Designing for performance, resilience, and longevity is the most potent form of environmental responsibility. Enduring design is the heart of sustainability—conscientious design that will last for generations to come.
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As a firm, Catalano Architects is committed to responsible design that values people, the planet, and future prosperity.
We take meaningful steps to protect the natural world and promote ecological responsibility.
We create a positive impact on people’s lives through the built environment.
We design a more resilient future by developing regenerative and innovative solutions.
We advance an empathetic and symbiotic relationship between people and the local climate.
Green building is the practice of building structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s lifecycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building—also known as sustainable or high-performance construction—has minimal impact on costs when compared to regular construction methods. However, this marginal increase of about 2% would, on average, pay for itself, with a life cycle savings of 20% of total construction costs, more than ten times the initial investment.*
Why do we choose to be a part of the restoration and recovery of the environment?
New construction contributes 25–40% of the world’s carbon emissions, including air and water pollution. However, new buildings that are made to last considerably reduce the long-term impact on the environment. We have an opportunity, through responsible design, to make decisions that matter—from the material selection, to siting and orientation of a home, to building systems integration.
By fostering authentic relationships with clients and collaborating with all members of the project team, we can holistically implement sustainable, regenerative design strategies. Working together, we can better the individual and collective environments.
Are beauty and sustainability opposing aims?
Great design and green design are not mutually exclusive. In addition to practical and functional consideration, architecture is intended to be beautiful and joyful. Our design solutions can also enhance the longevity and performance of the home. Sustainable design adds value through a combination of lowered life-cycle costs, improved performance, and timeless aesthetics. Our team’s focus is on creating enduring, conscientiously designed spaces that function and perform well and are aesthetically attractive—now and for future generations.
What are some lesser-known benefits of building green?
A sustainably designed, highly efficient home results in long-term financial benefits due to reduced energy costs and the incorporation of renewable energy sources. A home built with materials that limit exposure to harmful chemicals and that is thoughtfully located on the site can improve overall comfort, health, and wellbeing. When we strategically manage stormwater, plant native species, source materials locally, and reduce chemical runoff, we have increased biodiversity and reduced levels of pollution. We all benefit from environmental stewardship.
What is regenerative architecture?
The aim of sustainable design is not only to be environmentally neutral, but is also to restore our environment by replenishing natural resources. Design that incorporates regenerative principles doesn’t need to be complicated but can instead offer a comprehensive approach. Our architectural team looks at the entire site and evaluate how the built environment contributes to a healthy ecosystem. How can regenerative architecture be achieved? A few strategies include a green roof, or rainwater and wastewater treatment incorporation in a building. Or, when 100% of energy used is generated on-site from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. When material selections are durable and adaptable, we reduce the need for future waste from replacement and renovation needs. These are all aspects of regenerative architecture.
Why does it sometimes feel more challenging to design sustainably?
The most important thing to consider is that sustainable design does not have to be all-or-nothing. We will determine a tailored approach for each project. By getting to know our clients and their preferences and addressing concerns early in the design journey, we can help our clients discover opportunities for incorporating sustainable design. We will study all aspects of the design process and integrate the most appropriate design strategy for the particular client and project. In the end, we want your home to be functional, beautiful, and add value to how you wish to live—something you love.
Passive House design is here to stay. What is it exactly?
Passive House is a performance-based building standard that maximizes energy efficiency while being comfortable, affordable, and ecologically sound. The basic principles of Passive House include super insulated building envelopes, minimized thermal bridging, high performance glazing, airtight construction, and highly efficient HVAC systems. Utilizing these principles in tandem, Passive House buildings can have reduced heating and cooling loads of up to 90 percent, and over 60 percent less energy overall, all while costing only 3–5 percent more than conventional new construction.
How can I do the right thing for the environment?
We invite you to think about sustainability in two simple categories: invisible and highly visible green approaches. Invisible ones are elements we don’t see such as chemical content, embodied energy, material sources. They are measurable and regulated. The highly visible category, including form, shape and aesthetic, has a significant impact on conservation and comfort. How a building is shaped can have an enormous effect on how it performs. Some sources estimate that up to 90 percent of the environmental impact is determined during the early design stages, prior to decisions about more complicated technical details. The earlier in the design process we begin to talk about sustainable design strategies, the better.
Can renovation projects be a strategy for sustainability?
You may have heard the saying, “The most sustainable building is one that is already built.” That’s because existing buildings have “embodied energy”, which refers to the amount of energy and resources that it originally took to construct. When existing building components and materials are repurposed or left in place, the environmental impact from new construction is reduced. Less construction waste goes into the landfill. Energy is not consumed in making new products. Raw materials are not extracted from the environment and transported to manufacturing plants. In addition, much of the framing and flooring of older homes were built with old growth wood—which is more durable and stronger than today’s harvested wood.
A renovation allows for parts of the existing building and assemblies to remain in place, while offering the opportunity to improve the comfort, use, aesthetic appeal, and energy efficiency of the home. Sustainable strategies for renovations may include the use of nontoxic, durable, high-quality materials, thoughtfully designed spaces, and repurposing or recycling of existing building components.
Why are water conservation and reclamation strategies integral to sustainable design?
By employing design strategies such as greywater recycling and rainwater collection, water used throughout the home is collected, filtered, treated, and reused. This strategy significantly reduces a home’s overall water usage and manages its reuse throughout the project. Water from showers, sinks, and laundry is greywater that can be reclaimed with a water recycling system installed in the home. Greywater is then used to flush toilets and irrigate landscaping. Installing low flow and high efficiency plumbing fixtures, planting native species, and implementing various rainwater harvesting techniques, all play a critical role in the conservation of water. The need to conserve water is rapidly becoming more apparent; even relatively wet states like Massachusetts are experiencing droughts and water use restrictions. Prioritizing these strategies early in the design process allows for a seamless integration of sustainable design techniques.
What is the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code and what does it mean for my project?
There are numerous building codes and regulations at the national, state, and district level that must be followed as we design each project. Relating specifically to energy efficiency, in 2009, Massachusetts became the first state to adopt an above-standard energy code for buildings, known as the Stretch Code. The Stretch Code allows cities and towns to individually adopt and enforce higher standards to achieve greater levels of energy efficiency in their buildings – commercial and residential. The code presents itself in several ways: increased requirements for building envelope insulation R-Values, air sealing, higher performing windows and doors, and high efficiency building mechanical systems—just to name a few. Projects adhering to Stretch Code requirements must work with a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater to verify efficiency during construction with infrared testing, blower-door building envelope testing, and HVAC duct leak testing.
We have extensive experience working on projects in towns that have adopted the Stretch Code. There is some upfront work and added cost to achieve higher efficiency, but the return on investment (ROI) is realized through energy cost savings over time. The design minimums have become standard practice in our firm and contribute to a well-built home that is durable and comfortable for the occupants.
The Stretch Code continues to evolve, in the Spring of 2022, new proposed regulations were established to help the state achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Additionally, new net-zero energy codes will be introduced for towns to opt into. We are looking forward to seeing how the mindset around efficiency becomes more mainstream in the residential construction industry—to better our collective environment. We are working hard to stay ahead of the evolving regulations and industry standards to better inform our clients during the design process.
*Kats, G., et al. (2003). The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings. California Sustainable Building Task Force.