Game-Changing Design

Game-Changing Design

Will the cookie-cutter McMansion give way to homes that are powered by renewable energy, reflect the environment and restore sites?

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Green Builder Media

Designed to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge, the Desert Rain residence in Bend, Ore., is net-zero energy and harvests all of the water it needs from the site.

Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 8:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ethical and Sustainable Living

CONTENT: Article

As important as energy efficiency is, it’s only one component of truly sustainable design. But other concerns are converging to drive a more holistic approach. Indoor air quality is one; resource conservation is another. Water is drawing up alongside energy as an urgent issue, as people are (finally) making the connection between water and energy use. Droughts in Texas and California are prompting change and opening up opportunities for graywater recycling, and demonstration homes that feature comprehensive water conservation alongside net-zero energy strategies are starting to trend. Onsite water harvesting and appropriate landscaping, including trends toward urban gardening and even animal husbandry—are becoming part of an integrated strategy that followers of permaculture have been promoting for decades.

Some green building certification programs, from regional programs such as GreenStar [see Case Study] to national and international programs, including LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, include comprehensive criteria that go beyond energy efficiency —sometimes way beyond. For instance, the DOE program requires projects to meet the standards of Energy Star 3.0 along with the requirements of the EPA WaterSense and Indoor AirPLUS programs. The Living Building Challenge 3.0 has 20 Imperatives under seven “Petal” categories, which cover everything from Biophilia and Urban Agriculture to Net-Positive Water and Net-Positive Energy.