NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

National Park Service Sustainable Design

The U.S. National Park Service has a fantastic guidebook for use in designing sustainable buildings. If you have a chance, I highly recommend you browse through the entire document (it’s not too long), but I selected a very choice snippet from Chapter 6 below.

The NPS sustainable design philosophy highly emphasizes education – visitors should learn about the building’s symbiosis with nature, gain an appreciation of the surrounding environment, and discover new ways to improve their own living. I think this is a philosophy we should all use when designing our homes and communities.

So many of us are struggling with educating our friends and families on the consequences of Peak Oil, climate change, and other dangers. By designing our homes to showcase nature, healthier living, and environmental stewardship we may lead them to that crucial point of realizing what is truly required.

From the U.S. National Park Service:



The design must

  • be subordinate to the ecosystem and cultural context
    • respect the natural and cultural resources of the site and absolutely minimize the impacts of any development
  • reinforce/exemplify appropriate environmental responsiveness
    • educate visitors/users about the resource and appropriate built responses to that environment.
    • interpret how development works within natural systems to effect resource protection and human comfort and foster less consumptive lifestyles
    • use the resource as the primary experience of the site and as the primary design determinant
  • enhance appreciation of natural environment and encourage/establish rules of conduct
  • create a "rite of passage"
    • develop an entrance into special natural or cultural environment that emulates the respectful practice of removing shoes before entering Japanese home . . . leaving cars and consumptive values behind
  • use the simplest technology appropriate to the functional need, and incorporate passive energy-conserving strategies responsive to the local climate
  • use renewable indigenous building materials to the greatest extent possible
  • avoid use of energy intensive, environmentally damaging, waste producing, and/or hazardous materials
    • use cradle-to-grave analysis in decision making for materials and construction techniques
  • strive for "smaller is better" . . . optimizing use and flexibility of spaces so overall building size and the resources necessary for construction and operation are minimized
  • consider "constructability" . . . striving for minimal environmental disruption, resource consumption, and material waste, and identifying opportunities for reuse/recycling of construction debris
  • provide equal access to the full spectrum of people with physical and sensory impairments while minimizing impacts on natural and cultural resources

Also, the design should

  • consider phasing the development to allow for monitoring of resource impacts and adjustments in subsequent phases
  • allow for future expansion and/or adaptive uses with a minimum of demolition and waste
    • materials and components should be chosen that can be easily reused or recycled
  • make it easy for the occupants/operators to recycle waste


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