Sustainable building, green building, whatever one wants to call the process of minimizing the impact of our built environment within and upon our natural world, is fundamentally a choice. Choosing to build is the first of many choices in a project but short of not choosing to build at all (the least impactful thing one could do), how we build and our choices in materials are some of the most critical balancing acts of any project. At the end of the day, how Grouparchitect participates in this decision process is what defines us as architects and our projects as contributions to the built environment. The same goes for our clients.
Stewardship of our environment is a focus of our work but it takes on many forms during the life of a project. It ranges from the materials that you select and from where they are produced, to the orientation of building elements such windows and roof overhangs, to how indoor air quality is supported. The funny thing about being “green” is that it’s rarely green – in fact if it’s done right you don’t see much of it at all, which is exactly the point. Grouparchitect supports sustainable buildings by incorporating only those elements into our work which will benefit the specific project and site conditions, not just what looks good out of a magazine. Our focus on what matters most to the project leads to environmentally responsible buildings which reflect their owner’s environmental awareness as much as meeting their needs.
Today’s lexicon of green building includes many new letters and acronyms, many of which are undoubtedly already familiar. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance, environmentally sustainable projects. Grouparchitect supports our clients’ objective to certify their buildings with any agency such as the USGBC, Energy Star, Built Green or Built Smart, among others. We have the LEED-accredited designers with the intimate knowledge of these programs and agencies to allow us to support any project and its sustainable goals.
Grouparchitect’s designers however didn’t stop at LEED accreditation as the standard for environmental awareness and certification support. Being LEED-certified contributes a point towards the project’s certification goals but sustainable projects aren’t fundamentally about paperwork. How projects embrace the environment, the economy, and their contributions towards supporting social equity are the core of truly sustainable building practices, and this process of evaluation is an iterative and complex one at best. How do we know this? The firm has Certified Sustainable Building Advisors (CSBA) on staff and focuses on this program as one of our continuing education objectives for all designers on staff. The National Sustainable Building Advisor program (NaSBAP) started in 1999 as a joint program offered by Seattle City Light and Seattle Central Community College to holistically educate working professionals about sustainable design and building. It is also recognized by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) as an approved Education Provider. To learn more, see http://nasbap.org/.
Sustainable design starts with a passion for doing the right thing and being good stewards of our world. It takes constant focus and a keen eye on the project’s development to ensure that thoughts become actions. Passive House standards rise the bar on increased energy conservation and indoor air quality through rigorous attention to detailing of the building’s envelope and mechanical systems. Going further than sustainability programs that focus on checklists for guiding compliance, Passive House focuses on delivering measurable results in building performance by requiring the design team to model actual building design and heat loss and ensure that the building will actually perform as anticipated. Grouparchitect applies green building strategies and principles to our designs regardless of project size and welcomes the opportunity to hold every project accountable to Passive House standards. For more information on Passive House, visit http://grouparch.com/resources/green-building/.
Grouparchitect’s portfolio includes mixed use, multi-family, and small commercial buildings as well as residences. If sustainable building practices are important on a single home because of the difference one client and one house can make, think of the impact (positive or negative) of a 150+ unit apartment building or a four-floor office building to our world. The construction of these projects and others consume large amounts of materials and levies an environmental impact of increased magnitude with respect to one home. Our stewardship extends to all projects within which we can offer our vision and contribute our expertise towards making the building’s impact as small as possible. Even simple moves towards sustainability in builder homes such as low VOC paint and recycled flooring make significant positive contributions if done repeatedly on a grand scale. Everything helps at the end of the day since we’re all in it together.