Impacting the Way We Design Buildings


Making an actual impact on society is a tough goal to achieve; however, this has actually been a long time goal of mine. My parents are architects so I have always loved buildings, and when I was ten years old, I decided I wanted to be a real estate developer (the ones who hire the architects and set out to build buildings). Since then, I have improved upon this goal, most especially when I came back from studying abroad in Copenhagen. While abroad I took a class called “Sustainable by Design,” which focused on sustainable techniques to designing buildings, and this idea is what has become my passion. Now I want to start my own real estate development firm focused on building sustainable apartment buildings with the techniques I learned in Denmark.

How could this be a tipping point? It may not be for the general public, but I see a real need for developers to start building buildings that are centered on using innovative sustainable practices. I plan to start my development firm in Colorado, where there is already a strong movement to live more sustainable lifestyles; however, the development companies in Colorado have been slow to take advantage of this sustainable trend.

LEED buildings are more common throughout the U.S. but LEED is just a small step in the right direction. In Europe, I learned about BREEAM, which has become one of the most comprehensive and widely recognized measures of buildings’ environmental performance. With LEED, developers and designers look at a set of categories and try to get the minimal amount of points necessary to qualify their buildings as LEED certified. BREEAM encourages designers to think about low carbon and low impact design, minimizing energy demands created by a building before even considering energy efficiency and low carbon technologies. BREEAM measurements are defined by categories from energy to ecology, and they relate to energy and water use, the internal environment, pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology, and management processes. LEED sets a small box for which designers try to fill, whereas BREEAM encourages and rewards designers who innovate outside the box. While Colorado buildings’ performance are measured in terms of LEED, studying BREEAM has helped me to think of innovative sustainable practices beyond the requirements of LEED that I plan to use in my development firm. This includes techniques such as double facades and thermal heating and cooling.

By focusing on doing more than meeting minimum sustainable requirements, I hope my development firm will influence other Colorado and state firms to do the same. Developing buildings that go beyond standard sustainable requirements is how I hope to influence the tipping point in sustainable design.

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5 thoughts on “Impacting the Way We Design Buildings”

  1. Another great sustainable building design technique is Passive Housing (http://www.phius.org/about/mission-history). This design consists of the following:

    *It employs continuous insulation through its entire envelope without any thermal bridging.

    *The building envelope is extremely airtight, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.

    *It employes high-performance windows (typically triple-paned) and doors

    *It uses some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and uses a minimal space conditioning system.

    *Solar gain is managed to exploit the sun’s energy for heating purposes and to minimize it in cooling seasons.

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  2. Recently, the Green Building Council announced that certified Living Building Challenge projects will automatically earn the most points under the LEED rating system without additional documentation (http://living-future.org/lbc). Project teams are excited about this because it reduces the amount of dual certification required to complete. To read more about this, go to : https://www2.buildinggreen.com/article/leed-offers-living-building-challenge-alignment?woo_campaign=BGB150414&woo_content=headline&utm_source=BuildingGreen.com%20Mailing%20List&utm_campaign=0c3cf1f5c8-BGB_2015_04_144_14_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d558b0594a-0c3cf1f5c8-157394073&mc_cid=0c3cf1f5c8&mc_eid=37cdd4bedd .

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  3. The living building challenge was developed in order to challenge designers and help buildings reach net zero impact. The above video discusses why the living building is so important.

    The above video discusses one of the most well known living buildings called the Bullitt Center. It is one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world.

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  4. Jordi brings up a good point. How will you get other companies to follow what you are doing? Are you intending to get your innovative sustainable components to be accepted by LEED? You pointed out the problem that contractors will only use these ratings as a checklist (putting in bike racks, low flush toilets) rather than focusing it around sustainable practices. They might opt to do the bear minimum rather than going above and beyond like you. I would think that raising LEEDs minimum standards would create the most ripples

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