Approaching Sustainable Design

By Nate Rogers, E.I.T. | June 18, 2020

Sustainable design is commonly associated with high construction costs and expensive cutting-edge building technology. However, when sustainability is considered early in the design process, projects can achieve high performance at average construction costs. Before ever putting pen to paper, this list may help to inspire some design:

DESIGN WITH THE SITE IN MIND:
Climate
Site orientation
Site vegetation
Prevailing natural forces

USE PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN:
Thermal mass
Natural ventilation
Light shelfs
Thermal chimney

SEAL THE ENVELOPE:
Insulation, insulation, insulation
Non-thermal bridging wall framing
Improve thermal properties of openings (Low-E glass)

The most important thing to know about sustainable design is that it is situational; every site requires a different approach. A good design may include some of the ideas from the list above, but it may require a completely different set of strategies. Ultimately, there is no prescriptive approach for designing sustainable buildings. To get the highest performance and most effective sustainable design, it is important to consider these elements early in the design process. An experienced designer can help to select the best strategies for any situation.

Furthermore, there are many resources available online to help better understand and guide sustainable building design. Here are just a few:

2030 Palette

Architect’s Guide to Building Performance

ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guides

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