Discover more from The Carbon Architect
CA15 - Cutting Out Carbon
Three strategies to minimize overbuilding.
THE TOPIC - OVERBUILDING
I recently had the privilege of judging the 2023 Architizer A+ Awards and I am very thankful for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun and amazing to see so many incredible projects on display. As you may have guessed, I was selected as a jury member because of this year's new and specific categories for sustainable buildings. I was very impressed by many of the submissions which focused on low-carbon structural systems, high-performance envelopes, and a number of other innovative strategies.
What shocked me a little was the number of OVERSIZED homes edging for their spot as a finalist. So that leads me to our topic for today - can a 10,000SF single-family home be sustainable? Is that even possible? I personally don’t think so, and neither does Lloyd Alter - He just published a similar article titled - “How big should a home be?”
I am a strong proponent of elevating the positive changes in the industry instead of dwelling on the negative aspects. So rather than focus on the 10,000SF submissions, I think we should tune our focus to the positives we see around us. Think about it this way:
Negative perspective - Concrete is terrible for the environment, we shouldn’t be using it.
Positive perspective - Look how this project minimized its concrete and chose other materials.
Can you see the difference a positive perspective can make? It focuses on solutions rather than problems and encourages action. That’s who I want to be.
So instead of focusing on the negative, let’s look at some of these cool projects:
If you have any other great projects be sure to add them in the comments.
Thanks for reading The Carbon Architect!
WHAT WE CAN DO
Three things we can do to reduce our impact:
Reuse and renovate
Design for flexibility
Let’s dig a little deeper:
1 - Reuse and renovate
I recently wrote a LinkedIn post about the importance of celebrating old things and I got a lot of great suggestions in the comments. We need to normalize the reuse and renovation of existing materials and buildings. Rather than disposing and replacing the old with new, we should be repairing and reusing things that aren’t working properly.
2 - Build smaller
I recently spent some time back home in Ontario where the size of new homes shocked me to my core. As my wife and I plan to squeeze 3 kids into a 1000SF townhouse, new homes are being built in suburbia that are 4,000SF. This is a terribly unsustainable way of living not to mention these things are hideous!
3 - Design for flexibility
When designing buildings it’s easy to compartmentalize uses into different spaces. For example - we need 6 offices, 2 conference rooms, a lunch room, and a staff hangout area. So how many rooms do you really need? Well in a traditional design model that would be 10 rooms, however designing for flexibility means thinking about those rooms differently. Let’s say we convert 4 of those offices to open work areas and combine the lunch room with the staff hangout. And while we are at it, 1 of the conference rooms can actually be a bit more casual. All of a sudden we don’t need 10 rooms, we actually only need 4 rooms that serve multiple purposes!
Designing spaces that can be used at different times for different uses is critical to reducing our footprint.
1 PERSON TO FOLLOW
Lloyd Alter is a name you’re probably familiar with if you’ve been reading anything on Tree Hugger. Now he writes via his personal Substack - Carbon Upfront and also on LinkedIn. He is also the Author of Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle - a book you should definitely checkout.
1 RESOURCE TO ACT ON
Have you heard of ACAN or Architects! Climate Action Network? Wow, what a great group focused on making a change in the industry. They are a professional network of architects focused on climate action. They also have a great video series on the Circular Economy and other resources coming soon.