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So, what exactly is sustainable design?


Simply put, the objective of sustainable design is to reduce or eliminate the negative impacts of the built environment on the planet and people through skillful design. 


This is achieved by reducing the environmental impact of construction of the building in the first place, as well as during its on-going use until the end of its life.  Green buildings are not only better for the environment, but are better for your health, and better for your pocket-book in the long run.   They use materials that are non-toxic and systems that require less energy. 


Everyone has had an experience with a product that has been boasted as ‘green’ in one way, only to find out how poorly it performs in another way.  Like renewable bamboo flooring that has to be shipped across the world, or energy efficient insulation that off-gases toxins.  So how do we measure the sustainability of a building material or construction method?  Sustainability can’t be measured on a single scale, but needs to be evaluated across several criteria in performance, cost and environmental impact.  No building material or method will be perfect in every category, so it is a matter of defining priorities and goals for a building project. The following categories should be considered in a sustainable designed space:


  • Environmental Impact – what effects do the harvesting, manufacturing and transportation of a material have on our ecosystem

  • Embodied energy – what carbon emissions are associated with the harvesting, manufacturing and transportation of a material or how much carbon is being sequestered?

  • Energy efficiency – how will this material impact the energy-efficiency of the built space?

  • Indoor air quality – how will this material impact the air quality of the built space?

  • Waste – How much waste is produced and what happens to this material at the end of it’s life?

  • Durability – How long will this material last under appropriate use?

  • Material cost – what costs are associated with this material?

  • Labour cost – how much labour is required to acquire and install this material? Is it possible to have the home owner install themselves?

  • Code compliance – is this material currently compliant with building code or can it be considered as an alternative method

  • Maintenance – what type of maintenance is required for this material?

  • Aesthetics – does this material fit with the overall style and aesthetic of the project?


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