Green Can Be Integrated into all Development Phases

By Trent Rush and Miles Vandewalle
San Antonio Business
September 28, 2007

Sustainable design has been with us for thousands of years. Both the
ancient cityscapes of Europe and the small German farm houses of
Fredericksburg are a testament to sustainable design. Today, many of those
same concepts are being revitalized with the addition of technology --
allowing for the creation of modern places that have a gentler impact on
our environment. Rising population growth coupled with increasingly
limited natural resources means sustainable projects are more important
today than ever.

Of course, sustainable design is not for residential properties alone.
These techniques -- used in both the design and construction -- are
available and can work in commercial properties, too. In fact, commercial
building sustainability is more accessible today, broader in its approach
and far reaching in its technology.

Several organizations are entering into this area of energy conservation
and sustainability. Groups like Energy Star are often mentioned. However,
one group has emerged as the dominant force: The United States Green
Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC has created the LEED® Green Building
Rating System™ to provide owners, designers and operators with nationally
accepted standards for green building. USGBC's LEED promotes a holistic
approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas:
site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, material
selection and indoor environmental quality.

LEEDing design

To meet LEED standards, designers integrate sustainable concepts into all
aspects of a project's design and construction. Materials referred to as
"green" include regional and rapidly renewable resources, energy efficient
materials, and recycled content; these materials minimize consumption and
depletion of natural resources. LEED addresses all areas of sustainability
from the exterior to the interior of the project. Sustainable designs
incorporate high-performance and environmentally friendly products, such
as reflective roofing materials, photovoltaic solar panels, energy
efficient lighting systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures, carbon dioxide
sensors and zero-emitting or low-VOC paints, adhesives, sealants, carpet
and composite wood.

Energy Star Rated HVAC Systems further reduce energy requirements. They
require less energy to operate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by
meeting guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. Department of Energy.

Eco-friendly engineering

Simple but smart sustainable engineering practices can effectively reduce
environmental impact. Through thoughtful site planning, engineers,
architects and landscape architects can lay out and orient buildings in a
manner that will lower solar heat gain and reduce site disturbance.
Environmentally responsible parking lot and drive layouts can preserve
large existing trees to reduce the heat island effect. Preservation of
native trees and plants combined with the use of high albedo materials
reduce peak energy demand and air pollution levels, as well as irrigation
requirements of the surrounding landscape. Bioswales can be installed to
collect and filter stormwater runoff before it's released from the site.

Green construction

Guided by professional engineers, architects and landscape architects,
sustainable techniques can be implemented by the contractor during
construction. Such requirements guide contractors to recycle unused or
scrap building material, protect existing trees and install silt fencing
that slows storm water runoff thereby creating less pollution of suspended
solids in streams and creek beds.

To maximize a project's green potential, sustainable measures must be
implemented into all phases of development, including design, engineering
and construction. As commercial development continues to increase in San
Antonio, and throughout the world, smart, environmentally responsible
design must provide the bases of cultivating a sustainable tomorrow for
future generations.

Trent Rush, ASLA, is a principal and landscape architect with TBG Partners.
Miles Vandewalle is an urban and regional planner with TBG Partners.
TBG Partners is a landscape architecture and planning firm with offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.


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