The Future is Now: Why Sustainable Design Begins Today

Jennifer Hilliard, AIA, LEED APExpert Advice

Buildings are not designed to be temporary. Owners investing a large sum of money in the design and construction of a building do not want their investment to become obsolete in 10 to 15 years because the resources required to operate it have become limited and prohibitively expensive. That’s why to build now is to build for the future.

This long range vision should be the standard when the goal is to design an enduring structure that nurtures its occupants as well as the environment. WKMC Architects is committed to ensuring that each project culminates in a high performance building that stands the test of time. To accomplish this, resource management and energy efficiency must be a priority.

In the earliest planning phases of the project lifecycle, it is important to discuss sustainability goals as they relate to budget requirements and the core mission of the owner. This information is used as a guide for a multidisciplinary team of professionals to make collaborative decisions based upon a shared vision with the owner/developer. This approach can lower operating costs while improving the comfort and productivity of the building’s occupants.

LEED certification is one path that can be used to meet these goals. Going through the LEED certification process holds architects, contractors and owners responsible for preserving dwindling resources, while raising the bar for energy efficiency standards. The integrated design process required by LEED breaks the cycle of cutting design fees and construction costs only to spend ten times the savings year after year on higher utility bills, lost productivity, and lower rental income—all of which come at a detriment to the environment. It is possible, and worth the effort, to motivate owners to choose LEED certification with the notion of occupying a structure that expresses their commitment to the environment along with saving money annually on lower utility bills, higher rental income, and greater tenant satisfaction.

Regardless of LEED certification, the project architect should use their experience and judgment to guide clients with proven strategies that provide cost effective solutions to meet their goal. Communication is the key. When clients understand the entire building design process, it is possible to take advantage of the compounding effect of downstream energy savings. For example, if one looks at energy efficient lighting fixtures and the preferred use of daylighting, the heat reduction from these two systems allows for a reduced level of cooling. This reduces pressure in the distribution system and calls for a smaller fan to be installed. When taken downstream, these reductions will decrease the required size of the project’s overall cooling system.

When comparing what was considered an energy efficient building in the 70’s and what constitutes a sustainable project today, owners will quickly realize that these modern buildings are comfortable, attractive energy efficient spaces where they can realize lower operating costs, improvement morale and higher productivity.

Learn more about WKMC’s LEED® certified project architects and some of our featured building projects by clicking here.


Disclaimer: The above images do not depict WKMC Architect's portfolio.