Historically, all buildings were ventilated naturally. In modern buildings, many of the opportunities for natural ventilation have been compromised by placement of interior partition walls and reliance on mechanical systems. With an increased awareness of the cost and environmental impacts of energy use, natural ventilation has become an increasingly attractive method for reducing energy use and cost and for providing acceptable indoor environmental quality and maintaining a healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor climate rather than the more prevailing approach of using mechanical ventilation. Continue reading
When the ambient temperature within a building is within or above the comfort zone, any additional heating of the interior due to solar gain will result in discomfort. Architects therefor design solar shading devices to prevent this. However, at cool times of the year, it is generally desirable to allow solar radiation to pass directly into the room to provide a useful heating effect. This response – between blocking excess gain in summer vs optimizing gain in winter- can be provided either by the shading device being moveable, or by it being geometrically selective. Continue reading
In 2018, the California Building Standards Commission approved a mandate requiring all new homes under three stories in the state of California to install solar panels. This solar roof mandate, which is the first of its kind in the United States, will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Continue reading
Solar Rebates and Tax Credits
California is far and away the most mature residential solar market in the country, which can be both a blessing and a curse in some ways. Overall, it is definitely a net positive for homeowners who live here because they are usually more informed about the intricacies of solar and the state’s solar lobby is powerful enough to fight for important savings tool such as net metering.
But the downside of the mature market is that, unlike other states like Massachusetts and South Carolina, where rebates and energy credits are used to incentivize homeowners to consider solar, California has discontinued almost all of its state-specific solar incentives because the industry is strong enough to sustain itself. Continue reading
“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
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
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
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