What We Build is an Extension of Who We Are.

We spend about 97 percent of our lives in a building, the majority of that in our home. As we think of how to develop our home and create the sanctuary from which we will start and end every day, raise our children, or simply entertain friends and family, we should think of the deeper context of sustainability and how our capital projects affect our community and daily lives. Sustainability in the built environment can be a complicated path, but leading architects and builders have embraced green building and are ready to support your values through this holistic lens.

Tenets of green building:

Reverse contribution to climate change

Your choice of materials and design can have a significant impact on your energy consumption and operation. Additionally, the environmental impact of creating and transporting the material can also be significant. Architects who focus on sustainability can identify local vendors and manufacturers who you can work with; this helps the local economy and reduces your environmental impact.

Enhance human health and well-being

Green buildings are healthy buildings. Access to daylight, prescribing conditioned air, and choice of nontoxic materials all support human health and are tenets of sustainability. Careful thought with materials can decrease the toxins expelled over time and also limit risk during future construction projects.

Protect and restore water resources

Think about your water usage, and use only what you need. Lower flow/flush fixtures not only save water but also energy involved with heating (hot water) and processing water off-site.

Protect biodiversity and ecosystem services

If doing any landscape site work, think about water reduction and supporting the local ecosystem with native species, all measures that will cut down on maintenance. Connect with an architect on how to incorporate biophilic elements into your project.

Promote sustainable and regenerative resource cycles

Demolition and construction waste can be significant. Choose an architect with expertise in working with construction teams and waste haulers to donate salvage material, sort waste for recycling or reuse, and minimize landfill waste.

Build a greener economy

Support those who are thinking about sustainability in your community. Choose an architect who has a background in green building, and feel free to ask the following questions: Insulation versus phase-change mediums, which is better? Can homes have greywater? How difficult is it to have a net-zero energy home? The client drives sustainability goals—keep up the pace!

Enhance Community, Social Equity, Environmental Justice, and Quality of Life

When choosing contractors, architects, and other firms involved with your project, analyze their commitment to the community—do they volunteer or connect valuably with local charities? Choosing businesses that value gender and race opportunity in their workforce is a powerful way to support social equity.

Fast Tips:

  1. Think about salvage material, which is cost-effective and provides new life to material that is looking for a good use.
  2. Maximize access for solar exposure.
  3. If you have an open wall during construction, install a conduit for future solar work.
  4. Think about electric heat pumps for additions or whole-home heating—they are cost-effective and also cool in the summer.
  5. Go big on insulation—an extra couple of inches in the wall and quality windows will go a long way toward supporting comfort and operational savings.
  6. Air seal—Keep it tight. Little cracks and holes add up and make for a leaky house.
  7. Ask your architect for more ideas on how to keep your project sustainable.

This article is a collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA).