30 things you can do to make your commercial building Earth Friendly

30 things you can do to make your commercial building Earth Friendly

How do you start? How do you create a commercial building that is sustainable? Here are 30 things you can do to make your commercial building Earth Friendly. Click the links and learn more.
  1. Upgrade the fiberglass insulation to foam
  2. If you cannot afford better insulation – make the building air tight as a minimum
  3. Install a solar thermal system to produce hot water
  4. Add more insulation in the atticharrisonburg energy audit
  5. integrate pre-heated warm air into the HVAC system
  6. Add natural light where you canChesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg
  7. Use the floor as mass storage by installing dark tile or leaving concrete exposed and adjust overhangs to allow sunlight in the winter and shading in the summer
  8. install a better water heater
  9. install a light-colored roof
  10. look at USDA grants, “solar barn raising”, or federal tax credit options for adding solar PVsolar photo-voltaic dairy queen
  11. Move the HVAC systems in the attic inside of conditioned spaces instead of outside the thermal envelope
  12. install better windows
  13. install operable windows so you can breathe fresh air
  14. insulate under entire slab
  15. select energy star appliances
  16. install motion sensors on lights in restrooms and sleeping rooms
  17. install motion sensor on bath fans with a timer
  18. select products that are no voc
  19. install a rainscreen behind siding to prevent moisture in walls
  20. Keep plants away from exterior walls and HVAC equipment
  21. collect rainwater in a cistern20150630_142909
  22. Advocate for measuring the Energy Use Intensity to know how efficient the building will be
  23. Check the comprehensive plan for your community to see if they say anything like “we will have an environmental performance standard”
  24. make it easy for someone to bike to work by installing bike racks
  25. understand carbon
  26. reduce stormwater runoff
  27. install a vegetated roof20150630_142856-01
  28. install water conserving fixtures
  29. require a duct leakage test on the ductwork after installation
  30. set up a recycling center in the facility so product does not go to the landfill – if it is not easy people will not do it

Green Design vs Design – What Do You Want?

Green designWe have built a solid reputation for delivering “green” architectural design for our clients. We were even named the “best small architecture firm” in the USGBC Best of Building Awards – that was a worldwide vote – fairly cool – showing our dedication to “going green.” Green design is simply a solution that is healthy, energy-efficient, and durable for our clients who want their homes to be green. Our designs are healthy through selecting products that do not off-gas dangerous chemicals and by using a HVAC system that includes a proper ventilation / fresh air strategy. Energy-efficiency is gained through an in-depth understanding of building science. Durability is included by selecting quality products that are proven to last without regular maintenance.

Green designRecently I heard from another architect that his clients simply do not want “green” design so he does not focus on it. My question to him – “so your clients want buildings that make them sick, are expensive to condition, and are hard to maintain.” Of course his answer was NO. His clients in fact want green design, they just don’t call it “green”.

We should call green design just simply design. If we are doing our job right as an architect, we should be delivering the highest value to our clients. Design should be built upon building science solutions that create healthy, energy-efficient, and durable structures to live, work, and play in. We should not have to decide whether or not to “go green;” it should just be the best solution.

Can you live in a “tiny” home? What is “right sized?”

The tiny house movement has gained a huge amount of momentum since Katrina Cottages became mainstream news. Do you think you can live in 150 sf? What about 6oo sf? So what is a tiny house to you?


When designing a green home determining the right size for you is as important as designing for energy-efficiency. Conserving resources comes in many forms in the building industry. Local resources are a huge part of creating a sustainable solution as well as making your home energy-efficient. However, both of these strategies are directly dependent on the size of your home. How much space do you really need to live life to the fullest?

Nelson County Custom Home

Making your home right sized takes careful thought and planning. There are no universal sizes for a dining room that works for all families. How do you use the space, do you even need the space? Learning how you live life, think about planning for the future ways you may live, and working through your personal values will inform size of rooms. Taking care to think through these questions is one of the more important aspects of the design process. These are the kind of questions that come with custom design and does not get addressed when purchasing plans online or from a drafter. 
Mt Crawford Basement Renovation
So what is the right size home for you? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you need a formal living room, what about a dining room? How much time will you spend in the bonus room, how much stuff do you have that you need to store in the off-season (decorations, sports equipment, keepsakes)? Perhaps a 150 sf house is too small for you, but maybe we can reduce your 2,500 sf program into a 2,000 functional solution with a little conversation.

Design Matters – why it matters to me and I want it to matter to you.

Design – Why it matters to me.

I blog a lot about building science, the importance of holistic design, and occasionally local business leaders. I have told stories about a typical day in the life of an architect, the value of memberships in industry organizations, and my daughter’s view of the world – “you just have to stop being lazy and fix things.” It takes about two hours to put together a meaningful blog post (1 hour if I keep it short). I have posted 379 entries to my blog and responded to 256 comments over a span of three years. This is the equivalent of almost 19 full weeks of work. So why do I spend my time writing stories, posting ideas, and celebrating local business? Why do I repeat stories about design and spend energy pushing for better solutions?

CAPS Harrisonburg

Design – Why it matters to me.

My blog is an outlet for me to help the community understand the value of design. Most people, myself included at times, are willing to accept something that is convenient even if it is not exactly right. Design often not the first criteria as we often don’t know how to evaluate good design vs bad design. A loaf of bread could look terrible and taste incredible, it is not just about aesthetics. A car could be beat up on the outside and still get good gas mileage, it is not just performance. A store could be an energy hog and still carry the brands we love, it is not just function.When design is done right, a loaf of bread look as good as it tastes and is nutrient filled using local healthy ingredients. Design matters because it makes the world, our community, our lives better. Holistic questions are required to understand the full impact of design on the buildings, tools, cars, and clothes we encounter everyday. A comfortable shirt that did not use toxic chemicals in the manufacturing will not be more comfortable (well maybe it will you should test that theory) – however, the community will be better off for you selecting that shirt. Design is holistic, it should not be limited to one aspect of the solution but should cover all aspects.










Design – Why it matters to me.

Buildings are huge energy, resource, and water hogs. Your home, your business, your shopping destinations have a huge impact on your health, comfort, and vitality. Living and working in a healthy building will contribute to you living a more full healthy life. Knowing that you have minimized your impact on your neighborhood, community, and world resources will give you peace of mind. Holistic design that focuses on aesthetics, building science, function, durability, and resources is the only way to achieve this peace of mind. These are things I understand and want to share with readers.

Home Show









Design – Why it matters to me.

Design that Matters is my goal for every project. My blog is simply a place where I can share ideas. I hope you enjoy my rantings, benefit from my experience. If nothing else, the next time you are making a decision for a building (home or office) I hope my posts have given you enough information to look beyond aesthetics.

Simple solutions that reduce energy consumption – transpired solar collector


In the commercial building world, design is often overlooked from the performance side. The focus often goes to aesthetics and maximizing the built area while balancing the environmental impacts on the surrounding site(s). The indoor environmental quality and energy consumption of the building design is left out of the process. This is a huge mistake in this competitive new economy where every dollars spent is critical to the success of future tenants of your building.

One easy way to reduce energy usage in a commercial building is through the implementation of a transpired solar collector. A transpired solar collector is an air-preheating system. The sun hits a south facing (dark colored) vertical wall and gets hot. Tiny perforations in this exterior rainscreen panel allow the warm air to rise in a cavity that can then be incorporated into your heating strategy. In the cooling season this air collection system can bypass vents effectively creating a heat dump and reducing cooling loads in your facility.

A transpired solar collector is just one of many low cost solutions that can make your commercial development more competitive. A focus on daylighting, durability, and indoor environmental quality are also critical. While the first question a potential tenant asks is probably not about monthly energy consumption and durability, these are the answers you can provide that will set you project ahead of the competition.