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What Is Sustainable Architecture, and Should You Consider It for Your Next Build?


Apr 26, 2020 by Liz Brumer

Sustainable architecture is a growing trend for new construction as consumers and builders become more aware of the environmental impacts of real estate on our environment. The U.S Energy Information Administration states that 40% of energy consumption in the United States is from residential and commercial buildings. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2019 survey, 59% of consumers showed an interest in sustainable architecture or green home features.

If you're an investor or builder learn what sustainable architecture is and the pros and cons of using sustainable architecture for your next build.

What is sustainable architecture?

Sustainable architecture is a way of designing residential or commercial real estate to offset some or all of the negative impacts the building could have on the environment. While it mostly focuses on structural design elements of a building, sustainable architecture takes economic and social factors into consideration as well. For example, the Green Globes Building Certification requires builders to meet at least 35% of the 1,000 available certification points to gain a designation.

Buildings can gain certifications for various design elements, such as LEED, Energy Star, and BREEAM, which all outline specific requirements a building must meet in order to qualify.

For new builds, sustainable architecture could include the use of:

  1. Sustainable building materials sourced from the local area.
  2. Resource or water conservation.
  3. Reduced energy consumption of the building by designing specific features into the property that work with the climate and site conditions.
  4. Implementing other appropriate technology to improve the efficiency of the building.

Pros and cons of sustainable architecture

There is a myriad of potential benefits to sustainable architecture, depending on how the building is designed, which may include:

  1. Reduced ongoing ownership costs.
  2. Minimal environmental impact.
  3. Qualifying for government incentive programs and rebates.
  4. Reducing waste streams exiting the building.
  5. Potentially improving your building's marketability.
  6. Improving the living/working conditions for inhabitants.

While it may sound like sustainable architecture has a tremendous upside, there are some obstacles to including it in your next building design.

It takes considerable thought to properly survey the site and create a plan that achieves these principles. You will also usually have to hire a specialist who has experience with sustainable architecture to be able to implement the project effectively, which could limit your firm choices.

Building green will likely increase building costs as well. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) 2020 SmartMarket Brief found that 88% of dedicated green builders/remodelers said that building a home or property with sustainable architecture increased building costs.

And while certain incentive programs are in place for sustainable building, because there is no one official certification program, it can be difficult to choose which one will benefit you and your project the most.

Should you consider sustainable architecture for your next build?

Sustainable architecture is a wonderful opportunity to have a positive impact on environmental, social, and economic factors for your new project. It can set you apart from other builds and potentially increase the marketability, but it is something that each builder must carefully weigh for themselves.

It can be helpful to research the various certification processes to get a better understanding of what they entail and consult with a local Realtor who can give input on demand, competition, and value of sustainable architecture in your specific area. Interview some sustainable architecture firms as well to see whether a design of this scope would work for your project.

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