A blueprint for better living
By Michael S. Teller, A.I.A.
Nearly everyone has a perception of the definition of green design and construction. In straightforward terms, it’s a plan that strives for energy conservation and the use of recycled resources wherever possible. It also pays particular attention to “healthy” elements, such as fresher air and more natural lighting. Green design also serves to minimize negative impact on the environment and the consumption of resources.
This return to basics can presently be seen in building structures throughout the greater Miami area, including four new group homes being designed for Sunrise Community Inc. The design plan created by CBI Consulting encompasses a number of energy-efficient green elements that implement sustainable innovations to support the mission of Sunrise Community Inc., which is to provide assistance to residents with disabilities.
All four homes will face each other across the street with a central landscaped plaza that serves as a gathering place. Inside, each home has a central hearth with an open kitchen and common living area, while 10 bedrooms and staff quarters are arranged around the common living space. To allow for natural light and to maximize the residential feel, rather than the institutional, clerestory windows are located above the main space and courtyards abut the living space. This design is not only green in its energy efficiency, it also brings together outdoor and indoor elements, providing for a true sense of community for its residents.
In addition to energy conservation, sustainability is another green advantage. By figuring out a way to reuse existing materials instead of throwing them away, the burden on landfills is lessened.
Architects and planners also take into account other considerations when designing and constructing ecologically responsive buildings, including planning the structure in a spot that is convenient to mass transit to save on transportation and related energy costs, avoiding wetlands to preserve habitats, reducing the amount of paving and even supplying electric hookups for alternative energy vehicles.
If your clients are interested in a new home that may not necessarily be already green, there are some fundamental steps property owners and developers in the Greater Miami area can take to be more green friendly.
First of all, bring in more natural light and install sensors that will shut off electric lighting when it is not needed. Pay attention to materials used in construction or renovation. Plywood is a prime offender that “outgases” forever, due to its formaldehyde-based composition. Request recycled materials and encourage recycling of waste. Check the types of paints used to be certain they do not contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Remember that green design is more of a team effort than traditional architecture. From the start, the input of all consultants involved is necessary to shape the design and efficiencies of a truly green home.
In an ideal world, all buildings would adhere to green design, construction and operation. In the world we live in, such a goal may not be possible. But we can all take steps to ensure that the surroundings we design, work and live in are as environmentally friendly as possible. When that happens, everyone wins.
Michael Teller is a principal in the architectural firm CBI Consulting in Miami, cbiconsultinginc.com, 305.259.4009, which specializes in green design and building renovations. Teller, A.I.A., NCARB, LEED AP, has led the architectural division of CBI Consulting for 17 years. In his 29 years of architectural practice, Teller has managed the design, production, construction and repair of housing, offices, schools, and municipal space while integrating sustainable concepts that help the environment, promote worker health and productivity and save the owner money.