Green Design and Process

"Going Green" seems to be on the mind of everyone these days, and it's fair to say that environmental consciousness has transcended the marketing slogan, embedding itself in our public values. At Rhodes Architecture, green design has always been an integrated team value in our design and building practices, incorporating smart, green design practices that minimize a project's carbon footprint. Especially within the IPD and BIM framework (and IPD process)green design becomes easier to pursue thanks to improved knowledge, collaboration, communication, doccumentation, and materials control. It is within this framework that we most often encourage our clients - church design and commercial - to persue LEED certification. These efforts aren't merely altruistic; they make sense in terms of funding, downstream value for the end-users, and long-term sustainability.

We have a distinct advantage in the state of Washington since most of our projects meet LEED certification standards simply by conforming to state building and planning codes imposed by our local governments. It's all too easy to dismiss "going green" as a trendy slogan. We see it as a way of keeping the environmental impact of our projects in the forefront of the much larger set of variables we consider for a given project.

Downstream Value with Predictive Modeling

We've found that using predictive modeling tools such as BIM (building information modeling) can be extremely effective in green design, improving efficiency for the whole project.  Sustainable design creates downstream value by reducing construction impact on the environment, reduces energy consumption, and creates perceived value with investors and funding agencies. Predictive modeling also adds to integrated team value extensively for energy consumption, the largest contributor to a buildings carbon footprint during its useful life.  Predictive modeling also helps with recycling, waste reduction, phasing, scheduling, analysis of systems, fabrication, and certification of the green project.  Predictive modeling clearly shows how green standards reduce costs in the life cycle of the building.

Green design guides our projects toward standards that foster reduced waste, lower energy and resource consumption, as well as better habitable space. All of this adds up to both a low carbon footprint, and maximum value for the customer.

Green Certification Standards

There are a number of standards and certifications regarding green building that cuts across two categories of standards: government imposed, and self imposed. 

While Washington’s environmental building and design standards are relatively strict compared to the rest of the nation, there is still a higher standard to green design. US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the gold standard for green building certification. Better known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, LEED certification is a third party certification that's internationally recognized, taking into account a number of factors including resource stewardship, carbon emissions, and improved indoor environments.

Another common certification is the NAHBGreen. This standard is imposed by the National Association of Home Builders and mainly applies to residential projects. 

Energy Star, while federally administered, is a voluntary program that encourages better residential insulation and air filtration, focusing on the use of resources and the quality of interior spaces. 

Washington state also has voluntary certifications including Build Green, aimed at residential projects state-wide; Build Smart, a program aimed at residential projects in Seattle; and Earth Advantage, geared towards commercial projects all over the state.

Why Build Green?  Isn't this just one more thing to worry about: one more factor that bogs down permitting and drives up costs? The short answer is, no.

There are a number of real advantages in adhering to green standards. First, we are all responsible to the greater whole for keeping our buildings sustainable over the long term. We have every interest in the long term to make sure we have a clean, sustainable environment to live and work in.

As is the case with any federally funded project, there are standards to meet to ensure downstream value of the funding. Green standards are one of the necessary strings attached to that funding to ensure a sustainable, low carbon foot print building. 

Also, these standards, particularly LEED and Energy Star, all go a long way as marketing tools in the realm of private development. These standards help insure that our final product is not only efficient and highly usable, but also marketable for our clients.

The financial world is aware of the advantages too. When acquiring the necessary funds for a project, there's a perceived added value for lenders, who are recently willing to reduce the interest rates for funding if they can see that a higher standard of efficiency, and sustainability is part of the project value. 

 The Green Team

The major stakeholders insuring the most sustainable outcome for a project starts with the Owner and design team.  It begins with the design lead, defining green goals early on through conscientious envelope design. But that doesn't mean that the responsibility lies solely with the design team. The general contractor must be an integral part of green design, tracking the construction process from materials, to waste production, through construction and commissioning. It's up to project leadership to take the long view in making green building an integrated team value, insuring the most sustainable outcome for the project.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like more information, please contact us today. We can be reached by phone at 206.465.2021, or you can submit to the right and we’ll get right back to you.

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