Common Sense Design 

At the heart of our outlookis the observation that much of what gets built these days is clumsily designed, carelessly built, enormously wasteful of energy and resources, sterile, inhuman, unhealthy, and just plain ugly.

The conventional way of doing things just isn’t good enough, We can do better.

We are obliged to do better.

One great source of inspiration is the other track of architectural history, the one that gets slight mention in most studies of architectural history: that of folk building, or vernacular building. Before the Industrial Age, most dwellings and many other buildings were built without the "benefit" of architects, engineers, contractors, codes, permits, regulations, Design Review Boards, lenders, or any of the other features which characterize the building process today. The range of building materials was limited to whatever was locally available; building forms and techniques were limited to those that had been refined over the course of generations and had been woven into the fabric of the culture. Building was a labor-intensive process, often involving minimal cash outlay.

And surface transportation moved at walking pace.

Prior to the Industrial Age, people had no choice but to build sustainably. They had no choice but to live within their means. And most of what they built is stunningly beautiful, alive with a soul which lifts our spirits as no strip mall or business park can. As we try to address the many shortcomings inherent in current building practice, the unassuming vernacular builders provide us with the inspiration to state our own Green Building ethic:

The Basic Rules of Green Building (a subjective list):

  • Every act of construction starts with some amount of destruction. The least harmful building is no building at all.
  • Build in existing towns and cities. Minimize dependence on private automobile use. Encourage less energy-intensive forms of transportation. Reinforce existing communities.
  • Understand and respect the site and the life that is taking place there. Minimize site disruption. Increase the vitality of the site. Make it better.
  • Design with local climate. Passive solar design is just sensible good design. Use the solar heat, light, cooling, and ventilation that are included, for free, with the site.
  • Use local materials. Use of local materials supports the local economy and minimizes the energy used to transport the materials.
  • Recycle (buildings, materials, components, etc.) whenever and wherever possible.
  • Minimize waste. Recycle the waste that cannot be avoided.
  • Build buildings that are easily adaptable. Design simple structures, separating skin, structure, ans services.
  • Avoid the use of toxic materials or materials that produce toxic materials in their manufacture.
  • Minimize energy use. Above all else, design buildings to need less energy for their ongoing maintenance. Produce on site the energy whose use can’t be avoided.
  • Minimize use of precious non-renewable resources.
  • The simplest solution that does the job is usually the best solution.
  • Build beautiful, soulful buildings and environments. They will bring daily gladness to the eye and to the heart. Beautiful buildings are more likely to be restored than razed when they approach the end of their useful life.

We believe that the package of strategies known as Green Building is a fundamental part of good design and responsible practice, but the mere application of Green Building strategies does not guarantee good design. In addition to listening to our clients, working within budgets, and communicating clearly, we designers must never lose sight of the spirit, the soul, and the aliveness that the folk builders evince so powerfully.

We have succeeded when we have delivered the whole package: sensible, spirited, and Green.


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