Are You Designing Green?

Before I step back onto my green soapbox, I would like to share some kernels of wisdom that I recently uncovered and that have become wired into my DNA. In times like these, when adversity seems to have camped outside all our office doors, I found these kernels poignant reminders that remodeling is a profession of dedication, determination, perseverance and bold action.

  • Doubt: Set it aside; rely on your strength, character and fortitude. Be American!
  • Future/Dreams: The best way to predict the future is to create it.
  • Best: Your best changes with internal and external forces. Consistently do your best; know that it fluctuates. If constantly striving to exceed your best, your resources will be depleted and tomorrow will be harder.
  • Seriousness: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be happy, be willing to learn from mistakes (yours and others), be willing to share, and don’t let your ego get in the way of serving.
  • Motivation: Just do your best; momentum feeds motivation.
  • Cutting Fees: I’d rather eat macaroni and cheese with my kids
  • Momentum: Have your own “standard” (schedule, method, sequence, process, etc.) and use it when you’re not getting started. When you are under way, be willing to adjust your standards like Calvin and Hobbes — play Calvinball.
  • Endurance: As Dory from “Finding Nemo” says, “Just keep swimming.”

(Excerpted from the blog entry “Learning from Each Other,” November 12, 2008)

Green terminology

Now back to the green soapbox. I will try and define some of the basic terminology that helps define green design.

Life cycle: The five phases of a product’s life from materials extraction to reuse. These phases are 1) extraction of the material(s); 2) production of the product; 3) transporting the product: 4) installation of the product; and 5) life of the product.

Environmental Impact: The measure of change in the environment, be it helpful or harmful. This is the direct result of an action or series of actions.

Sustainable: Products and processes that can be renewed, thus not putting stress on the environment.

Putting it all together, it is the integration of sustainable products and processes, which can be measured through their life cycle for their total environmental impact, that defines green design.

Carbon Footprint: The true measurement of whether a product is green or not is its total environmental impact, also known as its carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of a product is how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases are produced and expended during its life cycle. The smaller the number (footprint), the better for our environment. This footprint is based on a 50-year building (product) life cycle period. Put another way, the carbon footprint is dependent on the integration of sustainable products and processes that are utilized to extend the life cycle.

Sustainable design

Sustainable/green design becomes the integration of building products that:

  • Are more durable
  • Offer greater longevity
  • Have low environmental toxicity
  • Utilize resources efficiently
  • Maximize energy efficiency
  • Possess recycling options
  • Reduce disposal impact

It is critical that we employ green design because buildings are the largest consumers of our natural and man-made resources, materials and energy:

  • 39 percent of the energy we consume is consumed in the buildings we work and live in
  • Buildings consume 70 percent of the energy we manufacture (i.e., electricity)
  • 40 percent of the raw materials we mine end up in buildings
  • 30 percent of greenhouse emissions come from buildings
  • 30 percent of our waste output is a direct effect of the buildings we created
  • These buildings are responsible for 12 percent of the potable water consumption.

These are staggering numbers when you look at them together.

If we are to have any chance to survive, we need to work together to incorporate sustainable initiatives. If we don’t:

  • Surface, air and water temperatures will increase globally.
  • Increased and erratic volumes of rainfall and global ice melts will continue to occur (yes, they already have started).
  • Resource depletion will increase.
  • We will not be able to slow down the ecosystem loss.
  • Global dimming will occur.
  • Bio and industrial waste will increase.
  • The quality of human life will be reduced significantly.

You can have good design and be green. Save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

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