The green building community keeps trying to figure out ways to appropriately language what makes a better design and building. For us, at Atmosphere Design Build, the notion of ecological design and construction best illustrates the philosophy driving our practice. Design and building in an ecological manner requires taking the whole system into consideration from start to finish. “ECO-logical” is a “logical” response to our ecosystem. This means we seek to create buildings that integrate the context of a specific site, respond to the regional environment, use healthy materials in the construction, are super comfortable to occupy, and most importantly buildings that will use minimal energy over their lifetime (thus participating in the stewardship of our planet).
In order for a building to be ecological it must be a super energy efficient (high performing) building. In these tipping point times, if a building is not using significantly less energy it is not a sustainable part of the system. So let’s be honest – buildings use a huge amount of resources. Not just in the construction but primarily over the lifetime of a building. Most conventionally built homes use less than 10% of the energy in the construction process while 90% of the energy used will be over the lifetime of the building (heating and cooling, lighting, etc). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (eia) states that nearly 40% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2012 was consumed in residential and commercial buildings. Some put this number higher, closer to 50%. It is estimated that residential building consumption alone accounts for 21% of our total nation energy use.
Building in an ecological manner can significantly reduce the impact of the built world on the environment – it can be in partnership with the environment.