When most people think of sustainability and being eco-friendly, they often think of green energy sources, such as wind and solar. However, the way construction services design their buildings can also have a huge impact on the health of the surrounding environment – hence, the rise of so-called green architecture.
But how, exactly, does one design a building to be green?
The Basics of Green Architecture
Eco-friendly building systems must be both built green and maintained green. That means everything – including the architecture, design, maintenance, and more – throughout the building’s lifespan must be considered eco-friendly.
What qualifies as “green,” exactly?
The building must be environmentally friendly, of course, but how does one determine throughout the construction process that the building can be certified as green in the future?
Life Cycle Assessment
Conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) is among the most comprehensive ways to determine a building’s overall impact on the surrounding community and environment.
An LCA will warn commercial contractors of potential environmental dangers related to waste disposal and the management of the project. It also makes evident social and economic concerns.
Despite its comprehensiveness, an LCA is not necessarily a requirement to get one’s building certified as green by the government or a third party. However, it is an excellent tool for those looking to improve the long-term sustainability of not only their build but builds throughout the industry as a whole.
To minimize costly and environmentally damaging energy consumption, use details that prevent air from leaking through your building’s envelope.
Add extra insulation in ceilings, floors, and walls. Awnings and trees can be placed near roofs to help cool a building naturally during the summer, and properly placed windows can let the sunshine in for eco-friendly warmth.
Heating water using solar energy is also both cost-effective and green.
In most places, demand for water exceeds supply. Consider a plumbing system that effectively recycles wastewater for a clean and economic way to manage this resource.
A point-of-use water heating and treatment system also improves water quality in addition to being environmentally friendly.
Operation & Regulation
Both governmental and third-party organizations are able to certify buildings as green, as a variety of codes, rating systems, and standards are now available.
Many organizations also offer incentives to build eco-friendly features into commercially constructed buildings.
5 Pillars of Sustainable Architectural Design
There are countless ways to design a building with the environment in mind; it’s impossible to name them all!
However, many conscious architectural design firms like Miller Architects & Builders look at the following categories to reduce their environmental impact:
1. Well-Insulated Buildings
Architecture isn’t all about aesthetics. It also deals with more practical matters, such as your building’s envelope (the structure and factors that keep indoor and outdoor air separate).
Architects who practice their craft with the environment in mind stay on the cutting edge of the insulation field. And this knowledge helps ensure you spend less energy heating your building, thus cutting down on your carbon footprint.
Green architecture works to keep a building’s temperature consistent and to minimize cool or warm air lost to the outside. This means your HVAC system won’t need to expend so much electricity to do its job, which not only reduces your energy consumption but also associated monthly expenses.
2. Eco-Conscious Location
Certain geographical features can provide natural heating or cooling properties. For example, around 1.5 meters below the soil’s surface, the earth holds a steady temperature of around 52 degrees.
This means that air conditioning in these rooms in the summer might not even be necessary!
3. Natural Light
Large windows and skylights mean that you won’t need to invest as much money in lighting since you’ll be letting sunlight do most of the work.
Not only is this easy on your pocketbook, but it’s also kinder to the environment. Orientating a building in such a way to work with the sun’s natural movement can also prove helpful in this respect.
Learn more about harnessing the power of natural lighting in your architectural design.
4. Size-Efficient Design
It still costs energy to heat, cool, and illuminate a space that a business rarely or never uses. Green architects work hard to understand the needs of their clients and to design a space that’s right for your needs now and in the near future – no more and no less.
5. Environmental Program Participation
Because sustainability has become such a pressing issue, numerous organizations have sprung up to help construction companies reduce their carbon footprint, and to help architects design with the environment in mind.
At Miller Architects & Builders, we participate in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which provides a green framework for construction companies across the country.
Miller Architects & Builders: Experts in Sustainable Design
At Miller Architects & Builders, we not only offer construction with the environment in mind but also pride ourselves on our innovative, collaborative, client-focused approach to construction.
For nearly 150 years, we’ve served as project and construction management partners for countless clients throughout Minnesota and the United States and are fully committed to your project’s success.
To discuss an upcoming project or learn more about our architectural design and construction management services, call us today at 320-251-4109. Or, feel free to contact us online with any questions, and we’ll reach out with more information.
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