Tips from the Architect: Energy-Efficient Design

February 1, 2018

If you are a starting to think about, or have begun planning, your next home or renovation and one of your goals is for the building to be sustainable, then here are some helpful tools for figuring out how to define and achieve your goal of living sustainably.

Think about the life cycle of your home:

  • Creation: How much energy would you like to use in building the home?
  • Maintenance: How much energy would you like to use in running your home?
  • Recycling: How much of the building would you like to be recycled if it is ever demolished?

The planning of each part of the life cycle is complex, which is why hiring an architect is so important. Architects will use three strategies to reduce the energy used in the life cycle of your building - passive design, active systems, and sustainable materials.

Passive design is design that takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home. It is a method of designing that heats, cools, illuminates, collects water, and ventilates a building naturally. However, in some climates mechanical systems are still needed to supplement a passive design.

Active systems are mechanisms that can be added to a building to make it more energy-efficient like a geothermal heating system. It also covers things that generate power like photovoltaic (solar electric) panels or wind turbines.

Sustainable materials are:

  • Responsibly harvested
  • Sourced locally or as close as possible to you site
  • Can be reused or recycled completely

There are two primary organizations that work with architects to organize and test buildings that are trying to achieve a high level of energy efficiency. They are a valuable resource for architects in that they have case studies, education, and experts for architects to use when designing your project.