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Green Design Principles

Minimize or design away the extraneous.
In 1946 the average house was 1100 sf and the average family was about 5 people - in 1996 the average house was 2200 sf a family of 2.6 people.  We now have  4 times the area per person -what are we doing with it?  What are we filling it up with?!

Integrate design aspects for multiplicity of function.
How many modern construction materials or systems really, effectively serve more than one pragmatic function or purpose?

Design for all aspects of climate at all levels.
If the "glass box" office building is appropriate for Phoenix, is it equally appropriate to Anchorage?  (We design them in both climates.)  How can architects honestly say this with integrity?


Design for durability and longevity.
Even if a material contains 2-3 time the embodied energy of this alternative, it lasts 5-10 times longer, we should consider it better.  Think about the unintended consequences of maintenance and renewal!


Select materials that use their base resource most efficiently.
How do we squeeze the most out of a material, meeting principle #1 above at the micro-scale.  Make the opportunity to find ways around the "40,000 lbs. laptop."


Design to use only local and regional resources.
Find out what is "sustainable" in your back yard - it may surprise you!   Consider the use of the concept of Pliny Fisk's Regional Resource Mapping essential - if only on an intuitive level.


Use products with recyclable materials & recycled content.
First seek out reused materials to conserve the most embodied energy, then find recyclable materials, because it is much more important to know what will be done with it after than to feel good about where it was coming from before.  Remember, though, recycling may not be all it's cracked up to be - again, unintended consequences that may make very large loops.


Look for least toxic materials and manufacturing processes.
After everything in the design has been made minimal, doubled, durable, efficient, local and recyclable, then find ways to involve the least toxins in manufacturing, installation and use - but make this also an overriding principle...and set stringent threshold (e.g. McDonough's carcinogen - test).


Prepared by Tom Hahn, RA, Sol Source, Advisor to Scottsdale Green Building Program and former Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Arizona State University.