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Thinking Green

 If there is one undeniable truth that I have learned in my 30+ years of practicing Architecture and building remodeling projects is that this is a cyclical business. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the buzz words were:

ENERGY CONSERVATION (DUE TO THE OIL SHORTAGE)
HEALTHY LIVING (DUE TO ASBESTOS HAZARDS IN BUILDING MATERIALS)
DURABLE PRODUCTS (DUE TO A BACKLASH FROM THE CREATION OF CHEAP, DISPOSABLE PRODUCTS FLOODING THE BUILDING MARKET)
CLEAN ENVIRONMENTS (DUE TO POLLUTION OF LAND, SEA, AND AIR)

Now along comes “THINKING GREEN” as the new buzz word for 2010 and beyond. I have now lived long enough to see the day when everything old is new again. However, I believe this time it is a horse (or in this case” house”) of a different color (green). Everything old is new again has taken on a new meaning. The three “R”s of the green movement are leading the way:

REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE

We now need to reduce the amount of trash and waste we create. We need to reuse items such as boxes and grocery bags. And we need to recycle such things as cans, newspapers, and bottles. So how does “THINKING GREEN” relate to Design and Construction? “THINKING GREEN” to building designers goes beyond the three R’s and considers the three P’s:

PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY

PEOPLE need healthy buildings and not environments that will make them sick. Humans instinctively want and thrive in buildings that have a lot of daylight and ventilation. They also want beautiful and enjoyable spaces.

The PLANET needs for us to be more responsible for our pollution of land, sea, and air. Designers need to promote the use of recycled or earth friendly building materials. Designers need to use building materials that require less energy to make, and consider energy efficiency in the design process.

Designing better “GREEN” buildings leads to a better PROSPERITY. We would be saving money in the long term. We would be improving productivity. And most importantly we all would be happier and healthier.

There are many aspects to becoming Green, and Green will mean different things to different people. The “GREEN THINKING” has now geared us to think more on the total process and life cycle of things. Energy conservation is definitely a part of this. It is the one aspect that people can most clearly understand and contribute to. “Saving the planet” and creating less of a carbon footprint is a considerably more daunting task and one that most people feel good talking about but have trouble when it comes to appropriate implementation.

My overall message is that “THINKING GREEN” has actually been around for a long time. It is, in part, just thinking energy smart and applying common sense to the way you use and live in your home. The newer part of the equation requires, in many cases, some additional help to understand. There are many ways to learn more about “THINKING GREEN”. The main idea here is that if everyone just did even a small part, and help contribute to the overall good, then GREEN will be a worthwhile endeavor.