It is important to differentiate between LEED and sustainability. While LEED is an incredible program that is drawing major attention to a movement towards more sustainable building practices, its focus on energy efficiency casts shadows on two other equally important aspects of sustainability, which are the cultural and economic issues that surround a project. A building that is sustainable transcends one that is simply energy efficient.
We understand sustainability abstractly as a type of balance, where the amount of energy exhausted equals the amount of energy produced. This energy could be in the form of watts, productivity, Btu, profit, durability, foot-candles, creativity, etc. A sustainable facility would indeed be energy efficient, additionally, it would improve productivity, increase moral, withstand time, inspire new thoughts, require minimal maintenance, and overall give more than it receives. This understanding of sustainability affords a much richer and more sincere approach to each project.
We begin by making ourselves aware of and appreciating the unique set of tools that are innate in each site, and understanding that no matter how much we know, they are different from the last site. Each site has its own history and place within the already established pattern of natural forces. The site is already participating in the culture of the community that it lies in and is actively utilizing and providing natural resources. The site as first encountered has a certain balance be it healthy or harmful. At the beginning, the site is full of potential, the path we take can either embrace and collaborate with that energy or move forward without it. This is perhaps the most important decision to be made and it means letting go of any preconceived notions. It suggests that the orientation, form, massing, materials, building systems and even organization of program within a building will be determined with an awareness of these resources.
In lieu of going first to a catalog of expensive “Green” products we choose to work in collaboration with the natural resources of the sun, water and wind thorough the thoughtful integration of daylight, solar heat, water management and natural ventilation. We propose that the building itself can become a vigorous participant in the living systems that surround it.