In achieving architectural design excellence there are infinite Everests which beckon us: which Everest should we climb?
“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
Sir Christopher Wren, 1632-1723
There are as many criteria for defining design excellence in architecture as there are architectural designs. And climbing to the summit of design excellence is analogous to that of climbing Mount Everest. Yet in architectural design there are infinite Everests which beckon: which Everest should we climb? Continue reading
Solar panels on newly build house
Whether your goal is to generate your own clean energy, increase your home’s appraisal value, save money on your electric bill, or all of the above—investing in a small-scale solar electric system is a wise decision. A small solar electric system—or distributed generation (DG)—can produce reliable, emission-free energy for your home or business. However, it is important to make sure that your solar photovoltaic (PV) system is correctly sized, sited, installed and maintained, in order to maximize your energy performance. Continue reading
Proposed “SouthWest Ecodistrict”, Washington, D.C.
Originated by the City of Portland and the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI), the term EcoDistrict refers to a conceptual framework for planning, designing, implementing and maintaining sustainable solutions at a district level.
EcoDistricts can be thought of as geographically defined areas, such as a neighborhoods, institutional campuses, or employment districts within which flows of energy, water, nutrients, resources, information, financial capital and cultural resources are localized, integrated and synergized. Continue reading
Birch Street shops surround a large movie theater on the block to the right. This variety of storefronts creates a more interesting place to walk.
The concept of “smart growth” emerged in 1992 from the United Nation’s adoption of Agenda 21 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Driven by “new guard” urban planners, architects, developers, community activists, and historic preservationists, it accepts that growth and development will continue to occur, and so seeks to direct that growth in an intentional, comprehensive way. Continue reading
Embodied energy is one part of a building material’s overall environmental impact. Embodied energy is the total energy required for the extraction, processing, manufacture and delivery of building materials to the building site. Energy consumption produces CO2, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, so embodied energy is considered an indicator of the overall environmental impact of building materials and systems.
Unlike the life cycle assessment, which evaluates all of the impacts over the whole life of a material or element, embodied energy only considers the front-end aspect of the impact of a building material. It does not include the operation or disposal of materials.
Why reduce embodied energy?
Energy consumption during manufacture can give an approximate indication of the environmental impact of the material, and for most building materials, the major environmental impacts occur during the initial processes. The total amount of embodied energy may account for 20% of the building’s energy use, so reducing embodied energy can significantly reduce the overall environmental impact of the building. Continue reading
Building construction and operations can have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment, society, and economy, which are commonly referred to as the 3 P’s (‘People’, ‘Planet’, ‘Pocketbook’). The field of sustainable design seeks to balance the needs of these areas by using an integrated approach to create win-win-win design solutions. Continue reading
Thermal mass is a vital and complimentary component of passive solar design.
A material that has thermal mass is one that has the capacity to absorb, store and release the sun’s heat energy. Its density and levels of conductivity help to keep the internal temperature of a building stable. Objects that have thermal mass have inherent qualities for both heating and cooling.
Basic Passive Solar Design
Materials with thermal mass are typically used in the floor or inside walls of a passive solar structure and located near the solar glazing (southern facing windows) to allow the sun’s energy to shine to directly on them. In this manner, they can store and release the sun’s heat energy
They are generally dense materials, such as concrete, stone, brick or ceramic tile. In the diagram to the right, the thermal mass absorbs and distributes heat energy. Continue reading