By Greg Hasiuk, MAA, SAA, MRAIC, LEED®AP
Partner, Number TEN Architectural Group
Sustainable design is much more than LEED, or any other rating system for that matter. True sustainable design is also about creating things that are valuable, enduring and cherished. For anyone who finances, designs or constructs sustainable buildings (or other products like toasters for that matter), creating real value is the key.
Things of real value are re-furbished, passed-on and maintained. Things that are valued are usually not misused, discarded or uncared for. Sustainable design is about creating things that add value to our environment, on a macro and micro scale. Sustainable architecture should not only create buildings that are valuable to individuals, but also help create cultural and economic structures that are self sustaining and contributors to society.
If people have a true emotional connection with places or things, they protect and maintain them. The “dollar store” mentality of creating things of low value for short term use applies to everything from toasters to buildings, and is the true enemy of sustainable thinking.
Sustainable design is a world view. It is a balanced way of creating things. It is a process of decision making that keeps the long term implications of our actions at the forefront.
A sustainable approach to architecture needs to take a broader approach to building design. The diverse users of buildings are basically micro-cultures that are organized in ways that are directly linked to the environments they live and work in. By understanding these organizations and strategizing ways to make them more sustainable, architects can design building that are more responsive to these issues. Good sustainable design can affect the way an organization uses and maintains its facilities, and ensures its eventual re-purposing once its initial use is outlived.
Efficient use of water, resources and energy are not enough. The next time you wonder whether you’ve created something truly sustainable, just ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the design process bring people together with a common goal?
- Does it use resources and energy wisely in order to contribute to its environment?
- Do its users feel a personal connection to it?
- Does it does contribute in some way to the greater community (socially, physically or emotionally)?