Principles of Sustainability

The past decade sat witness to an ever expanding frenzy for ‘green architecture,’ or sustainable design/ building. The ever growing interest in environmental responsibility and sustainability provides us the ability to have a positive impact on the environment. However, sometimes clients get lost in all the jargon employed when discussing ‘green design’ and sustainability and what it all really means.


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Sustainability is comprised of people, the earth, and costs. Sustainability involves evaluating a buildings impact on the environment from a ‘whole building’ point of view, not just specific pieces, and then designing accordingly. At minimum, and regardless of project scale, a design striving to reduce its environmental impact should address the following aspects:

– Site analysis to minimize/maximize solar gain, winds, views, etc.

– Minimize/ control water consumption

– Passive solar and day lighting

– Reduction of waste, during construction and the life-cycle of the building

– Use of recycled materials and finishes

– Maximize floor plan efficiency

– Energy efficient doors and windows

– Renewable energy sources

– Employ high efficiency mechanical systems

– Well-designed insulation systems/methods to reduce the need/use of mechanical systems

– Control or elimination of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are typically dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment.


As architects, we need to safeguard our natural resources for future generations- this is by far one of the, if not THE, primary responsibilities we have as architects. Sustainable design must be flexible to change, reduce consumption of resources, and still possess strong design acumen and contribute positively to the built environment. As an architect, sustainable design should be an extension of our goal to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our clients and those who use our buildings- now and in the future.


Design On,

** For the architects reading this, I tried, The AIA won’t credit any HSW LU credits from reading this post.

  1. thanks for making it so easy to understand. you can’t get leed points for this though.

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