Earth Day is on April 22nd, so I thought I would get the “go green” awareness started a little early this month! With the amassing chatter around the world about global warming, we have seen a rising trend in doing things that are good for the environment, or, as we like to call it, “going green.” Even in the world of architecture, firms are beginning to specialize in sustainable construction or other environmentally friendly practices. Sometimes called “building green,” this type of construction utilizes responsible and efficient materials. These materials are better for the environment and, in many cases, are also better on the budget for people or organizations that construct them. Here are 5 ways that architects can incorporate “going green” into their design:
- Use of Sustainable Materials – Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal. Some examples of sustainable materials are bamboo, clay, adobe, hemp, recycled rubber, cork, straw, coconut palm, timber, and textiles. Many home improvement stores offer these types of materials for different projects. A great example is refurbished hardwood flooring! Cork is a great accent wall for a kitchen or office. It basically becomes a giant bulletin board where you can display photos or notes.
- Use of Biodegradable Materials – Biodegradable substances are capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms. These include food scraps, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste, manufactured products based on natural materials (such as paper, and vegetable-oil based soaps). The most commonly used biodegradable material used in the construction field is insulation. Greensulate is a great example of this innovative material.
- Incorporating Natural Lighting – Homeowners spend big money to power the lights in their homes every day. Each time you turn on a light, kilowatts are being used in order to provide you with that light – and that means that the electric company is using valuable resources such as oil and gas. The best solution to this problem is to incorporate as much natural light as possible through windows and skylights.
- Purchasing “Energy Star” Appliances – ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. In order to earn the label, ENERGY STAR products must be third party certified based on testing in EPA-recognized laboratories. In addition to up-front testing, a percentage of all ENERGY STAR products are subject to “off–the–shelf” verification testing each year. The goal of this testing is to ensure that changes or variations in the manufacturing process do not undermine a product’s qualification with ENERGY STAR requirements. Appliances range from refrigerators, dishwashers and washer/dryers to ceiling fans, light bulbs, and pool pumps.
- Creating an Outdoor Space – Finally, you want to incorporate outdoor space within the architectural design. You may want to have an open-air lobby, a large patio or deck in your backyard. Adding trees and other plants to your yard is one of the easiest ways to help the environment!