Integrating Green Bldg into the Urban Environment

The business, of environmental capital is not only a vast new market in the making, but it is a global economy, a shift in our patterns, as well as a turn in ecological literacy.

Urban green building has been on the forefront of this movement and has set the stage for us: the designers, architects and civilians of our country to drive this properly.

Let us start looking at all facets of the construction industry – the basic building blocks that represent the building industry – and begin filling in the gaps, where needed.

This is a ripe opportunity to integrate all the available elements that we have before us – while continuing to push the envelop in design.


Photo by: melingmorse

Economy – New Business Model

As a new business model, Green Building has been speculated for some time, and perhaps, even considered a fad. With the Dow Jones having introduced the Sustainability Index a mere nine years ago, this indicates that this shift had already begun to gain traction, on an economic and public front.

It was considered the first global platform in which indexes were tracked and measured for companies, that held the model of the triple bottom line. A term used to reference the 21st c. business framework, that takes into account the people, the planet and profit.

As we move away from the old paradigms, that are disintegrating behind us – we are in the midst of designing a new business model. It is a model, that aside from the ubiquitous triple bottom line, is integrating the value of the collective.

Corporations are now finding themselves in a new state, yearning for the solutions that will help them compete and integrate into this new economy. A sense of moving away from being compartmentalized and working in a more integrative system that will result in efficiency and profit.

An integrative strategy, represents a whole systems approach – taking into account the many variables at stake. This creates an effort to design with a more wide approach, yet, while being able to be specialized, simultaneously.

We are sewing the tapestry of a new culture, here in our country, abroad, and within humanity. As Americans, this is our opportunity, to set the bar for ourselves, and set an example for the rest of the world.

It is imperative that we demonstrate that following our previous path, has lead us in a direction, that is having us, redirect the way we build and the way we live.

Building, is such a pivotal sector, within our economy. If positioned properly, it can serve as a model for all other umbrella industries; as it already has begun to do so, with innovation in materials, technology and systems.

In the past 15 years, enough data has been gathered to build a case against conventional modes of construction and operation.

Buildings of the world consume:

  • 17% of our clean water
  • 25% of the wood harvested
  • 40% of the world's energy and materials

These numbers, alone, present an ideal opportunity to use the ingenuity we have been known for. Create buildings that require less energy to perform, turn waste into energy, and release cleaner water.

Begin integrating nature as a model by moving away from linear thinking and mathematics to a more organic multifaceted frame of mind. Because, the reality is that we live in a 3 dimensional world.

Green Building

Green Building has been one of the largest driving forces of this movement. It has taken some time to realize that how we have been building, in the past, has been ineffective and inefficient; all while creating depletion of natural resources, en masse, and intoxicating ourselves.

Building greener buildings indicates using renewable energy alternatives, low impact efficient materials, in addition to, measuring the environmental performance of buildings.


Photo by: Pyrus
Today, we have the knowledge, the technology and innovation to build in such ways that are not only, cutting edge and lucrative, but also offer, sustainable living or working environments, in addition to, being “smart”.

Smart buildings use internet protocol-based networks, new digital technology as well as proper design and building materials. This innovation works to convert waste into energy, save on operational costs, by requiring less maintenance, and reduce energy and water consumption by storing and using these elements from the sun and rain.


Understanding the science of buildings, and the psychology of how people live and work, serve as pillars, to create efficient models, for the various phases of a building.

This foundation, can prove to facilitate efficiency and costs associated with the various stages of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, demolition and recovery.

In essence, acknowledging the life cycle of buildings, will help urban designers and architects plan and design, in ways, that take far more into consideration than the mere aesthetic of a building.

Studying the location, the intended land use, the building objective, and projected occupant needs can begin to help set the scene for charettes, amongst the design team.

Charettes, are an open forum that is an integral component, found in virtually all green projects, where key players on the project, use their expertise in co-creating a fully integrated vision.

By incorporating: site location, human scale, and natural elements such as, weather patterns, and local materials into the design of buildings, projects work with available resources.

In understanding, the needs of a building, and integrating these elements, in such a way, that cohesively work together, have proven to be successful models that are in rhythm with the natural patterns of nature, and ebb and flow with the culture and seasons of a region.

Through the application of sustainable landscapes, design specifications correspond to site specific project locations, as well as with the local flora and fauna. Natural settings create habitats for building inhabitants to spend time outdoors, while encouraging native species to flourish.

In addition to, complementing the visual aesthetic, sustainable landscaping can be integrated into the model of the design and contribute to the energy and water efficiency of the building. Indoor landscapes, also act as a natural filter – contributing to better indoor air quality and circulation.

Innovation/Standards

Green building effects every sector in human development: from residential to commercial, education to non profit, and healthcare to entertainment.

Naturally, the initial cost impact of building green, may distract short sited builders and investors; although, there is a significant amount of data to back up any upfront cost associated with green building.

Benefits in productivity, increase in sales, lower rates of absenteeism, and overall employee and tenant satisfaction, rank extremely high in buildings considered green, versus their counterparts.

To an investor, this may seem trivial, yet, considering the significant added real estate value and low operating costs, it could appear to be more of an incentive to understand the larger market value.

With certifications and green building programs, such as The Green Building Council’s LEED program and Build it Green, green building is now receiving the added property value and credentials it deserves.

Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, have implemented green within their municipal policy for new commercial and Federal buildings to be a minimum, of being LEED certified.

Photo by: telwink


In addition, they are facilitating work permits, expediting building plans and priority processing, which encourage, time sensitive projects to consider, this as viable and lucrative alternative.

On the state level, government is offering various incentives, rebates and tax credits for upgrading to energy star appliances, full energy audits and weatherization of homes.

On a local level, the development of legislation in creating a green framework, could prove to be the initiation, that commerce and residents, a like, need to embrace this new practice.

We are creatures of habit, and we are naturally slow, at the reception of change. It is pivotal, to provide people with the health benefits associated with building sustainably; versus, using the scare tactic, and the costs associated with conditions like, sick building syndrome.

Providing home and business owners, with the multitude of ways in which money can be saved, by implementing green strategies, can serve as the turning point in which a consumer chooses green materials over the conventional counterpart.

With the installation of proper windows, good insulation, efficient fixtures, appliances, and HVAC systems, in addition to, energy and water conservation, can result in stark savings, over a short period of time.

With the learning curve we are living through, we are also writing the history books. Learning what works, and what does not. We will be in this phase of research and development for some time, as this is all new.

Materials and resources will continue to grow, and expand, as with the field of professionals, and with the depth of knowledge we will accrue over the years of experience.

It is imperative that we use this technology and innovation, that is currently available. We must design buildings that help address energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, toxin elimination, improved indoor air quality, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Urban Green Building


Photo by: Katarina

Integrating green into the urbanization of our cities, requires the proper tools to keep within the evolving fabric of a metropolis.

As cities evolve over the years, they begin to build their history, reflecting a community’s current social and economic state. Implementing green strategies to compliment the landscape of urban development, and seamlessly integrating it.

Today, we build buildings with a life cycle of 50 – 60 years and materials and products with a virtually disposable lifespan. A mere 100 years ago, people built things to last – a stark contrast, to where we are today.

This is a huge component within the green building initiative that must be addressed – Recreating our frame of mind to design works of art that will leave a lasting impression.

More over, supporting cost-effective disassembly, by understanding the future reuse of building materials, will help reduce the amount of waste associated with the deconstruction of a building.

As other countries, continue to emulate the way in which a live and build, we have the ripe opportunity to educate others with Eco Literacy.

Use education, as our basis to help people understand the simplicity of incorporating green building elements. into a project of any size or budget.

By building, a robust green building infrastructure – a roadmap, per se, where others can have this knowledge available to them.

Design a Green Building Standard where case studies are available to the public and where short and long term solutions can easily, be modeled, with the added benefits for incorporating them.

There is a level of transparency where we are given the opportunity to fully impart the knowledge of what going green truly represents. Become less ambiguous and available for all.

We need to create a local infrastructure, where social equity creates a revenue model within sustainability.

As the market size widens, the trends and opportunities across the green building sectors are only going to grow on an exponential level.

In theory, we are currently one of the very few growing markets, and as the leaders of our communities we need to take a rise at this movement and truly take a lead……..

For more on Nancy, visit Astrid Design Studio

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1 Comment

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