Balance, Balance, Balance...
by Rebecca Foss, CSI, CCS, EcoDesign Resources
We’ve all heard and seen the “emphatic 3” used in commercials and
advertising since its first generation in real estate (Location, Location,
Location), and its impact is probably lessening with overuse. But I’d
like to borrow it one more time to make a very strong point about the
growing use and understanding of sustainable design principles in the
It’s all about balance. How do we weigh the importance of the many different aspects of sustainable design. What is more important for each specific client/project/team? What does balance mean for architects, engineers…. owners, construction managers… contractors and product manufacturers? Where do we find balance in the implementation of philosophies and practices we don’t fully understand or that have no established performance data available for evaluation?
In the next few issues of specifics, we’d like to bring you viewpoints from practitioners in a variety of fields to discuss their ideas on balance and weighing the importance of several aspects of Sustainable Design. We’ll have articles on Site Selection for Sustainably Designed Projects, Construction Waste Management Practices (Building Design, Product Packaging, and Construction Site Practices), Sustainable Design Product Development and Manufacturing Strategies, and The Effects of Sustainable Design and Energy Code Developments, Cost Implications of Sustainable Design.
In this article, I’d like to address the choices we have in Selecting Materials, Products, and Systems using sustainable criteria, because this is something we can all do immediately. We’re all working on projects where we can evaluate at least one product in the light of sustainable criteria. In previous articles in specifics, we’ve reviewed some of the tools available for evaluating products and making design decisions (LEEDS, BEES). All of these systems rely on a basic premise: Set goals for your project before you begin the process. However, setting those goals may be a real sticking point. If you want to give sustainable design concepts a go, but don’t necessarily know how to get started, the following list can help by giving you some basic criteria you can use to evaluate choices you’ve already made or are about to make. The list is based on information from the AIA’s Environmental Resource Guide and the Department of the Interior’s Product Evaluation Resource Guide (NPS):
Consider these basics when the product source may be sustainable:
In selecting building materials, it is helpful to prioritize them by origin, avoiding materials from nonrenewable sources.
Primary - materials found in nature such as stone, earth, flora (hemp, jute, reed, wool), cotton, and wood
Secondary - materials made from recycled products such as wood, aluminum, cellulose, and plastics
Tertiary - man-made materials (artificial, synthetic, nonrenewable) materials having varying degrees of environmental impact such as plywood, plastics, and aluminum
Subsequent articles will address criteria and evaluation techniques in the areas of energy, waste, site selection, and cost implications of sustainable design.
Rebecca Foss, the president of EcoDesgin Resource, is actively promoting sustainable design. Contact her by phone at 612-375-8703, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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