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Sustainable Development Strategies

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sustainable development?
Called by many names including green building, whole building integration, and high performance building, sustainable development seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizing or eliminating negative impact to the natural environment. At its heart, it is about leaving a high quality of life for future generations.

What does it mean for buildings?
It signifies that buildings:

  • Provide a healthy, productive indoor environment
  • Minimize the use of energy, water, and other natural resources
  • Acknowledge the interdependence of the natural and built environment

Why is sustainable development important?
First, because development is complex, expensive, and long-lived, the choices we make are going to be with us for a long time. In addition, design and development expenses are only about 20% of a building’s lifecycle costs – the remaining 80% are for operation and maintenance costs during its use. If we work to minimize energy and resource use in the initial design and construction, we can save significant costs over the life of the building. And finally, when the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency states that indoor air levels of many pollutants can occasionally be a hundred times higher than outdoor levels is coupled with Americans spending as much as 90% of their time indoors, it becomes crucial to have buildings that are healthy places for people to live and work.

What are the benefits from a high performance project?
There are numerous benefits including:

  1. Health and Safety Benefits
    • Enhance occupant comfort and health
  2. Economic Benefits
    • Improve the bottom line through competitive first costs, reduced operating and maintenance costs, and increased building valuation
  3. Environmental Benefits
    • Reduce the impacts of natural resource consumption
  4. Community Benefits
    • Minimize strain on local infrastructures and improve quality of life

What does Earthly Ideas LLC do exactly?
We cooperatively identify sustainable strategies with teams who are designing, renovating, constructing, and operating buildings. We then utilize project management skills like facilitation, effective communication, thorough research, and meticulous attention to detail to help teams plan and implement these sustainable solutions including LEED® criteria into the projects.

Our main tool is the integrated design process, which relies upon a multidisciplinary and collaborative team approach to building design. It seeks to achieve high performance on a wide variety of well-defined environmental and social goals while staying within budgetary and scheduling constraints.

Bottom line: Earthly Ideas helps teams develop sustainable goals and stick to them.

How is the integrated design process different from a conventional design process?
To answer that we borrowed from a resource called Roadmap for the Integrated Design Process produced for the British Columbia (Canada) Green Building Roundtable. Although there are a lot of ways to approach the integrated design process, there is broad consensus about how it differs from conventional practice as shown in the summary table below.

Integrated Design Process - vs - Conventional Design Process

When is the best time to get Earthly Ideas involved in a project?
As early as possible. As Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken said in Natural Capitalism, “All the really important mistakes are made on the first day.” Good things happen when design teams communicate early:

  • Goals are clarified
  • Perspectives are better understood
  • Problems are discovered early
  • Systems are optimized
  • Loads are reduced
  • Performance is improved
  • Unpleasant surprises are minimized
  • Costs are managed

Also the greatest energy savings can be achieved by planning for energy efficiency right from the beginning of the design process and striving to reduce loads. The further along a project gets, the harder it is – and the more costly it becomes – to make changes that will improve building energy use.

To summarize: The sooner teams develop and focus on their goals for a sustainable project, the greater the chance of reaching them.