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Going Green in Building Design

Going Green in Building Design

Designing an Environmentally Friendly Building


Designing a “green” or environmentally friendly building isn’t a new concept. In many cases incorporating energy-saving aspects into a commercial build is the norm, and for good reason—buildings that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified have 34 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions, consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water, and have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. The Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report notes that “the global green building sector continues to double every three years, with survey respondents from 70 countries reporting 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.”


Sketchworks Architecture is used to weaving environmentally friendly design aspects into many of the projects work on. We asked project manager Kirk Biodrowski about how these elements can benefit a building’s design and client.


Q: Have requests for green building practices increased from your clients during the design process?

Kirk Biodrowski: The industry overall is moving toward more green-friendly solutions. Most of the movement seems to come from the manufacturers (i.e., more sustainable finishes) and in better, more efficient mechanical equipment. There has been a huge movement towards reclaimed materials. Many clients seem to like the “worn” aesthetic of reclaimed material and the idea that it is considered more environmentally friendly.


Q: What would be considered hallmarks of environmentally friendly design?

KB: You can achieve environmentally friendly design without applying for a LEED certification. We strive to achieve an environmentally friendly design with all of our projects. However, only a handful of our clients want to go through the process of becoming LEED certified—it can be a long, expensive and difficult process to achieve full LEED certification.


Q: Why is it important to clients to have LEED or environmentally friendly design?

KB: We feel it is an ethical responsibility to try to achieve environmentally friendly designs, and we stress this with our clients. For most of our clients LEED certification is not important, and they’re not interested in investing the time and money into getting full LEED certification.


Q: What are the tangible benefits to a client if they choose environmentally friendly design elements?

KB: Up to 70 percent of the electric bill for a building can be attributed to lighting alone. So, switching to LED fixtures for example is a huge cost savings, especially since the cost of these fixtures have come down a lot in the last couple of years. Another benefit of LED lights is the maintenance reduction. Because they last between 25 to 50 years, the bulbs don’t have to be changed out nearly as much as standard bulbs. We always specify LED fixtures in our designs.


Q: Is incorporating environmentally friendly features into a building’s overall design more expensive?

KB: Typically it’s more expensive, which is why it’s sometimes hard to convince a client to move forward with these features. But as demand for more environmentally friendly elements increases, the price of these items come down. Lighting is a great example—five years ago one LED can light fixture was around $250, whereas the equivalent incandescent can light fixture was around $20 apiece. Now LED cans are around $30 apiece.