We are all pretty good at what we do, so why change?

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Topics: renewable energy, Sustainable Design, Energy Efficiency

Does the Cost of Solar energy outweigh the benefits?


How much does it cost to turn the sun into electricity, and is it worth it for my Florida building?

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a typical residential system should lower your electric bills by 25% to 50%. The a verage household pays about $110 a month for electricity, according to the Energy Department, so a solar-panel system should save you between $300 and $600 a year.

Not bad....

Finding such savings and a shorter payback time than I expected when I first started looking into the subject, led me to doing further research on the use of solar panels for residential energy in sunny Florida.

However, doing so opened a can of political worms I was hoping to avoid, because it turns out that our laws are tilting the scales in ways people don't realize.

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Topics: solar, Sustainable Building

How we're going to meet the 2030 challenge


I was in attendance at the International Living Futures Institute’s (ILFI) Living Futures 2016 conference in Seattle the week of May 9, 2016.  It was an amazing gathering of leaders in sustainability.  

One of the keynote addresses was given by Ed Mazria, Founder and CEO of 2030 Architecture and of the 2030 Challenge. The imperative that he spoke about is that we reach zero net carbon emissions for all new buildings by 2030 and for ALL buildings by 2050.  He spoke about how not only is it important, but it's an absolutely necessity for the survival of our species.

Many see it as a bold plan, because it simply won't accept business as usual in the built environment, but not us, because we know for a fact that these goals are attainable, and they're just the things that motivate us every single day.

This got me thinking:  What do we need to be doing, as architects in Florida, to stay on track to meet the 2030 Challenge? 

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Topics: LEED Certified Building, Sustainable Building, Green Design, Energy Efficiency

Why Would I Need NEED a Green Building Consultant?

Well... Do you want to be green, or do you want to be GREEN?

A green building consultant specializes in sustainable design and LEED certified projects. They may also have expertise in other green building rating systems and Energy Star.

For inexperienced project teams, the consultant can lead the entire team through the entire process. For more experienced teams the consultant may assist with any aspect of the project; from establishing sustainability goals at a project kick off meeting to documentation in the LEED online system when construction is completed.

Basically, a green building consultant will either make or break your project.

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Topics: Green build, Eco Charrette, consulting, Green Design

How this year's presidential election may impact climate change

How green is your favorite candidate?

This year's election is proving to be quite the dramatic showdown. Trump just all but sealed the Republican nomination, and Sanders and Clinton are brawling for every last delegate on the table.

There are a lot of hot button issues too - from building walls across national borders (what an architectural feat that would be), to freedom of religious expression, to our economy, to the dichotomy of lower income earners and the top 1%

But let's not also forget about the climate. Yes, this too has been somewhat of a contentious debate, and the outcome may reshape everything we know about our future, since the President will be leading policy change and very likely decided 4 new Supreme Court Justices if they make it two terms.

That's a pretty big deal for us greenies... and anybody who enjoys living on this rock we call Earth.

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Topics: Climate Change Facts, Climate change

More Green Building Materials You Probably Don't Know About

What are some green building materials that many builders are unaware of?

We could probably spend this and several more blogs discussing what green materials actually are, but I will let you decide that, and get on with some of the materials we have been using over the past 15 years in our sustainable design work.

This comes after receiving a lot of great direct feedback from posting this article by Peter Hortsman on the same subject (Must-Have Construction Material Made from Recyclables by Carlson Studio Architecture).

Building materials are constantly being improved or replaced with better materials, and because the modern sustainable building industry in the United States has been around for a couple of decades now, we have great materials that are already proven, and I'm going to share some of those that are a little less commonly known but very good for our planet.

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Topics: Green build, Building Materials, Construction


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