Certified Green Building Or Just Building Better

Posted by Tue, Mar 03, 2015

The Principles Of Good Design:

Whether you are looking to design a building, a green building, a better than average building, or just an efficient building, and whether you are seeking third party certification, such as LEED, or any other system, or you are just looking to use principles of good design, you have come to the right place. Carlson Studio can help you. There are many fundamental aspects of good design that we apply to all our projects whether or not they seek certification. Most of these apply to all building types, from homes, to schools, to office buildings, to churches.

Some World Class Examples? Check out these projects already completed:


Designing beautiful and truly green, sustainable buildings requires experience, commitment and teamwork, and sustainability is applied to all aspects of a project, including site design, energy conservation, water conservation, materials and resources and Indoor Environmental Quality.

One of the key aspects to successful sustainable design is the use of the Integrated Design Process. The integrated design approach that we utilize in all our work allows us to provide high quality, high performance buildings for our clients. We look at our buildings as part of the greater “whole system”. 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” design leverages the complex and complementary interactions to reduce energy use and levy the smallest possible environmental impact, while enhancing occupants’ comfort and productivity.

The integrated design approach asks the members of the planning, design and construction teams to look at the materials, systems and assemblies from many different perspectives. The design is evaluated for first cost, life cycle cost, quality-of-life, future flexibility, efficiency; overall environmental impact; productivity and creativity, and how the occupants will be enlivened. The most important component of any building is the people who use it. This design approach allows us the freedom to maintain our tradition of diverse architectural solutions without limiting us to particular building types or styles. The strategies we implement result in creating beautiful buildings that are safer, healthier and more efficient 

The Important Strategies We Implement For Each Project:

Focus 1: Site

The building and the site can contribute to the beauty of the surrounding area, support a healthy, diverse biological community and contribute to addressing global environmental and economic challenges that we face.  Examples may include:

  • On-site storm water system and low impact development (LID) practices
  • Plant palette consisting of drought tolerant native and Florida friendly plant species
  • Water-wise low volume drip irrigation which could use a non-potable water source, putting the water on the root zone of each plant minimizing the evaporation rate
  • Pervious pavements, pervious trails, & grass parking help to reduce storm water runoff
  • Light colored hardscape reduce heat island effects created by most development
  • Light Pollution Reduction
  • Encourage Alternative Transportation

Focus 2: Water

The project can demonstrate a new standard of leadership in conserving our precious water resources. Examples may include:

  • The flush/flow fixtures reduce indoor water consumption.
  • On site reclaimed, storm water, or rain water can utilized for flushing of all toilets and urinals reducing potable water use
  • Motion Sensors on Faucets
  • Rainwater Harvesting for irrigation or toilet flushing
  • Water Efficient Landscaping

Focus 3: Energy

Reducing energy use saves money, and directly translates into reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are entering our atmosphere at historically unprecedented levels.  Examples may include:

  • A high performing building envelope saves energy and operating expenses.
  • Roof overhangs provide shade to reduce heat gain.
  • Self-dimming light fixtures adjust for the amount of daylight entering each space to provide an optimal amount of light.
  • Occupancy sensors in offices & other spaces turn on/off lights as needed
  • Timers shut down all the lights at night
  • LED Parking lights are more efficient than traditional
  • High Efficiency SEER DX equipment can stick an appropriate balance between first cost and performance.
  • Energy Recovery Ventilators reduce energy costs and improved indoor air quality and comfort
  • Expansive south facing metal roof provides area for future solar installation
  • Natural Day lighting saves energy
  • HVAC Equipment right sizing.
  • Non-CFC Based Refrigerants
  • Solar Thermal water heating

Focus 4: Materials & Resources

Better process and product design can reduce waste; better product and material selection can reduce harmful effects to our planet; and better life-cycle management can effectively reuse and/or recycle materials rather than discard them into landfills.  Examples may include:

  • Encourage Recycling during construction and during operation.
  • Construction Waste Management: Separate dumpsters used to sort and collect each building material during construction.
  • Collection of recyclables can be a feature in the daily operation of the building.  Design can include central collection areas for recycling.
  • Specify Local and Regional Materials
  • Recycled content in specified materials such as tile, toilet partitions, steel stud framing, etc.

Focus 5: Indoor Environmental Quality

The health and well being of the building user is of utmost importance.  Examples may include:

  • Views to the exterior and views to the natural scenery
  • Use of natural daylight
  • Low VOC Paints & Adhesives
  • Low Emitting Materials
  • Implement an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan, which prevents contaminants from entering the project during construction
  • Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Control
  • Walk off grates at main entrances
  • Carbon Dioxide Monitoring


Successful and cost effective sustainable design looks for synergies between all of the above ideas.   Each idea works in concert with other ideas in the design.

Carlson Studio is a team of LEED accredited architectual firm that can help you with each and every phase of your development needs. Use the button below to get in touch with us and spend some time discussing any challenges or ideas that might help you move forward with your project(s).

Contact Us


Three Tiers for Renovating Sustainably

Posted by Mon, Feb 02, 2015

Tags: renovation, sustainability

TIER ONE - Business Operations – Conserving and Reducing


  • Purchasing supplies – evaluate which supplies can be purchased with recycled content
  • Printing - Provide policies to try and reduce in-office printing
  • Promoting alternative means of transportation - Car Pools; Mass Transportation; Fuel efficient vehicles; Bicycling
  • Institute a recycling program
  • Provide a designated smoking area away from building openings and/or institute a smoking policy that provides assistance in reducing smoking.
  • Institute a cleaning program with low or no VOC cleaning agents


  • Lamps – change incandescent to fluorescent
  • Implement a policy to turn lights off when not in use


  • Low-flow aerators


  • Any new finishes to have recycled content and/or low or no VOC’s (ex. Paint)


  • Provide access to temperature controls with a policy for how to regulate control, especially while there are no occupants in the space

TIER TWO - Facility Upgrades – (all the pertinent above mentioned strategies plus those outlined below)


  • Upgrade lighting fi xtures
  • Purchase green power credits
  • Provide occupancy sensors to regulate lights


  • Implement upgraded fi xtures for those that do not meet current code
  • Alternatively, upgrade all plumbing fixtures to low-flow


  • Any new finishes instituted to have recycled content and/or low or no VOC’s (ex. Paint).


  • Provide programmable temperature controls based on occupancy of space

TIER THREE - Major Renovation – (all the above mentioned strategies plus those outlined below)


  • Re-landscape with drought tolerant and native species for minimal irrigation use
  • Increase landscaped areas
  • Introduce building commissioning
  • Provide a designated recycling center
  • Provide detailed construction waste management and waste diversion plans


  • Upgrade roofi ng to highly refl ective material
  • Upgrade exterior lighting – timers/ light sensors
  • Upgrade HVAC equipment
  • Implement renewable energy technologies
  • Upgrade building envelope – Windows, doors and insulation
  • Reuse as much of building as possible


  • Replace all fixtures to ultra low-flow
  • Evaluate use of reclaimed or cistern water


  • Any new finishes to have recycled content and/or low or no VOC’s (ex. Paint)
  • Use rapidly renewable materials in renovation where possible
  • Use regional materials in renovation where possible
  • Use certified products where possible


  • Increased ventilation – fresh air
  • Use only low emitting or no emitting VOC materials, adhesives, paints, carpets, composite woods
  • Provide lighting control
  • Provide temperature control
  • Provide programmable temperature control based on occupancy of space
  • Provide natural day-lighting and views for regularly occupied spaces
green renovation

Alternative water technology at the LEED seeking Cancer Support Community

Posted by Wed, Jan 28, 2015

What do you do when your client doesn’t want to install water fountains in their project due to hygienic reasons? Well we dealt with this very issue on the LEED gold seeking Cancer Support HydrationStationCommunity’s (formerly The Wellness Community) Building Hope Project.

Early in the design phase the client made it very clear that people with compromised immune systems were uncomfortable with drinking out of typical water fountains. Of course the building code requires so many water fountains per person in any new construction project. The usual solution of avoiding water fountains is to provide a typical water cooler bottle service. But, being a green project and conscience about the environmental impact of shipping water bottles, we had find another solution.

Searching the internet we had little luck finding a suitable substitution, until we discovered UC Berkeley had recently installed “bottle fillers” called Hydration Stations on their campus. These bottle fillers are made by Haws Corp. a long time water fountain company, and were perfect for the Cancer Support Community. In order to meet Florida ADA code we add matching stainless cup holders besides the units to provide safe, clean water for the buildings occupants.

In addition to being hygienic we were also able to avoid exposing the cancer patients to harmful chemicals often leached out of plastic bottles. The units mount in or on the wall with full ADA clearance and access, saving valuable floor area and even have an LED light for illumination when in use.

From Haws Corp Website: “Daily, Americans use 60-million bottles of water, with only 2 out of every 10 bottles actually recycled.  By using the HydrationStationTM users will be able to utilize re-usable bottles and consequently reduce waste and its harmful effects on the environment. Several college campuses, including UC Berkeley, Georgian College in Ontario and Penn State, have already taken the initiative and supported a ban the bottle approach to water supply and have installed HydrationStations throughout their campuses.”

Visit for more information on the HydrationStation™ water delivery system.

Read more about the Cancer Support Community's design project.

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Design challenge: Creating a facility that symbolizes Hope

Posted by Wed, Jan 21, 2015

Tags: green, architecture, lakewood ranch, wellness

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 by Wed, Jan 21, 2015

Tags: green building, Sustainable Design, Green Design

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:


    • 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.

Free Consultation

CSA Green Building – A Model for Sustainable Design

Posted by Sun, Jan 11, 2015

Tags: green building, Sustainable Design

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 by Fri, Jan 09, 2015

Tags: Sustainable Building

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.

Ask An Expert

Are your products within 500 miles of your LEED project?

Posted by Wed, Jan 07, 2015

Tags: LEED

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

The first, 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, 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 by Wed, Dec 31, 2014

Tags: Climate Change Facts

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 Get involved in the local US Green Building Council Chapter at Buildings need to use 50-70% less energy than the codes allows right now, not 20 years from now.


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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 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.


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


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

The EPA Website:

The Center For Climate & Energy Solutions:

The 350 Org Website:

How To Build A LEED Certified Home (Part 2)

Posted by Tue, Dec 09, 2014

Tags: LEED Certified Home Project

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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