Browsing the "Green Design" Tag

Secrets Of The Sydney Opera House

January 30th, 2017 | by Stephen Hanley

The Sydney Opera House has become a symbol for Australia. It is also a sustainable building designed before sustainability became popular. Here is the story of how and why it was built.


Green Cabinets: When Wood is Good

February 28th, 2008 | by Joel Bittle

So you’re building or remodeling green, and you’re trying to decide what to do about the cabinets. Scanning the requirements [&hellip


Dealing with Wildfires and Drought

October 31st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock


Wildfires aren't usually on my radar, because I don't live in a region that is much susceptible to them. But, in the past couple of weeks, everyone has become more aware of them. They have been widely across the news because of the number of serious wildfires in southern California recently. At the same time, recent news coverage has also looked at drought conditions which are being felt in Georgia and North Carolina. While these two are be peripherally linked in other ways, it makes some sense to look at these issues from the perspective of sustainable building.

Addressing the issue of preparation for these extreme conditions as part of a sustainable building strategy only makes sense. Water use and xeriscaping (drought tolerant landscaping) are issues that are included in the LEED rating system, and are well regarded as part of the overall sustainability of buildings. But addressing a building and it's site in terms of wildfires should be equally considered for regions where fire susceptibility is high. Keeping the building from burning down is also an issue of conservation of resources and should be part of a green building approach.

The Efficient Materials Trap

October 29th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock


Efficient materials can sometimes seem to be the ideal path for green building. If we can find a way to more efficiently produce the materials we need to build our buildings, it would seem that we would be well on our way to reducing our impact on the planet.

For example, rather than using lumber sawn from old growth forests, engineered lumber and I-joists make more efficient use of lumber resources and can take advantage of smaller trees. Instead of needing to find trees old enough and large enough to produce a piece of 2 x 12 lumber, an engineered I-joist can be made that uses chipped wood and glue manufactured wood board (like oriented strand board) and narrow, laminated strips of wood (again, made of smaller pieces of wood and glue). These engineered joists are lighter, straighter, and less prone to warping, cupping and twisting than even kiln dried sawn lumber is.

Engineered joists would seem to be an ideal solution. They are made from small, rapidly renewable trees, which can be farmed, rather than requiring the logging of large trees. Builders and carpenters like them because they are more regular, and they make for flatter floors, straighter walls, and truer roofs, with less variability when they are installed and less likelihood to move and twist over time.

But there are downsides to these more efficient materials.

Prohibited Green Technologies

October 22nd, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Green technologies make good sense to most of us, but incomplete or uncoordinated implementation can lead to circumstances where green technologies are not able to provide the full benefits that they can. In some instances, regulatory requirements can even lead to making green technologies counterproductive.

Waterless urinals present one striking example of how regulations and green technology are not yet working together. In some municipalities, waterless urinals have not been allowed by building inspectors because they do not meet code requirements. Or, in some cases, building inspectors have allowed waterless urinals to be installed, but have required the builder to provide plumbing supply lines to bring water to the waterless urinal locations (though capped off and hidden behind the finished wall). The rationale for this is that if the waterless urinals are later removed and replaced with conventional urinals, extensive renovation will not be necessary to bring water to the location.

This upsets many of the green benefits of using waterless urinals in the first place. While waterless urinals provide water savings, that is not the only green benefit to incorporating them into a green building. Waterless urinals, when installed without a water supply line, provide savings in materials by avoiding the installation of likely dozens of feet of water supply pipe. Given the material cost, the high embodied energy content, and the extensive mineral use in mining, refining, and creating even ten feet of copper pipe, much of the savings from installing a waterless urinal is wiped out. Because of this, it will take much longer to realize the savings that using a waterless urinal should provide.



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