Making it Easier to be Green
Green design includes energy conservation, but that's not what it's all about. It's about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources.
This site will provide a balanced, holistic view that includes advice about saving energy, water and other natural resources, improving indoor air quality, using environmentally responsible design and construction techniques and minimizing waste.

I will be focusing on interiors for three reasons:

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoors.
  • Buildings in the United States annually consume about 30% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.
  • As a New York State Certified Interior Designer and a LEED Accredited Professional, I want to share my knowledge and expertise with you.
Sustainable design and construction can be done in many different styles and using a wide variety of materials. There are examples of healthy, sustainable, comfortable and inviting interiors for commercial, not-for-profit and residential clients on the web site for Interior Design Solutions.
You can use the labels on the sidebar to locate entries that you want to read. For instance, most people might want to look at the entries for "Green Homes," but "Green Finance" would be of more interest to professionals involved in the design, construction, management, financing and marketing of buildings.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Green Washing and Green Roofs

The photograph is of a corner of one of the most well-known green roofs in the country, on Chicago's City Hall. It cost $2.5 million in 2001 and generates energy savings of approximately $5,000 per year. If the purpose of installing this green roof had been to save money on air conditioning the building (which it was not) the ROI would be pretty pitiful

It would be great if most buildings in large cities had green or white roofs, because it would make the outdoor air cooler in the summer. Green roofs can help reduce the amount of raw sewage that is dumped into our rivers when it rains. And greenery in any form improves air quality

I hate to sound like the eco-police, but I'm feeling cranky because I just sat through yet another presentation in which the benefits of green roofs have been grossly exaggerated. The owner of a company that specializes in green roofs said "I can save you 60% on your air conditioning bill." Such a claim is misleading, especially when made to an audience in midtown Manhattan, because most of the buildings are tall and have roofs that are relatively small in relation to the total floor space beneath them.

Studies have shown an average reduction in thermal load on a large building that installs a green roof of 10% - 15%, about the same as the savings realized from installing a (much less expensive) white roof. And studies also have shown that green roofs reduce the air conditioning load only for the top floor of a building and the floor immediately below it. Which means that a green roof is most effective in reducing air conditioning bills for a low building with a relatively large footprint.

I believe that exaggerating the potential pay-back that can be achieved through energy savings is a form of green-washing and could undermine the credibility not only of the individual making such claims but of the industry as a whole.