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Design challenge: Creating a facility that symbolizes Hope

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2015
  
  
  
  

This project was done in 2011 but the story of the design challenge is timeless!

The Cancer Support Community (formerly known as The Wellness Community) wanted a new facility that would be a place of healing and a beacon of Hope to those affected by cancer.  How does architecture convey a sense of Hope to the buildings user?

Cancer Support Community Architecture

The design solution for the 11,000 SF facility was to create two structures connected together by a large arch that creates a covered courtyard.  The prominent arch stretching across the facility serves as an inspiring design element but also offers a compelling story of history and hope.  Known as the “Bridge of Hope”, the arch connects the 2 pavilions and is a tangible testament of hope to all who enter.  The abstract form allows for interpretation about what the symbol represents to each individual.  

The arch is a traditional architectural design element signifying strength and permanence.  The shape of this particular arch is much like a rainbow in the landscape.  The rainbow is a timeless symbol of hope (think Noah). Visitors gain an empowering sense of comfort from the structural strength when walking beneath the arch.  The arch is supported by 8 pillars that are old Florida hard wood Pine tree trunks, from trees that were several hundred years old and were originally harvested over 100 years ago when Florida was first harvested for its timber.  During transport down Florida’s rivers, logs would frequently be lost along the way and sink to the bottom of the Suwannee River.  This environment actually preserved the timber until it could be reclaimed recently for this project.  These tree trunks were stripped of their bark, but left a bit rugged and scared, in their natural state.  They stand at the entry and in the courtyard as if they were old friends, there to provide a since of comfort and longevity.

The arch structure above the tree trunk columns is constructed of laminate wood beams and tongue-and-groove decking, both of which are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood.

The Bridge of Hope clearly defines the main entry of the facility so users are comfortably orientated when they arrive at the facility.  While the arch for does dominate the image of the facility, the rest of the building is scaled down to be welcoming and easily approachable.  It is more of a residential scale with simple one-story forms and familiar, simple pitched-roof shapes.  The project is designed to avoid any sort of medical or institutional feel and is instead full of friendly warm materials and spaces to provide the user a peaceful and comfortable environment that reminds them of home.

The facility sits in the natural landscape adjacent to a wetland preserve.  The “Bridge of Hope” stands as a symbol for all who work in and visit the Cancer Support Community.

This article appears in SRQ magazine’s March 2011 issue titled “Design Dossier".

Function of the building: Healing Center to deliver optimum care in the areas of psychological and social support to people affected by cancer – those with the disease as well as their loved ones and caregivers.  

Written by: Michael Carlson, LEED AP, Carlson Studio Architecture 

Sarasota Green Building Exemplifies Sustainable Design

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2015
  
  
  
  

Call it sustainable. Call it high performance. Building green is the common sense approach to improving operating efficiencies while decreasing environmental impact, and creating the healthiest environment for the building’s occupants.

Did you know that in the U.S., buildings account for:

    • 36% of total energy use / 65% of electricity consumption
    • 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
    • 30% of raw materials use
    • 30% of waste output /136 million tons annually
    • 12% of potable water consumption

With numbers like these, how can anyone be resistant to the idea of going green? The benefits to our environment are invaluable, and the result of sustainable design also benefits the bottom line; it's a win-win, no matter how you look at it.

Twin Lakes Park Office Complex – A Golden Example of Going Green

Twin Lakes Park Office ComplexOnce used as a dormitory for a professional baseball team, the Twin Lakes Park Office Complex in Sarasota, Florida was later refurbished to become as one of the “greenest” office buildings in the state. The project is recognized as the area’s first “green” office complex, and serves as a model for the simplicity and savings associated with going green.

Many environmental factors were taken into consideration for this project, including:

    • Erosion and sedimentation
    • Run-off reduction and storm water management on-site
    • Minimal site disturbance.

Sustainable DesignThe buildings’ orientation to the sun and strategic window placement ensures maximization of northern sunlight for day-lighting within the buildings, enabling heating from the sun during winter months and optimal shading during the summer.

Any electric lighting in the building is automated to monitor and adjust light levels, reducing energy waste. These lighting methods lead to a cost reduction of 40 to 60 percent.

Here’s a closer look at some energy-efficient features that make Twin Lakes green:

Sustainability

    • Pervious concrete sidewalks and patios minimize storm water runoff
    • Energy-Star reflecting roof reduces heat absorption and heat island effects
    • Contained construction/development area to a minimum to disturb as little surrounding land as possible and ensure maximum green space
    • Covered bike rack and shower/changing facilities encourage to encourage employees to choose alternative transportation for their commute to work, such as walking or riding their bike.

Water Efficiency

    • Uses 58% less water than a new code compliant office building
    • 28,000-gallon cistern collects rainwater for toilets and irrigation
    • Water efficient, native, climate tolerant plants used in landscaping
    • High efficiency irrigation system relies on cistern-collected rainwater
    • Super-efficient plumbing fixtures, such as low flow toilets, waterless urinals and motion sensor sink faucets, reduce water consumption

Energy Efficiency

    • Uses 45% less energy than a new code compliant office building
    • High performance building envelope and glazing system provides improved insulation and energy-efficiency
    • Photovoltaics (solar panels) generate 5% of building’s electricity
    • Solar water heating, natural day lighting and motion detection lighting reduce energy consumption
    • Geothermal HVAC cooling system saves energy and uses ozone-friendly refrigerants

Materials and Resources

    • 89.7% of existing structure of Building A maintained for reuse
    • Materials with recycled content used in both interior and exterior
    • Recycling room reduces amount of waste hauled to landfills
    • Materials manufactured locally or regionally minimize cost and impacts of transportation

Indoor Environmental Quality

    • Environmentally-friendly adhesives, sealants, paints and carpet
    • Carbon dioxide monitor
    • Separate exhausts in janitor closets reduce exposure to potentially
    • hazardous chemicals
    • Smoke-free environment
    • Natural day lighting and views of the exterior throughout

In addition to achieving the primary goal of reducing environmental impact with this green building project, the advantages of these upgrades are readily seen in resulting bottom line benefits:

    • Integrated design optimizes energy performance to be 50% more energy-efficient than standard buildings
    • Interior day-lighting methods decreased lighting costs by 40 to 60%
    • This facility is equipped to use 58% less water than a typical code-compliant office building

Leading Experts in Sustainable Design

Carlson Studio ArchitectureThe 26,000-square-foot Twin Lakes Park Complex, which took over two and a half years to complete, was designed by Architect Michael R. Carlson, founder and principal of Carlson Studio Architecture, a Sarasota-based architecture and design firm that specializes in sustainable, high performance buildings.

At 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.

We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation to determine how you can incorporate sustainable design into your projects, for green building or renovation. Simply click the button below to submit your request, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.


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CSA Green Building – A Model for Sustainable Design

Posted on Sun, Jan 11, 2015
  
  
  
  

Michael Carlson could give Kermit the Frog a run for his money.  Carlson, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, principal and founder of Carlson Studio Architecture, wants Sarasota to know that being green is easier than you think.  At his firm’s corporate headquarters near Fruitville and Orange in downtown Sarasota, he’s living by example.

Carlson Studio ArchitectureFounded in 1997, Carlson Studio Architecture is celebrating its 18th year anniversary in March 2015. Carlson himself has lived in Sarasota for over twenty-eight years.  His first exposure to green building happened while he was an architecture student at Ball State University in Indiana.  There he worked with professors and classmates in the university’s Center for Energy Research/Education/Service.  But it wasn’t until 2000 that he fully dedicated his practice to sustainability.

Green Building Increases Value, Lowers Cost

The staff at Carlson Studio Architecture incorporates green design principles into every project.  According to Carlson, with the advances in building materials, the cost of a green project isn’t necessarily greater than the cost of a quality non-green building.  The nature of sustainable design is that it is long-lasting and low maintenance.  These attributes help to increase long-term value while decreasing cost associated with upkeep. 

“Sometimes a client will be cutting-edge green,” Carlson reveals.  “Other times, we might have a project where we’re ‘stealth green.’  This is when a client may not be interested in sustainable design, but we still can make simple, responsible choices without raising costs.”

Examples of “stealth green” specifications include low-chemical paint.  Even when a project isn’t destined to be green, low-VOC paint can be specified; it’s better for the environment and the health of the builders and future tenants. While all business owners are motivated by different reasons, Carlson believes that sustainable design is the right thing to do. 

“Architecture is more meaningful and purposeful when sustainability is a factor,” says Carlson.  “In the age-old discussion of form verses function, I work to join aesthetic and utility through sustainable design.

At Carlson Studio Architecture, about one-third of the projects are residential, leaving the remaining two-thirds devoted to commercial developments.  The firm concentrates on Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, Hardee and Hillsborough counties, but has completed projects all over Florida and a few out of state.

In designing his Sarasota headquarters, Carlson set out to renovate the historic Cheney Building to meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver designation for Commercial Interiors (CI). 

Sustainable Design

LEED-CI is the industry benchmark for green design and construction of tenant improvements.The focus is on proven contributors to employee productivity and well-being in four areas:

  1. Thermal comfort
  2. Access to daylight and views
  3. Minimizing interior pollutants and energy
  4. Water conservation techniques. 

The LEED certification process benefits the consumer in two ways:

  1. Third parties certify that buildings have met the criteria for environmental health
  2. The market begins creating products to meet these standards. 

The Cheney Building renovation began in January 2007.  Carlson Studio Architecture moved into the space in June 2007, and the project was fully completed in August.  LEED-CI Certification (Silver level) was achieved in December 2007.  The project was just the 3rd LEED-CI project in Florida at the time.

Green Building

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a healthy workplace environment enhances individual well being and productivity while reducing employee absenteeism and operating costs.  Carlson’s team employed several resources to transform the 1930’s grocery store into a professional office complex that reduces environmental impact, maximizes occupant comfort and improves building performance:

  • Transparent interior walls enable each workspace to have access to the increased daylight and outside views afforded by the oversized windows and glass doorways that Carlson added.

  • Cork and Interface carpet tiles were specified underfoot.  Cork is a replenishable material since only the bark is harvested, while the Interface carpet tiles are chemically free, include recycled content and are carbon neutral.

  • All glues, sealants, caulks and paints are chemically free and produce low VOCs with no “off gassing,” (VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, have been identified as cancer-causing agents).

  • To continue minimizing indoor pollutants, the office is cleaned with green housekeeping methods and non-odorous cleaning products.

  • Converted “low-flow” plumbing and other features help to conserve water and energy.  Carlson estimates that installing these conservation measures will reduce water usage by thirty percent.

“We promote green buildings and green interiors to our clients every chance we get – and now we made the same decisions about cost and materials that our clients make every day,” said Carlson.

While only the interior of Carlson Studio Architecture is being considered for LEED-CI certification, improvements were made to the entire Cheney Building.  With investment partner Victor Appel, ASID, Carlson replaced the roof with an Energy Star roof to maximize efficiency.  Adding extra insulation and high-performance glass also reduces energy use.

By way of their own practice, Carlson Studio Architecture is committed to quality design solutions that promote commercially-viable sustainability by minimizing the consumption of materials and maximizing their reuse, all while protecting the environment. 

With Carlson’s easy tips, we all can be a little greener without breaking the bank:

  1. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and energy efficient T-8 fluorescent tube lighting (both are widely available).
  2. Use low-VOC paint offered by most name-brand paint manufacturers.
  3. Buy Energy Star appliances to increase the efficiency of your energy and even water use.
  4. Increase insulation, especially in the attic, and use an efficient air conditioning system. 

“Even small changes can make a big difference, and it’s easier than you think,” says Carlson. 

Sarasota architecture firm’s LEED-CI (Silver) green building offices demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate sustainable design into projects.

LEED Accredited Professionals in Sustainable Design

At 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.

We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation to determine how you can incorporate sustainable design into your projects, for green building or renovation. Simply click the button below to submit your request, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.


Free Consultation

Sustainable Buildings - Certification Makes A Difference

Posted on Fri, Jan 09, 2015
  
  
  
  

Sustainable Building Certification

The next great debate in the building & design industries will not be whether to build green or not – it will be whether or not to build to third-party standards and seek a green building certification.

The advantages of green or sustainable building are both numerable and measurable. Sustainable buildings result in increased productivity. For example, studies published with the US Green Building Council report that

  • Students attending green schools produce 20% better test results than their peers in conventional classrooms
  • Patient recovery in green health care environments results in improved discharge rates of 2 days or more on average
  • Retail sales are higher and worker productivity in offices is reported to increase by 2-16% depending on the green features employees enjoy in their jobs.

Asustainable building certificationdditionally, operating savings for sustainable buildings can be as much as 50%, occupancy rates, as well as rent, are reportedly 3-4% higher. Building owners who choose green methods of construction or renovation are often rewarded by government with fast-track permits, energy rebates and other monetary incentives.

Sustainable design, also called “green” or high performance building, provides economic, human and community benefits as well as reduced environmental impacts.
So pretty soon, we won’t be talking “if” green … the conversation will shift to “how” green.

As sustainable architects here in Sarasota, our firm encourages our clients to build green – all right, we actually design green features into every project whether a client requests them or not because the reality is that it doesn’t cost any “extra” to include basic and practical sustainable building design principles like:

  1. Building orientation
  2. Natural daylighting
  3. Energy-efficient HVAC
  4. Low VOC paint
  5. Many other examples as well

describe the imageBut as green awareness grows and consumers become savvier with their green purchases, the value of third-party certification will help building owners and tenants distinguish the authentically sustainable design offerings from those offering green lip service.  

In 2007, we purchased a 1930s era grocery store in downtown Sarasota for the purpose of renovating it to LEED Commercial Interior (CI) standards to become our firm’s new headquarters.  We divided the 4,400-square-foot building and occupy 2,400 square feet.  Our renovation costs were roughly $85 per square foot.  Our sustainability features included:

  • Double-pane thermal windows and doors
  • Added insulation
  • Energy star rated reflective roof system
  • Energy efficient HVAC
  • Low energy fluorescent lighting
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures 
sustainable buildingWe consciously made the choice to seek LEED certification for the project – over and above the fact that our building decisions met the criteria – for two reasons.  If we are going to encourage our clients to seek certification, we should walk the walk.  And we recognize the investment payoff that third-party certification represents.  We chose the LEED system, over other available systems, because LEED standards are rigorous.  Anyone can say they built green, but everyone knows that if LEED says it’s green, it’s certifiable.

Our commissioning fees and extra costs for construction measures we chose were $8,900 including our USGBC membership based rate of applying for certification.  (The USGBC lists fixed rates for certification fees ranging between $1,250 and $22,500, depending on square footage and USGBC membership status). This added a $3.71 cost per square foot to our renovation, approximately 4% to the budget, but we have seen our investment pay off through marketing and branding exposure as well as real property appreciation.  

Other certification systems may be cheaper and easier, but because they don’t have the brand power of LEED, some detractors say they offer a less verifiable way of certifying the green-ness of a sustainable building project.  But these other systems, including the National Association of Home Builders’ new program, Energy Star, Florida Green Building Coalition and the newest arrival, Green Globes, are generating increased buzz about how green to go.  Meanwhile the common denominator is a shared desire to validate sustainable building design.

Our industry is transforming itself not only because the health of the planet is at stake, but because there is sufficient momentum and incentive to move in this direction.  Regardless of which certification method is selected, green standards are here to stay.

If you are considering a green building project, we understand that research is a major, primary component. We would like to encourage this process and offer our experience and expertise. If you have questions and would like a second opinion, feel welcome to contact us for a productive discussion.

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Are your products within 500 miles of your LEED project?

Posted on Wed, Jan 07, 2015
  
  
  
  
Tags: 

We have recently found some great ways to measure a LEED Projects distance a manufacture's LEED Projects Maplocation.

The first, http://www.freemaptools.com/radius-around-point.htm lets you produce a map based on your project's location, you can customize the distance so you could also use it for the Density & Development 1/4 mile credit.You can also export the radius to Google Earth!

Second, http://indo.com/distance/ will tell you the distance between 2 cities as a bird flies, ie Sarasota, FL & Birmingham, AL.

Climate Change: From A LEED Accredited Architect's View

Posted on Wed, Dec 31, 2014
  
  
  
  

The following article was written by an award winning, experienced, LEED accredited, green building architect based on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The purpose of this post is to educate readers on the facts about:

Climate Change And Reducing Carbon Dioxide Pollution

We are not doing enough, and we are not doing it fast enough. 

The climate of the planet is changing, and we are mostly responsible for the changes that are occurring, at least since around 1750. As a species, we can measure the carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. Right now we are at about 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2. We also have ways to measure CO2 levels in our atmosphere in the past. I often hear about the idea that CO2 in our atmosphere has always fluctuated up and down naturally, so there is nothing to worry about. 

It is true that there have been natural fluctuations in the levels of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere. For about the past 400,000 years, CO2 has been fluctuating from about 180 ppm to about 280 ppm.  But something is different, and we can see it. Since the start of the industrial revolution in the late 1700’s, the graphs charting CO2 levels have not turned downward. In fact, they have shot through the roof. For the past 20,000 years they have been climbing from 180 ppm to the 400 ppm that we are at now. The climb from 180 ppm to 280 ppm took about 19,000+ years (perfectly within the predictable fluctuations of 400 millennium), the climb from 280-400 ppm has happened in less than 200 years.

architecture and pollution resized 600Are we surprised that CO2 levels climbed since the dawn of the industrial revolution? Is the world a little different than we were when the United States came in to existence? Though Americans make up just 4% of the world's population, we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning, (by far the largest share of any country). We need to take responsibility for that. We also need to take responsibility for the fact that we are leaders on this planet, and developing countries look to be like us. There are those who would make this a political issue. Don’t let them. It is about science. It is about people who care about each other. The planet will be fine. We will choose to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, or the planet will force us to do so.

We need CO2 levels to be at 350 ppm, and the current levels are going to go up before we see our good actions then start to bring them down. There is momentum in the natural systems. There are many things we can do. Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution. Automobiles are the second largest source. Buildings are responsible for about 39% of CO2 emissions in the US. (directly related to their use of energy, created at power plants). Buildings that use less energy create less CO2 emissions.  Our new and existing buildings need to become more efficient. In buildings, conservation is first: Green building techniques like efficient air conditioning equipment and appliances, good windows, passive low tech stuff like porches, overhangs, insulation and caulking. Technology can help: Solar heat for hot water and using electrical energy from the sun. Find out what you can do at your house at www.greenhomeguide.org/. Get involved in the local US Green Building Council Chapter at www.sustainabletampabay.org. Buildings need to use 50-70% less energy than the codes allows right now, not 20 years from now.

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How To Save Money & Make Your Business More Energy Efficient: Download the FREE Checklist!

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On April 17, 2009, after a thorough scientific review ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

leed accredited architect climate change report resized 600Locally, Sarasota County Government has signed the 2030 Challenge for carbon neutrality by the year 2030 www.architecture2030.org. The City of Sarasota has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, promising to “to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the target of reducing global warming pollution levels to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012” and “to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets”. These are targets that require real change. Change we have not yet seen be implemented. While they are currently voluntary, they should not be considered optional. Why should we care? Take a look on the 2030 Challenge web site and see what 1.25 meters (49”) of sea rise will make Sarasota’s Coast line look like, and start looking for that future “waterfront” property.

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How To Save Money & Make Your Home More Energy Efficient: Tips To Make Your Home Green

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Below are just a few of the many other resources available. Check them out and learn how you can help.

The EPA Website: http://epa.gov/climatechange/index.html

The Center For Climate & Energy Solutions: http://www.pewclimate.org/global-warming-basics/

The 350 Org Website: http://www.350.org/

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.

VERY HELPFUL LEED ARCHITECTURE RESOURCES from the USGBC.

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.

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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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