Sustainable Architecture Module


Introduction to Sustainable Design

Written by Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Professor of Architecture, and Brenda Rigdon, Project Intern College of Architecture and Urban Planning The University of Michigan

Published by National Pollution Prevention Center for Higher Education, 430 E. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1115 734.764.1412 • fax: 734.647.5841 • website:

This compendium was made possible in part by a grant from the 3M Corporation. These materials may be freely copied for educational purposes.
Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 1

2 • Sustainable Design

December 1998

Introduction to Sustainable Design

.................. 6 Principles of Sustainable Design Principle 1: Economy of Resources............................................................................................................................ 11 Principle 3: Humane Design ......................................................... 27 Urban Design and Site Planning.............5 Sustainability in Architecture................................................................. 21 Life Cycle Design .................................................................................. 16 Water Conservation................. 9 Principle 2: Life Cycle Design .................................................................................................................................................................. 5 Fundamentals Changing our Definitions of Growth and Progress....... 22 Pre-Building Phase..................................... 27 Preservation fo Natural Conditions ... 16 Energy Conservation............................ 28 Sustainable Design Bibliography.............. 27 Design for Human Comfort ........................ 25 Humane Design............................................................................ 29 Sustainable Design Annotated Bibliography ......... 24 Post-Building Phase ............................... 14 Summary .5 Resource Consumption and Environmental Pollution............................Contents List of Figures .................................................................. 20 Materials Conservation ....................................................................... 15 Methods for Achieving Sustainable Design Economy of Resources............................................................33 Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 3 . 22 Building Phase......

........6 Income vs............23 Methods for “Humane Design” ........................................................... 11 Ecological elements of site and building .............List of Figures Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3............................11 Sustainable building life cycle ...... energy consumption.........................8 Material-flow diagram ..................... water consumption.6 Income vs..17 Methods for “Life Cycle Design” ......................................6 Framework for sustainable architecture........... 9 Conventional model of the building life cycle.............. Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 10 Figure 11 Income vs.... 26 4 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design .13 Methods for “Economy of Resources”................ pollutant production ........

real or potential. realizing the environmental threats. transportation. agriculture. environmental movements have begun in virtually all sectors of industrialized countries. The ecological havoc created by the former Soviet Union is only now beginning to be fully understood. In the United States alone. cities. be they families. which favors any economic activities and production. All quantitative economic indices such as per capita income. and architecture. are far more noticeable than two or three decades ago. billions of dollars have been spent cleaning up an environment subjected to uncontrolled development. However. so does its resource consumption. Today. Developing countries tend to model their economic infrastructure after those of their industrialized counterparts. Resource Consumption and Environmental Pollution Resource consumption and economic status have a strong correlation. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 5 . GNP. Even consumption. to the quality of life. including business. Researchers are developing and refining methods of analyzing the true cost of an economic activity over its entire life cycle. In industrialized. consumption is regarded as a virtue. and waste that require further production are credited to a higher GNP. or entire countries. and the amount of building construction indicate that their economies are strong and growing rapidly. manufacturing. capitalistic societies. economic activities in developing countries around the world. not emulate them. we measure Gross National Product (GNP). As the income level of a society increases.Fundamentals Changing our Definitions of Growth and Progress How do we measure economic success? Traditionally. Pacific Rim countries in particular. This is true for societies of virtually any size. regardless of their true benefits and effect on long-term societal well-being. demolition. and their share of the world economy is increasing. amount of foreign trade. Developing countries would do well to learn from these situations. Measuring a country’s GNP does not account for the loss of environmental quality — and quality of life — attributed to industrialization.

This implies that it is plausible for a society to establish resource-efficient social and economic infrastructures while raising its economic status.” or “ecological” architecture is not terribly important. as does the emission of environmental pollutants to the atmosphere (see Figure 3 ). industrial countries with higher incomes consume more energy per capita than developing countries. The correlation between per-capita income and per-capita water consumption reveals a similar pattern (see Figure 2 ). Per Capita Energy Consumption (M-Btus/yr) Figure 1: Correlations between per-capita incomes and percapita energy consumption levels of selected industrialized and developing countries. 0 0 10000 20000 30000 Per-Capita Income (US$/yr) Figure 2: Correlations between per-capita incomes and per-capita water consumptions of selected industrialized and developing countries. [Source: Herman Daly. or country) with such an infrastructure will be less susceptible to resource shortages. 1987). more reliable by itself. city. Developing countries’ energy use. 1991).400 Canada USA 300 200 UK Germany Japan France N Korea 100 Korea Hong Kong 0 0 10000 Italy 20000 30000 Per-Capita Income (US$/yr) The correlation between per-capita income and energy consumption of various countries demonstrates this trend. Among industrialized countries. community. while Japan’s is much lower. [Source: Herman Daly. and thus more sustainable in the future. Steady-State Economics (Washington: Island Press. A society (household. water use.] Sustainability in Architecture 1500 USA The World Commission on Environment and Development has put forth a definition of “sustainability” as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.] This definition of sustainability does not specify the ethical roles of humans for their everlasting existence on the planet. As shown in Figure 1. 6 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Steady-State Economics (Washington: Island Press. the debate on the terms “green.” “sustainable. It also fails to embrace the value of all other constituents participating in the global ecosystem. Per Capita Water Use (gal/day) Canada 1000 USSR Italy Mexico 500 Germany UK Korea France Japan — From Our Common Future (London: Oxford University Press. 1991). the energy intensity of Canada and the United States is the highest. In this respect. and share of global environmental pollution is expected to increase. The need for finding long-terms solutions that warrant continuing human existence and well-being is far more compelling than that of finding a proper terminology to describe the human need.

building operation inflicts long-lasting impact on the environment. [Source: Herman Daly. and 3. its demand for architectural resources — land. buildings or building products.-ton/yr) UK USSR Brazil 10 Italy Germany France Japan China Korea 0 During a building’s existence. it affects the local and global environments via a series of interconnected human activities and natural processes. and transporting all the resources used in building operation and maintenance also have numerous effects on the environment. site development and construction influence indigenous ecological characteristics. furnishings and home appliances. For a household. Once built. living organisms. For instance. office buildings. the energy and water used by its inhabitants produce toxic gases and sewage. the process of extracting. Though temporary. This in turn increases the combined impact of architecture on the global ecosystem. Steady-State Economics (Washington: Island Press. The goal of sustainable design is to find architectural solutions that guarantee the well-being and coexistence of these three constituent groups. It is predicted that the pattern of architectural resource intensity (the ratio of per-capita architectural resource consumption to per-capita income) will generally follow the same patterns as shown in Figure 1. 1991). 2. The procurement and manufacturing of materials impact the global environment. Architectural professionals have to accept the fact that as a society’s economic status improves. Per Capita Pollutant Production USA 20 Canada (CO2 Eq.Architecture is one of the most conspicuous forms of economic activity.] Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 7 . energy. and humans. and residential buildings. the influx of construction equipment and personnel onto a building site and process of construction itself disrupt the local ecology. At the early stage. more comfortable thermal conditions in interior spaces. and other resources — will increase. and a larger garden or yard. refining. which is made up of inorganic elements. 0 10000 20000 30000 Per Capita Income ($/yr) Per-Capita Income (US$/yr) Figure 3: Correlations between per-capita incomes and per-capita pollutant production of selected industrialized and developing countries. the growth of incomes will lead to a desire for a larger house with more expensive building materials. A country’s economic development will necessitate more factories.

We propose three principles of sustainability in architecture.Principles of Sustainable Design To educate architects to meet this goal of coexistence. both local and global. Strategies. of architectural consumption. and Methods) correspond to the three objectives of architectural environmental education: creating environmental awareness. we have developed a conceptual framework. Humane Design focuses on the interactions between humans and the natural world. and recycling of the natural resources that are input to a building. The overall conceptual diagram for sustainable design is shown in Figure 4 . Life Cycle Design provides a methodology for analyzing the building process and its impact on the environment. These principles can provide a broad awareness of the environmental impact. explaining the building ecosystem. Figure 4: Conceptual framework for Sustainable Design and Pollution Prevention in Architecture. and teaching how to design sustainable buildings. The three levels of the framework (Principles. reuse. Economy of Resources is concerned with the reduction. SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND POLLUTION PREVENTION Principles Economy of Resources Life Cycle Design Strategies Energy Conservation Pre-Building Phase Preservation of Natural Conditions Urban Design Site Planning Humane Design Water Conservation Building Phase Material Conservation Post-Building Phase Design for Human Comfort Methods 8 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design .

in and out of a building. resources flow into the building as input to the building ecosystem. This allows them to further disaggregate and analyze specific methods architects can apply to reduce the environmental impact of the buildings they design. natural and manufactured.Each of these principles embody a unique set of strategies. In a long run. There is a continuous flow of resources. it should turn into components for other buildings. the architect reduces the use of nonrenewable resources in the construction and operation of buildings. For a given resource. MATERIAL FLOW IN THE BUILDING ECOSYSTEM Upstream Building Materials Building Materials Energy Water Consumet Goods Consumer Goods Solar Radiation Wind Rain Building Building Downstream Used Materials Combustion Byproducts Graywater Sewage Recycleable Materials Wasted Head Polluted Air Groundwater Principle 1: Economy of Resources By economizing resources. Downstream. Studying these strategies leads students to more thorough understanding of architecture’s interaction with the greater environment. This is the law of resource flow conservation . Figure 5: The input and output streams of resource flow. its forms before entry to a building and after exit will be different. resources flow out of the building as output from the building ecosystem. This flow begins with the production of building materials and continues throughout the building’s life span to create an environment for sustaining human well-being and activities. The input elements for the building ecosystem are Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 9 . This transformation from input to output is caused by the many mechanical processes or human interventions rendered to the resources during their use in buildings. When examining a building. consider two streams of resource flow (see Figure 5). Upstream. any resources entered into a building ecosystem will eventually come out from it. After a building’s useful life.

replacement. Energy Conservation After construction. and magnitude of environmental impacts of energy consumptions in buildings differ depending on the type of energy delivered. a low-level flow of materials continues in for maintenance. with various forms. through mining or harvesting energy sources and generating power. Hydropower plants each require a dam and a reservoir which can hold a large body of water. The influx of building materials occurs primarily during the construction stage. flushing toilets. All of this water requires treatments and delivery. irrigating plants. location. 10 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Coal-fired electric power plants emit polluting gases such as SO2 . Water Conservation A building requires a large quantity of water for the purposes of drinking. CO. The type.diverse. After construction. and NO x into the atmosphere. either to be recycled or dumped in a landfill. Each focuses on a particular resource necessary for building construction and operation. cooking. a building requires a constant flow of energy input during its operation. which consume energy. volumes. construction of dams results in discontinuance of river ecosystems and the loss of habitats for animals and plants. lighting. cooling. and material conservation. The water that exits the building as sewage must also be treated. etc. Consumer goods flow into the building to support human activities. water conservation. and equipment operation cannot be recovered. The waste generated by the construction and installation process is significant. Material Conservation A range of building materials are brought onto building sites. Nuclear power plants produce radioactive wastes. and environmental implications.. CO2 . The three strategies for the economy of resources principle are energy conservation. and renovation activities. washing and cleaning. for which there is currently no permanent management solution. All of these materials are eventually output. The energy consumed by a building in the process of heating. The environmental impacts of energy consumption by buildings occur primarily away from the building site.

Principle 2: Life Cycle Design The conventional model of the building life cycle is a linear process consisting of four major phases: design. LCD is based on the notion that a material transmigrates from one form of useful life to another. Design © Construction © Operation & Maintenance © Demolition Figure 6: Conventional model of the building life cycle. The second principle of sustainable architecture is life cycle design (LCD). with no end to its usefulness. and demolition (see Figure 6 ). as shown in Figure 7. and disposal affect the larger ecosystem. operation and maintenance. This “cradle-to-grave” approach recognizes environmental consequences of the entire life cycle of architectural resources. The phases can be developed into LCD strategies that focus on minimizing the environmental impact of a building. and post-building. These phases are connected. the life cycle of a building can be categorized into three phases: pre-building. Extraction Processing Manufacturing Transportation Building Phase Construction Operation and Maintenance Post-Building Phase Waste Management Recycle Reuse Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 11 . from procurement to return to nature. The problem with this model is that it is too narrowly defined: it does not address environmental issues (related to the procurement and manufacturing of building materials) or waste management (reuse and recycling of architectural resources). and the boundaries between them are not obvious. Pre-Building Phase Nature Figure 7: The sustainable building life cycle. construction. For the purpose of conceptual clarity. construction. building. operation. Analyzing the building processes in each of these three phases provides a better understanding of how a building’s design.

The procurement of building materials impacts the environment: harvesting trees could result in deforestation. sand. For more information on this topic. depending on their weight and distance from the site. gravel. and materials used. building materials become resources for other buildings or waste to be returned to nature. The manufacturing of building products also requires energy and creates environmental pollution: for example. Sustainable Communities (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. we also consider long-term health effects of the building environment on its occupants. The sustainabledesign strategy focuses on reducing construction waste (which currently comprises 60% of the solid waste in landfills1) by recycling and reusing buildings and building materials. we examine the construction and operation processes for ways to reduce the environmental impact of resource consumption.Pre-Building Phase This phase includes site selection. mining mineral resources (iron for steel. In the sustainable-design strategy. a high level of energy is required to manufacture steel or aluminum products. and limestone for concrete) disturbs the natural environment. we examine the environmental consequences of the structure’s design. orientation. This “Sustainable Architecture” module is available for a small fee from the Center for Sustainable Systems (formerly the NPPC. see Recycling and Reuse of Building Materials. building design. even the transport of these materials can be a highly polluting activity. Building Phase This phase refers to the stage of a building’s life cycle when a building is physically being constructed and operated. and building material processes.html Sim Van der Ryn and Peter Calthorpe. Under the sustainable-design strategy. 1986). bauxite for aluminum.umich. In this stage. Post-Building Phase This phase begins when the useful life of a building has ended. impact on the landscape. up to but not including installation. see the front page of this document for contact information) or free of charge on our website: 1 12 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design .

Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 13 .. . .Site and Building Interactions The LCD concept calls for consideration of the environmental consequences of buildings in all three phases of the life cycle. after the building’s useful life. from the time they arrive at the site for installation or operation though the duration of the building’s useful life. before they arrive at the site. . including sunlight. . precipitation. .. ... etc. water table. Figure 8: Ecological elements of Site and Building associated with the building life-cycle phases. before construction. after the building’s useful life.. Each phase of building life cycle is associated with two groups of ecological elements: site and building (see Figure 8).... . soil... BUILDING: Natural or manufactured resources. such as building materials..... water. flora. wind.. or energy . but sustainable building can be achieved by finding ways to minimize environmental impacts during all three phases of building life cycle. from the time construction begins through the duration of the building’s useful life.. SITE: Elements of site ecology that exist within or in the vicinity of a building site. The principal domain of architectural design is in the building phase. fauna.

health. 14 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . An essential role of architecture is to provide built environments that sustain occupants’ safety. In modern society. psychological well-being. which sometimes seemed to mean “shivering in the dark. A general rule of thumb in such comparisons is that the annual energy bill of a typical office building amounts to around five hours of employee labor cost. When a product saves energy. some fluorescents were known to buzz. not seriously considering environmental quality in and around their built environments . many building designers have been preoccupied with style and form-making. Remember the performance factor of design. but if the noise irritated the employee working nearby. just that it should be kept in holistic perspective. While economy of resources and life cycle design deal with efficiency and conservation. and perhaps the most important. any building energy conservation strategy that annually reduces productivity by more than five hours per employee defeats its purpose. This principle arises from the humanitarian and altruistic goal of respecting the life and dignity of fellow living organisms. does it perform as well as what it is replacing? And how does it affect the performance of building occupants? For instance. and productivity. therefore. thereby wiping out any financial benefits gained from lighting energy conservation. more than 70% of a person’s lifespan is spent indoors. humane design is concerned with the livability of all constituents of the global ecosystem. physiological comfort.” Compounding the problem. Further examination reveals that this principle is deeply rooted in the need to preserve the chain elements of the ecosystems that allow human survival. This is not to say that energy conservation can’t be financially beneficial.Principle 3: Humane Design Humane design is the third. The bulb might save $30 in annual energy costs. taking other pertinent factors into account. however. its importance has often been overlooked in the quest for energy and environmental conservation. early fluorescent lighting systems were more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. Because environmental quality is intangible. the employee’s resulting drop in productivity could cost the employer a lot more. including plants and wildlife. principle of sustainable design.

and developing their skills and knowledge-base in sustainable design. wildlife). and Life Cycle Design — in design. To enhance environmental sustainability. and between buildings and their occupants. This framework is intended to help designers seek solutions rather than giving them a set of solutions. construction. and entire geographic regions can benefit from cooperative planning to reduce energy and water demands. The current status of sustainable design in architecture is that of an ethic rather than a science. introduce students to environmental ethics. and positively affect health and well-being. Urban Design and Site Planning Neighborhoods. reduce stress. Faculty have to foster environmental awareness. and methods of implementing specific environmental design goals is urgent. a building must holistically balance and integrate all three principles — Sustainable Design. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 15 . free of pollution and welcoming to nature.g. This can improve productivity. Summary To achieve environmental sustainability in the building sector.. Economy of Resources. the development of scientific knowledge-bases that provide skills. Human Comfort As discussed previously. These principles comprise a conceptual framework for sustainable architectural design. Specific design solutions compatible with a given design problem will emanate from these principles. Design should enhance the work and home environments. cities. While a change of lifestyles and attitudes toward the local and global environments is important. The result can be a more pleasant urban environment. plants. and recycling and reuse of architectural resources. architects must be educated about environmental issues during their professional training. Preservation of Natural Conditions An architect should minimize the impact of a building on its local ecosystem (e. operation and maintenance. existing topography.The following three strategies for humane design focus on enhancing the coexistence between buildings and the greater environment. techniques. sustainable design need not preclude human comfort.

lighting and cooling. and global environments. The materials used in architecture must be harvested. water. 2) Output-management methods reduce environmental pollution by requiring a low level of waste and proper waste management. and transported to the building site. Energy-Conscious Urban Planning Cities and neighborhoods that are energy-conscious are not planned around the automobile. local. The three principles of sustainable design — economy of resources. and humane design — provide a broad awareness of the environment issues associated with architecture. The main goal is to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. life cycle design. 1) Input-reduction methods reduce the flow of nonrenewable resources input to buildings. but also in their construction. These strategies are intended to foster an understanding of how a building interacts with the internal. Buildings consume energy not only in their operation. allowing people 16 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Construction itself often requires large amounts of energy for processes ranging from moving earth to welding. physical. The strategies within each principle focus on more specific topics. Energy Conservation Energy conservation is an input-reduction method. and psychological benefits to building users. Economy of Resources Conserving energy. These methods can be classified as two types. qualitative. but around public transportation and pedestrian walkways. A building’s resource demands are directly related its efficiency in utilizing resources. for heating. These cities have zoning laws favorable to mixed-use developments. processed. This section discusses methods for applying sustainable design to architecture.Methods for Achieving Sustainable Design The ultimate goal and challenge of sustainable design is to find win-win solutions that provide quantitative. There are many possibilities for achieving this seemingly difficult goal. and materials can yield specific design methods that will improve the sustainability of architecture (see Figure 8).

Urban sprawl is avoided by encouraging redevelopment of existing sites and the adaptive reuse of old buildings. For example. Climatic conditions determine orientation and clustering.Low-flow showerheads .to live near their workplaces.Rainwater collection .Graywater collection Materialconserving design and construction Proper sizing of building systems Rehabilitation of existing structures Use of reclaimed or recycled materials and components Use of nonconventional building materials Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 17 . a very cold or very hot and dry climate might require buildings sharing walls to reduce exposed surface area. SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND POLLUTION PREVENTION Figure 9: “Economy of Resources” methods of application.Vacuum-assist toilets or smaller toilet tanks Reuse: .Indigenous landscaping . a hot. humid climate would require widely spaced structures to maximize natural ventilation. Principle 1: Economy of Resources Strategies Energy Conservation Water Conservation Material Conservation Methods Energy-conscious urban planning Energy-conscious site planning Alternative sources of energy Passive heating and cooling Avoidance of heat gain or heat loss Use of lowembodied-energy materials Use of energyefficient appliances with timing devices Reduction: .

by plants or overhangs. deciduous trees provide shade in summer and solar heat gain in winter. prevents summer heat gain and the accompanying costs of air-conditioning. open southern exposure will encourage passive solar heating. Buildings can be located relative to water onsite to provide natural cooling in summer. improving its energy efficiency. and the initial investment need for the equipment will be smaller. Passive Heating and Cooling Solar radiation incident on building surfaces is the most significant energy input to buildings. In temperate climates. Evergreens planted on the north of a building will protect it from winter winds. The wind. the surface temperatures of windows and walls will be higher in the winter and lower in the summer. Reduced heating and cooling loads require smaller HVAC equipment. high-performance windows and wall insulation create more comfortable thermal environments. Prevailing winds have long been a major factor in urban design. so that it may be utilized at a more desirable time of day. 18 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Insulation High-performance windows and wall insulation prevent both heat gain and loss. light.Energy-Conscious Site Planning Such planning allows the designer to maximize the use of natural resources on the site. Due to the insulating properties of the materials. This basic requirement is often overlooked in modern building design. Reducing such heat transfer reduces the building’s heating and cooling loads and thus its energy consumption. and ultraviolet radiation necessary for photosynthesis. Passive solar architecture offers design schemes to control the flow of solar radiation using building structure. For instance. Shading in summer. provides two major benefits: cooling and hygienic effects. or the flow of air. proposals for Roman city layouts were primarily based on the direction of prevailing winds. architects have devised building forms that provide shading in summer and retain heat in winter. Historically. It provides heat. The installation of smaller HVAC equipment reduces mechanical noise and increases sonic quality of the indoor space. Aside from these tangible benefits.

Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 19 . and reducing cooling energy consumptions. Careful selection of highefficiency heating. they also give off heat as a result of the inefficient use of electricity. a building’s greatest expense is the cost of operation. recycled aluminum requires far less energy to refabricate. but this will be offset by future savings. The embodied energy of a material attempts to measure the energy that goes into the entire life cycle of building material. shaving peak electric loads. and ventilation systems becomes critical. Energy-Efficient Equipment & Appliances After construction costs. These qualitative benefits of daylighting can be far more significant than its energy-savings potential. Environmental Protection Agency has developed the “Energy Star” program to assist consumers in identifying energy efficient electronic equipment. Operation costs can even exceed construction costs over a building’s lifetime. wind. Electrical and heating requirements can be met by these systems. By choosing materials with low embodied energy. cooling. enhancing the psychological wellbeing and productivity of indoor occupants. More efficient appliances reduce the costs of electricity and air-conditioning. and geothermal energy systems are all commercially available to reduce or eliminate the need for external energy sources. The U. At the same time. from refrigerators to computers. daylighting increases the luminous quality of indoor environments. Appliances. or combination of systems. The initial price of this equipment may be higher than that of less efficient equipment. Choose Materials with Low Embodied Energy Building materials vary with respect to how much energy is needed to produce them. S.Alternate Sources of Energy Solar. in all climates. Using local materials over imported materials of the same type will save transportation energy. Daylighting Building and window design that utilizes natural light will lead to conserving electrical lighting energy. For instance. not only consume energy. the overall environmental impact of a building is reduced. water. aluminium has a very high embodied energy because of the large amount of electricity that must be used to manufacture it from mined bauxite ore.

eliminating the need for additional watering. Where watering is needed. Buildings are typically designed to keep the rain from the occupants. Well-planned plumbing systems facilitate such reuse. eliminating the need for energy-intensive municipal treatment. it does not need to be treated as nearly as intensively as sewage.Water Conservation Methods for water conservation may reduce input. Indigenous landscaping — using plants native to the local ecosystem — will also reduce water consumption. Graywater is produced by activities such as handwashing. In most parts of the world. or both. This water can be used for irrigation or toilet-flushing. perhaps to irrigate ornamental plants or flush toilets. available on both residential and commercial scales. Building envelopes. can become rainwater collecting devices. particularly roofs. the sprinkler heads should be carefully placed and adjusted to avoid watering the sidewalk and street. Vacuum-assisted and biocomposting toilets further reduce water consumption. In fact. in combination with cisterns to hold collected water. While it is not of drinking-water quality. rainwater falling on buildings has not been considered a useful resource. treat sewage on site. Therefore. output. This is because. Reuse Water Onsite Water consumed in buildings can be classified as two types: graywater and sewage. the water that is supplied to a building and the water that leaves the building as sewage is all treated by municipal water treatment plants. Low-flow faucets and small toilet tanks are now required by code in many areas of the country. a reduction in use also produces a reduction in waste. These plants will have adapted to the local rainfall levels. conventionally. 20 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Biocomposting toilets. Reduce Consumption Water supply systems and fixtures can be selected to reduce consumption and waste. and the idea of utilizing rain water falling on building surfaces has not been widely explored. it can be recycled within a building.

and glass. are also easily moved from one location to another. Many. The client’s present and future space needs must be carefully studied to ensure that the resulting building and systems are sized correctly. manufacturing. There are input and output reduction methods for materials conservation. Extraction. its heating. Excess trimming of materials to fit non-modular spaces generates more waste. This preserves the energy embodied in their manufacture. are easily recycled into new materials. look for ways to use materials that can themselves be recycled. S. Size Buildings and Systems Properly A building that is oversized for its designed purpose. particularly office partition systems. In the U. can be used whole in the new structure. Some. will excessively consume materials. This method relates directly to the programming and design phases of the architectural process.Materials Conservation The production and consumption of building materials has diverse implications on the local and global environments. like brick or windows. or has oversized systems. some of these methods overlap. of these buildings can be converted to new uses at a lower cost than brand-new construction. Furnishing. When a building is too large or small for the number of people it must contain. and ventilation systems.. As with water. Incorporate Reclaimed or Recycled Materials Buildings that have to be demolished should become the resources for new buildings. Architects are encouraged to design around standardized building material sizes as much as possible. processing. if not all. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 21 . cooling. Most buildings outlive the purpose for which they were designed. Many building materials. Use Materials That Can Be Recycled During the process of designing the building and selecting the building materials. typically sized by square footage. such as wood. steel. will be inadequate or inefficient. and transporting building materials all cause ecological damage to some extent. Adapt Existing Buildings to New Uses One of the most straightforward and effective methods for material conservation is to make use of the resources that already exist in the form of buildings. this standard is based on a 4'x8' sheet of plywood.

Life Cycle Design As discussed earlier. Pre-Building Phase During the Pre-Building Phase. and a dictionary might be useful for 10 years. and post-building.” One way buildings can encourage recycling is to incorporate facilities such as on-site sorting bins. a phone book is useful for one year. building. These methods focus mainly on reducing input. Therefore.Reuse Non-Conventional Products as Building Materials Building materials from unconventional sources. These products reduce the need for new landfills and have a lower embodied energy that the conventional materials they are designed to replace. such as recycled tires. more architectural considerations will be required for the recycling of short-life consumer goods. 22 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . are readily available. a daily newspaper is useful only for one day. This then reduces the eventual output of the building ecosystem. But waste is or can be a resource for another use. and agricultural waste. The selection of materials is particularly important at this stage: the impact of materials processing can be global and have long-term consequences. Consumer Goods All consumer goods eventually lose their original usefulness. the greater the volume of useless goods will result. These strategies. it is better to use the term “recyclable materials. can yield specific design methods that will improve the sustainability of architecture. the Life Cycle Design principle embodies three strategies: pre-building. The shorter the useful life of consumer goods. Figure 10 shows how each method relates to the main strategies of Life Cycle Design. pop bottles. For instance. Consuming fewer materials lessens the environmental impact of the associated manufacturing processes. the design of a building and materials selected for it are examined for their environmental impact. in lieu of waste. Consequently. in turn. The conventional term for consumer goods that have lost their original usefulness is waste. The “useful life” quantifies the time of conversion from the useful stage to the loss of original usefulness stage.

long-lasting and low maintenance Minimize energy needed to distribute materials. Recycle building components and materials.. etc.) are. Reuse the land and existing infrastructure. metals. Schedule construction to minimize site impact. Using renewable materials wherever possible reduces the need for nonrenewable materials. sustainable. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 23 . Adapt existing structures to new users and programs. Specify regular maintenance with nontoxic cleaners. not sustainable. Reuse building components and materials.. Principle 2: Life Cycle Design Strategies Pre-Building Building Post-Building Methods Use materials that are . even if current supplies are adequate.harvested or extracted without ecological damage . ultimately. Using these materials is.SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND POLLUTION PREVENTION Figure 10: “Life Cycle Design” methods of application. Provide wasteseparation facilities. .made of renewable resources . by definition. Use Materials Made From Renewable Resources Renewable resources are those that can be grown or harvested at a rate that exceeds the rate of human consumption.recyclable .recycled . Use nontoxic materials to protect construction workers as well as end users. Materials made from nonrenewable materials (petroleum.

Many building materials. who typically spend more than threequarters of their time indoors. materials that can be hand-carried to the site reduce the need for excessive road-building and heavy trucks.Use Materials Harvested or Extracted Without Causing Ecological Damage Of the renewable materials available. not all can be obtained without significant environmental effects. This also reduces the consumption of materials made from virgin natural resources. Minimize Site Impact Careful planning can minimize invasion of heavy equipment and the accompanying ecosystem damage to the site. which would otherwise be wasted. Use Recycled Materials Using recycle materials reduces waste and saves scarce landfill space. Employ Nontoxic Materials The use of nontoxic materials is vital to the health of the building’s occupants. the architect must be aware of how various raw materials are harvested and understand the local and global ramifications. Use Materials with Long Life and Low Maintenance Durable materials last longer and require less maintenance with harsh cleansers. Recycled materials also preserve the embodied energy of their original form. eliminating the need for more mining and milling operations. Finished structures should respect site topology and existing drainage. It also means occupants receive less exposure to irritating chemicals used in the installation and maintenance of materials. For sensitive sites. Building Phase The methods associated with the Building Phase strategy are concerned with the environmental impact of actual construction and operation processes. Trees and vegetation should only be removed when absolutely necessary for access. particularly steel. This reduces the consumption of raw materials needed to make replacements and the amount of landfill space taken by discarded products. Excavations should not alter the flow of groundwater through the site. Therefore. are easily recycled. Adhesives used to make many common building materials can outgas — release volatile organic compounds into the air — for years after the original construction. Maintenance with nontoxic cleansers is also 24 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design .

materials wasted. At this point. Some materials. Concrete can be crushed and used as aggregate in new pours. the architect examines the environmental consequences of structures that have outlived their usefulness. Reuse Existing Buildings and Infrastructure It has become common for new suburbs to move farther and farther from the core city as people search for “space” and “nature. the development of new suburbs from virgin woods or fertile agricultural fields destroys the very qualities these suburbanites are seeking. like glass and aluminum. sewers. It includes not only the sum of energy embodied in the materials. and the businesses that inevitability follow. recycling of components. this energy will be conserved.important. Reuse and recycling allow a building to become a resource for new buildings or consumer goods. go unused. as the cleaners are often airborne and stay within a building’s ventilation system for an extended period of time. contributing to an already overburdened waste stream. there are three possibilities in a building’s future: reuse. new development requires massive investments in material for roads. must be scavenged from the building by hand. in addition to the materials for new houses. Meanwhile. vacant land and abandoned structures in the city. disposal requires incineration or landfill dumping. doors. and interior fixtures are all excellent candidates. If the building can be adapted to new uses.” Of course. but also the energy that went into the building’s construction. Post-Building Phase During this phase. Steel can easily be separated from rubble by magnets. Where complete reuse of a building is not possible. with its existing infrastructure. Reuse the Building The embodied energy of a building is considerable. and disposal. bricks. Recycle Materials Recycling materials from a building can often be difficult due to the difficulty in separating different substances from one another. individual components can be selected for reuse — windows. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 25 . Moreover.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND POLLUTION PREVENTION Principle 3: Humane Design Strategies Preservation of Nat’l Conditions Urban Design Site Planning Design for Human Comfort Understand the impact of design on nature Respect topographical contours Do not disturb the water table Preserve existing flora and fauna Avoid pollution contribution Promote mixeduse development Create pedestrian pockets Provide for human-powered transportation Integrate design with public transportation Provide thermal. visual. non-outgassing materials 26 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . fresh air Accomodate persons with differing physical abilities Use nontoxic.Figure 11: “Humane Design” methods of application. and acoustic comfort Provide visual connection to exterior Provide operable windows Provide clean.

Humane Design As described in the introduction. it will also become more susceptible to contamination from polluted surface runoff. Radical terraforming is not only expensive but devastating to the site’s microclimate. Preserve Existing Flora and Fauna Local wildlife and vegetation should be recognized as part of the building site. Alteration of contours will affect how water drains and how wind moves through a site. Do Not Disturb the Water Table Select sites and building designs that do not require excavation below the local water table. in turn. Figure 11 shows how each method relates to the three strategies of Humane Design. If the water table is exposed during construction. Integrate Design with Public Transportation Sustainable architecture on an urban scale must be designed to promote public transportation. These strategies. Thousands of individual vehicles moving in and out of area with the daily commute create smog. yield specific design methods that will improve the sustainability of architecture. and require parking spaces. When treated as resources to be conserved rather than as obstacle to be overcome. native plants and animals will make the finished building a more enjoyable space for human habitation. Preservation of Natural Conditions Respect Topographical Contours The existing contours of a site should be respected. Placing a large obstruction (the building) into the water table will disturb natural hydraulic process. and design for human comfort. These methods focus primarily on improving the quality of life for humans and other species. this principle embodies three strategies: preservation of natural conditions. urban design and site planning. Urban Design and Site Planning The methods associated with the Urban Design and Site Planning strategy apply sustainability at a scale larger than the individual building. congest traffic. Introduction to Sustainable Design December 1998 Sustainable Design • 27 .

commercial. as the sun and clouds move across the sky. From a psychological and physiological standpoint. People then have the option of living near where they work and shop. The benefits of fresh air go beyond the need for oxygen. Use Nontoxic. Humans all have an internal clock that is synchronized to the cycle of day and night. Proper lighting. Buildings that are durable and adaptable are more sustainable than those that are not. This provides a greater sense of community than conventional suburbs. Provide Visual Connection to Exterior The light in the sky changes throughout the day. office and retail space.Promote Mixed Use Development Sustainable development encourages the mixing of residential. Provide Fresh Clean Air Fresh air through clean air ducts is vital to the well-being of building occupants. Provide Operable Windows Operable windows are necessary so that building occupants can have some degree of control over the temperature and ventilation in their workspace. Continuous recirculation of interior air exposes people to concentrated levels of bacteria and chemicals within the building. The more people that can use a building. Non-Outgassing Materials Long-term exposure to chemicals commonly used in building materials and cleaners can have a detrimental effect on health. the longer the building’s useful life. Visual. and Acoustic Comfort People do not perform well in spaces that are too hot or too cold. appropriate to each task. The potential for 24-hour activity also makes an area safer. 28 • Sustainable Design December 1998 Introduction to Sustainable Design . Accommodate Persons with Differing Physical Abilities One aspect of sustainable design is its longevity. windows and skylights are essential means of keeping the body clock working properly. Design for Human Comfort Provide Thermal. Background noise from equipment or people can be distracting and damage occupants’ hearing. This adaptability includes welcoming people of different ages and physical conditions. Acoustic and visual privacy also need to be considered. is essential.

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