Green Design

by Mindy Wilson

You’re probably wondering “What is green design?” as do most people when they hear the term. Green design can be defined as a design, usually architectural (but not always), conforming to environmentally sound principles of building, material, and energy use. To put it simply, it is when a space is created that is good for the environment and for the people using it. Many buildings that incorporate green design use things like solar panels, skylights, recycled building materials, and products that do not give off toxins into the environment.

Green design, also called sustainable or environmental design, has recently begun to catch on. So far it has been predominantly commercial (used in offices, public spaces), but it has spread to residential homes (esp. on the West Coast). A few of the larger cities in the U.S. , like New York , have begun “green” programs to make their cities healthier for the citizens and the environment. In particular, they promote “green” roofs—rooftop gardens. The plants and trees on the roof create a relaxing oasis for the inhabitants of the building to visit and they create oxygen for us to breathe. There aren’t nearly enough rooftop gardens yet in existence to balance out the pollution the big cities create, but this is a great start. Now, even children are beginning to learn the value of green design. Mohammed Lawal is an architect who teaches at-risk teens architectural practices in the Architectural Youth Program. He has recently completed a sustainable high school that incorporates natural daylight and saves the school 55% on its energy bills! 

Besides being good for the environment and saving energy, green design is perfect to use for those allergy sufferers. Not many people know it, but most of the items in our homes and offices give off chemicals and toxins. This is called off-gassing. Off-gassing agents can not only make us sick, but also aggravate allergies. The paint we use has latex in it which is not good to breathe in, and our upholstery on our furniture and even our clothing has chemicals (esp. formaldehyde), toxins, and dyes which enter our lungs every day. Green design promotes the use of solvent-free paint and other materials that off-gas much less. FYI- there are companies out there that sell great paint that is environmentally friendly—Benjamin Moore is a company that has a special line of paint that is solvent-free, just ask any representative if you are interested. Hopefully green design will catch on and spread even more in order to make our world a healthier place to live. 

If you are interested in learning more about green design and ways to incorporate it into you life (after all, baby steps are how all good things start), there are many resources. Natural Home magazine is residentially oriented and gives ideas for how to make your home “green”. It may be a bit too earthy for some, but you never know. They also have recipes that stress organic food. This magazine is a good source for distributors of organic food and green products. The back of each issue has ads for green products, and most of the ads include a website you can visit. 

Also, the web has many sites for green design and green architecture. Some key search words you can use are : green design, sustainable design, sustainability, green architecture, sustainable architecture, Natural home magazine, etc. Good luck!

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Click here to learn more about the Staint Francis Pet FoundationClick here to contact the Saint Franics Pet Foundation