Author: Katherine Salazar
According to a New York Times article, in 2014 the U.S. emitted around 16.2 metric tons of carbon per capita. That’s about 35,375 pounds of carbon per person. Needless to say, we have contributed significantly to global warming. And despite being considered an environmentally conscious region, the Bay Area is a major contributor to those emissions. A household can help combat colossal carbon footprints in several ways. While sustainable/green design and construction have a great impact on the environment, sustainability will only come with changing the way we live and integrating that green lifestyle shift into our culture.
Sustainable, Low-Carbon Home
The field of architecture has a major responsilibilty when it comes to climate change. Ned Cramer with Architect Magazine recently noted, “every architect should know, buildings consume some 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. annually, and they emit nearly half of the carbon dioxide (CO2), through greenfield development, cement production, and the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal.” If these statistics hold true, then how we build, what we build, and what we build with needs to change.
From energy use and water conservation to the materials used to build your home, Wagstaff + Rogers Architects is committed to preserving the environment for future generations by offering services in Sustainable Planning and Green Building.
The firm’s Green Design philosophy encourages environmentally responsible decisions at each phase of the design process, reducing negative impacts on the environment and improving the health of building occupants without substantially compromising the bottom line. It is an integrated, holistic approach that positively impacts all phases of a building’s life-cycle, including design, construction, life-cycle operation, and decommissioning. A GreenPoint Rated or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building will also typically bring a higher market value than a conventional building.
Whether you are remodelling part of your home, building a home from scratch, or simply updating your home for energy and water efficiency, there are many facets of design and construction that can lower your home’s carbon footprint and save you money on your water and energy bills, as we have written about before in this blog.
There are at least six general categories that Wagstaff + Rogers Architects pay special attention to when designing a home with green (sustainable) attributes:
1. Location and community (if applicable): try to locate close to shopping and public transportation as well as situating the building for optimal solar access for active and passive design techniques.
2. Energy efficiency: focusing on the building envelope, including efficient windows, heating, cooling, and insulation. The goal is to use less fossil fuels to heat and cool and try to convert to sustainable types of energy while conserving by design.
3. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): prioritizing use of Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and No-VOC paints and other less toxic chemicals for the health of occupants.
4. Resource conservation: using less and/or renewable resources as well as durable materials.
5. Water conservation: specifying indoor and outdoor plumbing fixtures that conserve water.
6. Innovations: envisioning and implementing new ideas that advance sustainable living into our culture.
While sustainability is a key principle for Wagstaff + Rogers Architects, they also practice it in their individual lives.
Sustainable, Low-Carbon Lifestyle
Reducing your CO2 emissions goes beyond the home; low-carbon living also means changing your lifestyle. Everything from what you eat to how you get to work has a carbon footprint. Recently, architect, Eric Rogers and his wife, Natalie, participated in Marin county’s Resilient Neighborhoods program, a team challenge to reduce collective CO2 emissions to more sustainable levels while building community. The program is free and joining a team is relatively easy.
Teams start out by calculating their household CO2 emissions and choose from a set of actions related to shopping habits, waste, water usage, transportation, and home energy efficiency that will reduce the carbon footprint of their everyday lives. Some of these actions are as easy as going meatless for a couple meals a week. But such steps have a huge impact, as the site boasts:
“4,480,129 lbs. of annual CO2 emissions have already been reduced [through this program in Marin alone]. That’s enough to keep an acre of Arctic Sea ice from melting every year or taking 613 Marin homes off the grid permanently!”