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How To Build A LEED Certified Home (Part 2)

Posted on Tue, Dec 09, 2014

Part 2 Of Designing & Building A LEED Home

This is the second installment detailing the new LEED certified house we are currently designing.

This particular LEED certified home is on a small lake in Southwest Michigan. The lake sits to the NW, so the primary views are to the NW.  The lot itself is rotated 35 degrees west of due south.  This LEED home wants to use good passive design features and roof mounted solar thermal and solar PV systems. The key passive LEED design feature is to rotate the main roof plan 20 degrees to the south, so that the main roof is only 15 degrees from due south facing. This passive feature helps to block the summer sun, but lets the winter sun penetrate deep into the home for passive solar heat gain and is a critical element of this specific LEED architecture. The main roof also provide a great place to put all the active systems (the PV and solar thermal).  See the roof plan below.  The darker roof area slope is 15 degrees from south.  This passive design feature, while being a key component to the energy conservation strategy, also creates a dynamic and interesting aesthetic feature of the home.

LEED certified design resized 600Further to the energy conservation considerations, LEED architecture calls for the selection of the heating and cooling systems that are currently underway.  The heating load exceeds the cooling load in this region, but we need to appropriately address both needs.  Heating is the main focus, but active cooling will be required in the warmest and most humid summer months.  The first thing we did was to create a high performance building envelope.  The wall will be Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), the attics will be well insulated, and we will use good quality, double glazed (insulated) windows and doors throughout, another effective element of good LEED architecture. Once the building envelope is determined, the heating and cooling systems can be properly sized. One other interesting consideration that is contributing to this effective LEED architecture is there is natural gas available at the site.  And there will be many times during the year that the home will be naturally ventilated. 

So we are looking at several good LEED architecture systems, keeping in mind energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, first cost, and life cycle cost. A geo-thermal system is an option. We can get our heating and cooling from this type of system. It would be a force air distribution system - pretty standard air handlers and ducted distribution. Another option is to use a liquid base radiant flooring system.  This provides and amazingly comfortable heat source.  We could use solar thermal panels on the roof to supplement the mechanical heating systems (preheat the liquid on the roof and then refine the actual temperature with a gas or electric system). This can be interconnect (via a heat exchanger) with the domestic hot water system to preheat the domestic hot water system as well.  With the radiant flooring system, we will need to implement a cooling system as well. This may need to be a force air distribution system, which would be a separate system from the heating system. A more conventional heat pump to provide both heating and cooling, and distributed by a force air distribution system is also an option. We will see how all these LEED architecture options play out.

We will also put solar PV panels on the roof to create as much electricity as we can afford.  We will be evaluating the available roof areas for the proper balance of solar thermal and solar PV panels.  Part of that analysis will be about how much (if any) natural gas we want to use, versus going with all electric systems.  Stay tuned as we will be posting updates on this LEED certified home project as we make decisions and execute what we determine represents the best possible LEED architecture components.

If you are starting to research a LEED project and would like some professional advice to get you started in the right direction, feel welcome to contact us for a consultation. Just use the button below to make a request:

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How To Build A LEED Certified Home

Posted on Wed, Dec 03, 2014

Designing & Building A LEED Certified Home

What you should know when considering the construction of a LEED Certified or green home.

leed certified designWe are (as a Sarasota Fl architect) in the process of designing our second LEED certified home now.  I wanted to share some of the process, decision making and what to expect.  Our first LEED certified home was for the HGTV television show in 2009, and was the HGTV Green Home for that year.  It was Platinum level certified.  Our current project in the design development phase now, is located in Southwestern Michigan, and is a new home for my parents.  I will tell you more about the project later, but let's talk a little about the process first.  There is a lot to think about, but don't get overwhelmed. As a trailblazer in LEED architecture in Florida, we truly understand the demands.

First, assemble your team.  Select a sustainable design experienced architect that has already done LEED certified projects, and who has long term commitment to sustainable design solutions.  Green Design should be in the architects DNA, not a segment of their practice.  LEED has been around for about 15 years now, and well within the main stream for 6-8 years now, so if your architecture design team has not been engaged, what could they be waiting for?  Many architects can talk the LEED certification talk now, but can they (and have they) back up the talk by walking the walk.  The architect designing your house should be a LEED accredited professional. (LEED AP)

Get some help with the design of the mechanical systems including the cooling and heating systems.  In most jurisdictions you are not required to have a licensed mechanical engineer involved in your single-family residential project.  This design work is typically left up to the subcontractors to figure out the details of the design. In a high-performance building it is important to have expertise available to design the systems.  Don't leave it up to the subcontractor to do the system he is most familiar with. You want your design team to look at systems that far exceed the code minimum requirements.

leed accredited architectBring your general contractor on board as soon as your design team has a concept design established.  Designing a high performance home requires an integrated design and construction team working together to optimize the outcomes.  The general contractor can provide valuable knowledge on construction techniques suitable for your area and climate zone.  The GC can provide preliminary cost estimating during each phase of the development of the design to make sure your project stays on budget.  The GC can bring in their subcontractors into the discussion to provide input into the selection of building systems to be used on your project.  I suggest getting several references for good experienced general contractors and then narrowing that list down to two or three contractors that you would like to interview in person.  Don't base your decision strictly on price. Remember that you are in the early design stage of the project at this point and many of the details and systems have not yet been established.  A hard bid at this phase is not possible.  Look more at qualifications, past experience and how the general contractor calculates his fee. And the general contractor should have LEED accredited professionals on staff. 

One side thought: I think it is best as the owner to hire the design team and construction team under separate contracts.  The design/build delivery method is less successful. Having the design team subservient to the contractor lends itself to mediocrity and reduces accountability.  

Remember-Bring your contractor on board early!

To seek and obtain LEED certification for your home you will need a LEED provider. You can connect with your lead provider using the USGBC website to find the lead provider in your area.  Sometimes there's more than one in your area. The LEED provider will coordinate with you and your contractor everything that you need to do to seek LEED certification.  They can be a valuable resource.  They understand the process and they have many connections in their community from other LEED projects they have worked on.  You will also need a LEED Rater for your project. Your LEED provider can connect you with Raters in your area.    The greater will visit your job site and do inspections and report back the results as part of the certification process. They will also do the preliminary HERS score evaluation and do the blower door test to establish the actual HERS rating at the end of construction.  The Rater will assist your GC in helping with quality control on the job site. 

Use the LEED for Homes checklist of points as your guide through the project. Have a copy of the LEED for Homes reference guide handy for used by all the team members.


Use this link to purchase the USGBC Reference Guide For Homes

Depending on the specifics of your project you may need some additional design consultants at your discretion.  You may need interior design services, landscape architecture, acoustical engineering, geotechnical engineering etc. 

Now you have your core team together. Work together to design a fantastic Sustainable home!

To speak live to one of the nations most experienced and talented LEED accredited architectural firms, use the button below.

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Evaluating the USA - China Climate Change Deal

Posted on Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US/China Climate Change Deal: Environmental Planning?

accreddited LEED architect Michael CarlsonI read with interest today the news about the China/USA agreement to curb carbon emissions in hopes of reducing climate change and supporting more sustainable environment.  I was excited.  It is always good to read about any country willing to voluntarily reduce its carbon emissions. 

Then I read the details.

So the US is going to curb its emissions by 26% to 28% in 2025, down from its 2005 levels.  What happened to the 2030 challenge?  At this rate, will we achieve carbon neutrality by 2100? Or never?  Not until the last drop of oil and last lump of coal is burned into the atmosphere I guess.  Setting goals so low is really discouraging.  The science does not support such limited action.  And of course the political forces that benefit from a fossil fuel based economy are already lining up to kill even this small initiative.  I heard them use the term “war on coal” again today.   Sort of like when the Federal government (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and organizations like the American Cancer Society started the “war on Cancer” (1971) and big business and parts of the government supported the tobacco industry as it hooked us in and killed us off as fast as it could?   Reducing carbon emissions won’t hurt the economy.  Business as usual will.

And China is going to “stop its emissions from growing” by 2030.  Really?  So China is planning to increase its emissions every year for the next 16 years before it starts reducing them?  How is that a reduction?  China completes a new coal burning electrical plant every 8-10 days.  And their policy of unlimited growth is not sustainable.  The planet simply can’t take it.  One positive component of the agreement is that China will be introducing more “non-fossil fuel” energy sources into its production.  But they include Nuclear in that category, along with renewables.  Luckily economic growth in China is slowing. 

solar energy and planningMany Countries in Europe, Great Britain and Scandinavia have much more aggressive goals.  They are out ahead of climate change and their economies and citizens are benefiting from that.  Sweden has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2016!  Housing in Britain will need to be net zero energy in the same time frame.  Even here in the US, solar power is now cost neutral compared with fossil fuel base electric from the utility monopolies.  And it is projected that solar power will cost neutral in 47 states by 2016. 

So it seems business (mostly) as usual is still the plan of action for decades if not a century to come.  Luckily, complex systems, such as the ecological system of the planet can self-regulate and adapt.  If it needs to, it will disrupt the economy, and eventually the human population.  (It already has.  Most of us are just in an economic position to insulate ourselves from the suffering so far) Its complex, interrelated systems will adapt and adjust, and change as needed.  Those adjustments won’t care about what happens to humans on the planet.   

So as I said in a previous blog: (from the Katherine Hayhoe presentation on 10/22/2014, at the USGBC GreenBuild Conference in New Orleans)

We are facing 3 choices when it comes to climate change

1. Mitigate - reduce emissions

2. Adapt- to the changes (our current infrastructure cannot cope with changes to our climate)

3. Suffer- some suffering is inevitable, how much is our choice

So far it looks like we (the US and China, who account for 45% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions) will take a gentle, easy, slow road on 1 and 2.   Is option 3 going to be the “winning” strategy?  Is that really what our leaders want?  I truly hope not.  Can we adapt and change without a full blown climate crisis?  It does not look good.

Here is a helpful checklist that will help you do your part.

Download the FREE Checklist!

More Information On Solar Energy Planning & Costs!

Is Your Green Building “Expert” in the LEED?

Posted on Thu, Nov 06, 2014

LEED Certified Green BuildingIt seems that everyone these days is a “green building expert”.  Many have recognized the “trend” is not going away, and those who were once resistant have recently opted to jump on board.

Carlson Studio committed to LEED green building design in 2000. As an early adaptor, we have grown up with the LEED system over the years. Sustainability is a key principal that we apply to all of our projects. We also provide eco-consulting to assist architects, contractors, owners and other design professionals in the process of designing sustainable buildings.

But when hiring any expert for green building design or eco-consulting, it can be difficult to know whether you’ve encountered a true green professional, or one who simply dabbles in the concepts of sustainability in order to keep up with trends. One critical determining factor is to fist learn whether a designer, builder, architect or any other contractors are LEED Accredited, and  has  LEED Certified projects on their list of references.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the purpose of helping building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.

There are 5 categories corresponding to the specialties available under the LEED Accredited Professional program:

  • Building Design and Construction
  • Interior Design and Construction
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Homes

What is a LEED Accredited Professional?

The LEED Professional Credentials were developed to encourage green building professionals to maintain and advance their knowledge and expertise. A LEED Professional Credential provides employers, policymakers and other stakeholders with assurances of an individual’s current level of competence and is the mark of the most qualified, educated and influential green building professionals in the marketplace.

There are three tiers in the LEED Professional Credentialing program:

  • Tier 1: LEED Green Associate - denotes basic knowledge of green design, construction, and operations.

  • Tier 2: LEED AP with specialty - signifies an advanced depth of knowledge in green building practices; it also reflects the ability to specialize in a particular LEED Rating System.

  • Tier 3: LEED Fellow - highly accomplished class of individuals nominated by their peers and distinguished by a minimum of 10 or more years of professional green building experience.

What is LEED Certification?

There are four levels of certification - the number of points a project earns determines the level of LEED certification that the project will receive. LEED-Certified is the minimum award for recognized green homes. Typical certification thresholds are:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80+ points

When you’re ready to go green, either as part of a new building project, or renovation of an existing building, remember to check for the all-important criteria above, to ensure that your “green experts” really are the experts!

LEED Accredited Professionals in Sustainable Design

Carlson Studio ArchitectureAt Carlson Studio Architecture, the integrated design approach that we utilize in all our work allows us to provide high quality, high performance buildings for our clients.

Carlson Studio Eco-Consulting is a division of Carlson Studio Architecture, one of the leading sustainable design firms in the State of Florida. Carlson Studio understands the green building design process. For inexperienced teams, we can lead the entire team using our 12 years of experience working in the design and construction of green buildings.

We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation to determine how your green building projects may best be implemented, whether it’s for a new building or green renovation of an existing structure. Just submit your request using the form on the right side of this page, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.

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Insights from Deepak Chopra at Greenbuild 2014

Posted on Sat, Oct 25, 2014

My afternoon session at the 2014 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo today was amazing. Deepak Chopra spoke as part of the master Speaker Series.  I have seen his specials on PBS and read some his books. He is a wise man - and funny.

I cannot present the information he gave us today as eloquently as he did, but here are some points from his presentation:

There are 2 big (hard) questions in science:

1. What is the stuff of the universe? 

  • Space70% is dark energy
  • 25% dark matter (not atoms); there is no way to interact with it, it bends space/time like gravity
  • 5% atoms  
  • 99+% is invisible stellar dust
  • .01% is knowable, visible universe
  • sub-atomic particles disappear into waves when not being observed

So, we understand less than 1% of the universe we live in.

2. What is biological basis of consciousness?

It is impossible to model how thought is produced; after all, how can one see a 3-D world in space and time?

Nature of our Reality = SIFT: Sensations Images Feelings Thoughts

The Hard Problem

There is no explanation for how we understand anything. Start with consciousness, and the spiritual, mental, physical world...

  • 90% of the body is bacteria - we are a few human cells hanging onto bacteria - WOW.
  • Genes are controlled by consciousness; genes do not work on their own, but in networks. You are not your genes; we are much more than that.
  • 64% of our genes are same as a banana
  • 94% of our genes same as chimp

Deepak Chopra explored additionally fascinating concepts such as:

Ayurveda: the science of life

  • meditation
  • balance
  • diet
  • intellect
  • senses
  • detox
  • massage
  • yoga therapies

Self-Directed Biological Transformation

  • The body is a process, not structure
  • Our body is a verb, not a noun
  • The body as energy and information
  • We can change your relationship with time - in the present, in the moment

The session closed with Deepak Chopra leading the entire audience in 12 minutes of meditation.

After this session, I reflected back on all the Greenbuilds I have attended, since 2002 in Austin TX. This is my 13th in a row. There have been some amazing moments/speakers throughout those years - a few that immediately come to mind:

  • David Suzuki
  • Bob Berkebile
  • Desmond Tutu
  • Bill Clinton
  • Van Jones
  • E.O Wilson,
  • Janine Benyus
  • and now, Deepak Chopra

All of the above stand out to me as visionary thought leaders who inspire me to raise my game to the next level.

Who inspires you?

Michael Carlson

Platinum Scoring in LEED - Energy Efficiency the Swedish Way

Posted on Fri, Oct 24, 2014


More from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, with news and updates on important topics from the event, (day 2)...

My first session today was very interesting. It was titled:

How to score Platinum in LEED - Energy Efficient projects in Sweden

LEED Energy EfficiencySweden is doing great things in the realm of energy efficiency, with a goal of all buildings being at nearly zero energy by the year 2020.

BBR Swedish Building Code

New builds and renovations/extensions are subject to the rules set out in the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning's building code, BBR. It sets out a number of requirements with which the finished building must comply. The party erecting the building, usually the property owner, is responsible for ensuring compliance with the provisions. The Planning Department in the relevant municipality shall also ensure that there is compliance. (ref:

The BBR Swedish Building Code places restrictions on energy performance for buildings heated with electricity - with fixed limits on energy use and more stringent performance requirements. There are no specific details in the code on how to accomplish these goals, which are different from ASHRAE standards in the USA.

Requirements are set with the effect of ensuring that mandatory energy calculations are performed at the planning stage and that energy performance is verified by measurements within 24 months of building completion. This is a major change from the previous codes.

Currently 90% of Swedish LEED buildings score LEED gold or better, (compared to 44% in the United States), with 25% scoring LEED Platinum, (4% in the United States.)

To date, two of the top ten greenest cities in the world are in Sweden. Here are the top 10 ways to score well in Sweden in energy efficiency:

  1. set goals: energy efficiency, LEED certification levels, such as platinum
  2. get all participating parties involved
  3. follow up on goals through design, construction and occupancy
  4. well insulated envelope
  5. air tight construction - several tests
  6. heat recovery in ventilation system
  7. energy efficient equipment
  8. renewable energy
  9. automation and monitoring
  10. commissioning and M&V

These are not earth-shattering ideas, but the fact that they do these things as standard practice is what makes the difference.

Key takeaways from today's Greenbuild session:

When Sweden was faced with the fossil fuel energy crisis in the early 1970's, they shifted their energy sources away from fossil fuels, and changed / improved their efficiency in energy use countrywide.

What was the USA response to and since the energy crisis in the early 1970's?

Are we 30-40 years behind where we could have been?

More to come, from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans!

Michael Carlson

Marketing and Sustainability: Tools + Tips

Posted on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

Sustainability Coming to you from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, with news and updates on happenings and important topics from the event...

My first session today was Marketing and Sustainability: The tools + tips to tell your story.

This was an interesting session with presenters from Herman Miller. Gabe Wing, Herman Miller representative, spoke about storytelling, and HM's Earthright Strategy:

  • transparency
  • collaboration
  • resource responsibility
  • community driven

The idea being to "make a living or make a difference". Find your bee story - Look it up on the Herman Miller web site.

My late morning session was on Climate Change. This was part of the Master Speaker Series, with Katherine Hayhoe as the presenter. She is a scientist at Texas Tech, and involved in the ATMOS Research. 

To pull out the bullet points of her presentation:

  • Climate Change - it's the biggest health risk of the century

  • It is the story of Energy Industrial revolution: coal, natural gas and oil

  • 41% of US energy use is by buildings

  • Energy use has increased by 400% since the 50's in the United States

  • The invisible problem: invisible heat-trapping gases - Carbon Dioxide

  • The United States has produced 30% of greenhouse gases over past 30 years. This is a higher level of GHG production than that of any other country.

  • For the past 8,000 years of Earth's history, CO2 levels have varied from 180-300 in their historical ranges. In 2014, CO2 levels are now at 400 ppm.

  • Our planet has seen a 43% increase in greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution

  • The data shows a 30-year trend that is clearly warming

  • Ice Age causes: changes in the earths orbit, tilt of axis wobbles and over long periods of time (1000's of years) the earth does gradually cool or warm.

  • Temperature was trending down over last 6000 years, indicating a cooling cycle, until the industrial revolution. Now, temperatures are clearly and abnormally at higher degrees. 

  • Natural cycles move heat around the planet, but they do not heat or cool the planet over all. It is a transferring system; up one place, down another place. (Like El Nino)

  • Oceans have absorbed a lot of the heat, more than the land.

Science shows that more than 100% of our planet's warming is caused by humans. The sun is in a cooler natural cycle, and axis wobble is in a cooling cycle, yet the long term trend since the beginning of the industrial revolution (the large extraction and burning of fossil fuels) shows greater warming, overcoming all the natural cooling trends and more, into a greater warming trend than is natural.

We are facing 3 choices when it comes to climate change

  1. mitigate - reduce emissions

  2. adapt - to the changes (our current infrastructure can not cope with changes to our climate)

  3. suffer - some suffering is inevitable; how much is up to us

For more information, visit

Stay tuned, as I'll be returning tomorrow with more topics and discussions from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans!

Michael Carlson

Building Green Business Doesn’t Stop At The Building

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

Building Green BusinessWhen business owners think of going green with their company, one of the first things that come to mind is the building from which the business operates. While this is certainly a primary focus of building green business, it’s by no means the only way to optimize environmental resources.

There are also various indirect means of accomplishing green business goals; a few we can list for you here, as well as any ideas you may come up with; let’s get creative, and employ every possible strategy to make the most of renewable energies and reduce the human footprint on our precious and intricate environment.

Top Ways of Building Green Business Without Renovation

The good news is that building green business doesn’t mean having to start from scratch from the ground up. There are many simple and affordable ways to incorporate green practices into your business model right away, making a difference with every next step achieved.

To help give you some ideas to get started, we’ve compiled an informative checklist that you can download and post for future reference, of The Top 26 Ways to Green Your Business. We know you’ll find this to be a valuable guide as you move forward with your green business goals.

Here are a few examples from the checklist, to give you an idea of just how simple building green business can be:

The Building

  • Buy only Energy Star office equipment - ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program to identify and promote energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through voluntary labeling of or other forms of communication about products and buildings that meet the highest energy efficiency standards.

  • Clean with non-toxic chemicals and natural products - Avoid corrosive or strongly irritating substances, ozone-depleting compounds or hazardous materials, and instead opt for renewable resources such as bio-based solvents from citrus, seed, vegetable, and pine oils, biodegradable products with low VOC content, low toxicity in aquatic species, low flammability, and those designed for use in cold water in order to conserve energy.

  • Install a timer to turn off your fresh air intake during non-occupied hours. Taking in fresh air in Florida is necessary and required, but it takes extra energy to dehumidify that air for interior use. Fresh air is needed to reduce carbon dioxide inside, which is created by people. When there are not people, there is no need to bring in fresh air.

Beyond the Building

  • Shift hours of operation to avoid peak rush hour traffic.

  • Let some employees work from home 1 day per week.

  • Locate your office near public transportation options.

These are just a few of the many ways to green your business without need for complete renovation. Taking baby steps is far better than taking no steps at all -- so download your checklist, then choose one or more items to implement and let’s get started!

Get the Checklist and Start Going Green

At Carlson Studio Architecture, we understand that a building is an expression of energy, materials & design (information). Buildings are not comprised of isolated components - each is comprised of systems that interact with other systems including the larger ecological systems and the human community. A "whole system" sustainable design leverages the complex and complementary interactions to reduce energy use and levy the smallest possible environmental impact, while enhancing occupants' comfort and productivity.

We are happy to provide a complimentary downloadable checklist that you can print and post as a handy reference guide for taking your business to new and greener levels. Just click the button below to request a copy of the checklist now:

Download the FREE Checklist!

The Industrial Revolution and Renewable Energy

Posted on Tue, Oct 07, 2014

The Industrial Revolution and Renewable EnergyI watched a great BBC documentary on the Industrial Revolution this past week.  It is amazing how changes in technology, energy and transportation continue to be as relevant today as they were in the 17th century.

The documentary’s premise is the industrial revolution began in England, in the 17th century, and the main driving force was twofold: one was the discovery of an abundance of coal that was easy to access, and the other was the social/political climate in England versus other developing countries. 

  • Up until this time, wood was the primary fuel/energy source in the world.
  • Coal was 3 times more efficient than wood.
  • Coal was less bulky and easier to transport.
  • Once the innovations occurred to begin to tap the energy potential of coal, through the creation of the steam engine, that new energy drove the industrial revolution and made it possible.
  • Constant improvements in efficiency of steam engines provided the essential tool for constant innovation in the manufacturing of products and materials that drove the economy, and provided an opportunity for private entities to profit from the innovations.

There was a great deal of scientific research and understanding of the natural world around us during this time.  Understanding our solar system and the universe, gravity, evolution, forces of nature etc., were being discovered, tested and proven.  Religion often tried to sensor the scientific knowledge of the time because it felt threatened.  It was hard to grasp that we (the earth/mankind) were not the center of the universe.  We were not even the center of our solar system.   And yes, the earth was round, not flat, and so on and so on, with discovery through all of recorded history.  Science continues to discover new things and refine existing knowledge constantly.  I do not see that as a threat to my beliefs any way.

I think about the forces trying to hang onto our petroleum-based energy economy until the last drop/lump is burned and inserted into the atmosphere. 

Then I think about how much energy is delivered by the sun to every square foot on this planet - free renewable energy from the sky, evenly distributed to be used everywhere, by everyone. 

Renewable energy can drive our economy and provide opportunities for the public and private sectors today.

I think of the changing climate and what the next less than 100 years is going to bring.   It is OK to think the 7 BILLION + people on the planet can likely impact our environment and change the climate.  How could that many people not affect this third rock from the sun? 

The government of England in the 17th and 18th Centuries invested in the infrastructure of transportation networks, both toll roads to provide consistent access across areas controlled by different counties, and canals that made transportation much cheaper and easier to bring in raw materials and distribute products to market.

I think government still has a role to play today in getting us into the next phase of energy (renewable energy sources) and reducing the amount of carbon we inject into our atmosphere.  The documentary does get into the differences between the government’s approaches in England versus France and how those polices affected the ability for those societies to innovate and advance.

I was reminded of the book, The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler.  I always loved that book. The 3 waves of society he write about are the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age, and the post industrial age, aka the Information Age.  That is another whole discussion for another day.

Check it out the BBC documentary (it is only an hour long) for yourself at:

Renewable Energy and Sustainability

At Carlson Studio Architecture, our LEED Certified architects look at renewable energy and sustainable design as part of the greater "whole system." Everything is part of one Whole System. Ecological thinking means looking at living things in their whole context, while seeking also to understand the interconnections between all living beings and their environment. It recognizes that no living being — including human beings — exists in isolation.

We are happy to provide a complimentary eco-consultation to determine how your building designs can utilize renewable energy sources as part of your sustainability goals. Just click the button below to submit your request, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.

Free Consultation


Green Building Renewal: A Closer Look at CSA

Posted on Tue, Sep 23, 2014

The third LEED-CI project ever certified in Florida was the new offices for Carlson Studio Architecture.

When Carlson Studio Architecture needed a new home for the growing sustainable design firm’s headquarters, a 1930’s-era abandoned grocery store seemed like the ideal location.  The building’s open layout, ample size and walkable urban setting offered all the features Michael Carlson, AIA, LEED AP and principal of the firm was seeking in an office.  It was just waiting for someone to come along and recognize its “green potential.”

Green Building Renewal Details

Green Building RenewalThe firm purchased the 4,400-square-foot parcel with a partner and sub-divided the space.  Carlson Studio Architecture shares their 2,400-square-foot area with Carlson Studio Marketing, a green PR & marketing agency, run by Grace Carlson.  The businesses consciously made the decision to seek USGBC LEED Silver Commercial Interior (CI) certification for the project, which was achieved in December 2007.  The reason was two-fold.  Because the business owners believed in the value of LEED certification, they wanted their building to serve as a demonstration model to current and potential green building clients.  They also recognized the investment in third-party certification would increase the value of their asset.

The LEED system was selected, over other available systems, because LEED standards are rigorous.  Anyone can call a building green, but if the U.S. Green Building Council says its green, those results are undeniable.

Renovation costs were roughly $85 a square foot plus commissioning fees and extra features, which were $8,800 and added 4% or $3.71 per-square-foot to the budget.  USGBC Certification fees for the office were $2,200. The firm expect a rapid return on their investment. 


  • HOW MUCH “EXTRA” DID IT COST? (Above and beyond normal construction that would have taken place with or without seeking LEED certification.)

  • LEED CERTIFICATION                      $2,200

  • COMMISSIONING                           $5,000

  • ENERGY SAVING FEATURES         $1,600

  • TOTAL INITIAL INVESTMENT       $8,800 (about 4%)



  • FIRST YEAR APPRECIATION VALUE FOR GREEN BUILDINGS +/-5% (this was not realized due to a region wide downturn in real estate values)

The 15% annual ROI provides for a about a 6-7 year payback all by itself.  Now that we have been in the green building for over 7 years we have realized the full ROI on our initial investment.  And we will continue to realize the savings year after year for as long as we occupy the green building.

Making our staff more productive: ESTIMATING A CONSERVATIVE 5% PRODUCTIVITY INCREASE WILL PROVIDE AN 82% ANNUAL ROI. (Over the life of the green building, productivity payback not only pays for the “green premium” it pays for the entire cost of construction)

While all elements in sustainable design work synergistically together to maximize the outcome, here are some specific goals that were incorporated into the building:

  • Improve the building envelope for thermal comfort and operational savings

  • Reduce Water Consumption

  • Reduce Energy Consumption

  • Provide natural daylight and views to the exterior, for all occupants.

  • Minimize indoor pollutants through exclusive use of environmentally friendly paints, adhesives, furnishings, cabinets, and flooring.

  • Improve productivity of Occupants.

  • Adaptive reuse of the existing building saved carbon emissions, land fill waste and energy.

  • Adding windows increased access to day lighting and exterior views. Using double pane, impact resistant, and Low E tinted glazing reduced solar heat gain.

  • Replacing the roof with additional insulation and an Energy Star rated single ply reflective membrane roof system enhanced energy savings.

  • The mechanical systems were replaced with more energy efficient equipment.

  • Energy efficient fluorescent lighting with direct / indirect light was installed throughout the interior.  Compact fluorescent light fixtures and occupancy sensors were installed in restrooms and storage rooms.

  • Site lighting for security was minimized to reduce light pollution.

  • Low flow plumbing fixtures, dual flush toilets and motion sensors were installed for water conservation.

Green Building Design by CSA

At Carlson Studio Architecture, we believe that going green doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality or comfort... and certainly not convenience. Our own offices are a perfect example of not only how EASY it is to go green, with full return on investment in minimal time.

We are happy to provide a complimentary green building consultation to determine how your green building projects may best be implemented, whether it’s for a new green building or renovation of an existing structure. Just click the button below to submit your request, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.

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