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The Move from Green to Sustainable Design

Posted by: Brian Duke

I will admit it… There was a time that I thought that sustainable design was just a fad, something that was more for advertising than its truest function. Yup, I was wrong in a big way. It is the now and the future. In my personal world, it is the most evident.

Architectural design has a major impact on resource utilization; it is one of the largest ideological callings for designers of today- the realization that they personally can have a significant impact on a structure, community, region and planet.

The transition from green to sustainable design for architects came quicker than the rest of the public. Architects were early adopters of the more holistic view of design. Green design reflected more of the energy efficiency of a structure once built. Sustainable design takes a wider view that encompasses site design, interior air quality, orientation and daylighting, materials or construction, and, finally, the energy efficiency.

Let’s face it. This planet has only a finite set of resources, and those resources need to be conserved. Sustainable design minimizes waste at its root. Not just physical waste but also environmental waste. The term “green” has become so commonplace in promotion that it has lost much of its meaning. “Greenwash” seemed to pop up everywhere, and the architectural industry wanted to separate itself from the fray.

Sustainable design is also not just “about the numbers” for a certification. It is done because it is the right thing to do. The fact of whether or not a certain project gets certified is more about promotion. Yes, it is a nice plus for a professional when a project gets certified as validation of our actions, but it is just the “icing on the cake”.

Lastly, “green” is on the way out as a term of design and sustainable is the best representation of what we as designers are trying to create for the world in which we live. Obviously, there is more to come on this subject as materials, technologies and methods are introduced to the toolbox.

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