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The Sustainable Design Blog

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

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

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

How to Choose a Solar Power System for your home or business

What are some systems for solar power generation that I should consider?

People come to our firm for green design because it's a very personal mission of ours to contribute to the sustainability of our planet and the preservation of our species. We also design beautiful buildings, if I do say so myself...

So, it's not all that uncommon to get questions about how to include solar power, our abundant and clean resource, in the overall design.

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Topics: Sustainable Design, solar, Sustainable Building, Green Design

Must have construction material made from recyclables

(The Wellness Center incorporates recycled construction materials - See the project by Carlson Studio Architecture)


WHY Recycled Products in Construction

Whether or not you believe that Climate Change is man-made, you cannot deny that the problems associated with trash, specifically plastic, are not caused by Mother Nature.

In an article by Laura Parker in the National Geographic, published Feb 13, 2015, she notes that 8 million tons are dumped into the ocean every year.  This is the equivalent of filling 5 grocery bags with trash and lining them up on EVERY foot of coastline in the entire world! 

As of the year 2014, this was estimated to be a total of 245,000 tons floating in the ocean (source: National Geographic). That doesn’t even account for what is sitting in landfills, lining the side of our highways and roads, or what has been ground up into microplastic and sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

That's a lot of plastic, and quite the mountain of a problem to solve. 

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Topics: green building, Sustainable Design


We're beyond sustainable architectural design for the environment, to design for sustainable societies and economies.

I have dedicated the better part of the last two decades to green architectural design, both in practice and in educating the public of its economical and environmental benefits. So have my talented colleagues. We wanted to have an impact on the world around us that was bigger than ourselves, so we have dedicated a lot of energy into it.

But sustainability doesn't end there. It's a bigger concept that finds its way into all sorts of corners and crevices in our lives, and we have been fortunate at Carlson to be able to integrate our designs into pieces of the world that many don't realize are critical to sustaining our socio-economic climates.

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Topics: Sustainable, Sustainable Design

10 ways to tell green architecture firms apart from the rif-raff

Green architecture is a great idea.

Sustainability and environmental consciousness are important to you. You make choices throughout your life, weighing convenience, costs, and personal well-being with your commitment to leave the world in a better state than when you arrived.

Because of this, you seek green alternatives whenever and wherever you can. You read labels, compare specs, and make the best choices you can based on the information that’s readily available.

And if you’re about to build a new structure, you have an incredible opportunity to incorporate principals of sustainability that will have an enormous impact on the world we live in – for many years to come. That’s why it’s probably a good idea to poke around and make sure you are engaging a firm where “green” is woven into their DNA, not just a marketing ploy to snag some extra business.

Because of that we’ve put together a list of ways to weed out the real green architecture firms from the rif-raff.

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Topics: Sustainable Design, Green Design

How Building a Green Home Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

(Click HERE to see the green home design shown above)


Building a green home with your carbon footprint in mind is key:

Building a green home is a key step to reducing your carbon footprint.  Here in the USA we are about 5% of the world’s population, but we use about 25% of the world’s energy, and much of the energy used has a significant carbon footprint.

Hearing that we're leading the world in energy consumption is nothing new, but the entire world is now striving to be like the USA in their standard of living, consumerism, and energy consumption. If we stay on this carbon based energy trajectory, we will need 9 planets to sustain humans here... which, of course, is not an option.

There is a lot you can do to reduce your carbon foot when you build a new home.  There are also advantages to remodeling your existing home or office building and preserving the embodied energy in that existing structure.


 ANOTHER LIKE THIS: How to Incorporate Embodied Energy into Your Green Building Designs



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Topics: carbon footprint, LEED Certified Home Design, Sustainable Design

How to Choose the right contractor for your green Home Design project

Congratulations on your choice for a green home! Now it's time to ensure it's a smooth build.

When most people set out to build their green home, the obvious first step is to find the right design team. And while I agree, you want to partner with an architectural firm that puts green first, as in, the idea of sustainability isn't an after thought, but rather, a fully integrated component in the planning process - you also want your construction crew to be thinking in the same terms.

When approached with a new project, it's rare for our clients to have a contractor already involved, so they turn to us for referrals. However, unlike your design team, you need your construction crew to be as local as possible, so even though we have our favorites, they're not always the best option due to their location.

It IS something that should be handled at the outset of your design process, because the integrated approach will save you a lot of hassle, and help you get the most efficient building that meets and exceeds your expectations.

We always recommend hiring your contractor at the same time as you hire your design team.

So, I put together a list of to-dos and questions to help you find the best contractor for your project.


MORE LIKE THIS: How to Save Yourself (Not Your Planet) With Sustainable Home Design


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Topics: Residential, Sustainable Design, Green Design

Trends In Sustainable Architecture For 2015


Talking about trends in sustainable architecture is a slippery slope.   Many of the “trends” are a simply the re-discovering of good design that worked well before we had so much technology to overcome poor design. That IS a plug for proven passive design solutions, but it IS NOT a criticism of technology. That is the strength of integrative design - to be able to look at entire system holistically and use the best of passive and active design solutions to obtain the optimum results. The following ideas are not new, but they are some of the ideas that are “top of the mind” in sustainable design today.

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Topics: Sustainable Design

Sustainable Residential Design Considerations for Florida


Being in a sub-tropical climate, sustainable design in Florida faces some unique challenges. Here are some of our thoughts, especially related to designing a Passive House, and trying to get to Net Zero energy use, in the hot and humid climate of Florida.

Here is a good illustration of climate zones in the USA from the IECC. Note the white line that indicates the Warm and Humid area of the country. Most of Florida is in Climate Zone 2.


Need more, related inspiration? Check out these other perspectives that will help you make other green building considerations:

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Topics: Sustainable Design, South Florida


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