NetZeroMax.com

Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

What is Sustainable Design?

by D. Brent Sauser

I came to practice architecture in Florida via Minnesota.  In 2004, a headhunter discovered me and called to ask if I would be interested in moving to Orlando.  His timing was excellent because it was the dead of winter . . . and if you haven’t heard, it gets mighty cold in Minnesota.  I didn’t hesitate in expressing interest.  He matched me up with a firm that was looking for a senior architect with government experience.  We had many telephone conversations before I was flown to Florida for a face-to-face interview.   I recall one phone call where he asked, “What do you know about Sustainable Design?”  After an awkward pause, I tried to bluff my way through that question.  The word “sustainable” was not a common term in the design industry . . . and that was less than 10 years ago.  I was hired anyway, and by mid-2005 I had passed the LEED exam to become a LEED accredited professional.  But even then, the concept of designing something to be sustainable was still foreign to me. 

In the subsequent years I have gained a greater understanding of what sustainable is and how it fits in the design community.  Sustainability is achieved by utilizing energy provided by four natural resources:  Earth, Wind, Solar, and Water.  Utilizing any one or all of these natural resources is not a new concept.  Prior to the advent of the Industrial Revolution that is all we knew and depended upon.  The Industrial Revolution pushed us into a whole new world of man-made, artificial environments.  Over the centuries we can now see the environmental cost to ourselves, our communities, and our planet.  Sustainable Design is the appropriate balance of modern comfort expectations powered by renewable, natural resources ONLY.   One of the best ways to measure a balanced, sustainable approach is to build Net Zero.  It is as easy as checking your monthly electric bill and calculating at the end of the year if you consumed less energy than you produced on site.  If so, congratulations!  If not, than you can reduce your consumption or introduce additional renewable systems until Net Zero is achieved.  It may take a combination of Earth, Wind, Solar, and Water to get to Net Zero, but the result is 100% independence from the local power grid.  THAT . . . IS SUSTAINABLE!

We are only nibbling around the edges of Sustainable Design and Green Building.  We must take the lead now and implement the amazing sustainable technology that is already out there.   One of the missions of NetZeroMax.com is to raise awareness and accelerate progress in that direction.  Let’s get going!

Category: Editorial
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