By Ashleigh Voisin, DAG Architects
The ever-evolving techniques of sustainable and healthy design seek to reduce the negative impacts that buildings can have on humans and the environment, and can even include methods that increase the health, comfort and safety of building users.
Education and awareness of these design philosophies is critical to the future of our built environment and should be implemented from the beginning to the end of a project's design and construction process.
The improvement of building performance through healthy and sustainable design extends beyond the carbon footprint of a building and its energy efficiency into areas of health and wellness for end users.
How to Begin
Designing a sustainable and healthy building begins with a programming and pre-design phase that analyzes the functional requirements, goals, and values of the client and the end user. This phase should incorporate health and sustainability as overarching objectives of the project.
As this planning moves into the Schematic Design phase, a vision of the project emerges and should include some of the most substantial elements of healthy and sustainable design. These include optimizing site potential by planning the building orientation to encourage natural lighting and temperature control, and thoughtful wayfinding throughout the building to enhance the user experience by encouraging physical activity and social interaction.
Designing for the Future
Maintaining a long-term view of owning and operating a building is helpful as the Schematic Design phase includes addressing the construction budget and identifying design solutions for the project goals, while considering the agreed upon budget.
This integrated design approach can positively impact every phase of a building's life-cycle, including the design and construction phases as well as the lifelong operation and maintenance.
How to Budget & Save
In planning the project budget, the cost of sustainability elements needs to be considered. HVAC, an energy efficient or environmentally friendly roof, solar panels and other design elements should be included. Occasionally, these items cost more upon installation than their less-sustainable counterparts, but their lifetime cost savings are an undeniable and easily measurable benefit over what the alternatives offer.
Through the design and construction phase, which include the selection of details like flooring, paints and control of utility usage, remaining mindful of sustainability practices is vital. For example, sustainability efforts can be maintained through specifying plumbing fixtures and appliances that maximize water efficiency, while making sure that the actual construction of the project does not produce excess waste.
Whenever possible, renewable, recycled and non-toxic materials should be used as well as low and zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and flooring. Although, including one or two of these in the design of a project is a step in the right direction, it is the collection of these that create the holistically healthy and sustainable building.
The Power of Education
As said by Nelson Mandela, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," and it is through education that the built environment will change to become a healthier and more sustainable environment.
Being educated and subsequently choosing to incorporate sustainable and healthy elements is only the beginning. It takes an understanding of the facility and respect for the design to use the building to its intended capacity and efficiency. From programming and design to the building at 10 years old, our practice of incorporating health and sustainability into building design does not stop, and neither do the benefits of such action.
Example Elements of Sustainable Design
• Site Studies/ Maximization of Building Site – Solar Heat Gain studies can be performed to optimize the orientation of the building on the site. The use of natural light and shade can be strategically used to heat and cool the building at the best times of day which saves energy usage and cost.
• Daylighting – Allowing natural light in whenever possible reduces use of artificial light which saves in energy usage and cost
• Use of LED Lights with Occupancy Sensors and Zoned Control – An energy efficient option for artificial lighting
• High Solar Reflective Index Roof – Lowers energy costs and reduces the temperature inside of the building
• High-Efficiency Equipment – Mechanical equipment like dual path air-cooled HVAC and water-saving plumbing equipment are vital in a sustainable design for saving energy cost and environmental waste
Example Elements of Healthy Design
• Air Quality and Temperature Control – Enhances indoor environmental quality, ventilation and thermal comfort
• Daylighting – Enhances indoor environmental quality, supports healthy circadian rhythm, increases productivity and improves mood of users
• Design that Promotes Exercise – Examples are stairs as a convenient option and active workstations
• Low/Zero VOC Materials – Paints, flooring, coatings, adhesives and other building materials should be low or no VOC
• Improved Wayfinding – Designing the building so that movement throughout is enjoyable, natural, and not stressful, can improve the health and mental wellness of users
DAG Architects was established in 1981, and over the past 36 years has grown and undertaken a wide variety of projects throughout the Southeast. DAG's staff includes 27 architects, four construction administrators, one CADD technician, and four administrative staff members. Of these,11 are LEED Accredited Professionals. Services include architecture, visioning and programming, master planning, interior design, graphic design, and construction phase services. DAG uses state-of-the-art computer hardware and software, including Building Information Modeling systems, to produce drawings and documents.
For more information on the firm's projects or services, contact Ashleigh Voisin at email@example.com or by phone 850-502-8787. Visit DAG.