Analysis of Projects: "Ten Shades of Green"

       The source for analysis of each project is based on a set of parameters created by Peter Buchanan, Curator for The Architectural League of New York, in his recently published book "Ten Shades of Green". Each category is fundamentally rooted in sustainable architecture and design. The buildings either fulfill or fall short of each category's definition and can be further evaluated by it's "greenness". The Ten Shades of Green are listed below with the requirements that are needed to fulfill each shade's definition. To see how Luhan Studio's projects match up to the "Ten Shades" click HERE.

The Ten Shades of Green


The single most effective way of reducing emissions of 'greenhouse' gases is to ensure that buildings consume only a fraction of the fossil fuel-derived energy they use presently┬Č which constitutes nearly half the total energy consumption of the developed world. To make the drastic savings required, three strategies need to be applied: the whole form and organization of buildings should be shaped to be far less dependent on fossil-fuel energy; any mechanical plant should be as efficient as possible; and the building and its environmental systems should harvest and be fueled by constantly replenished ambient energies.


Much of the destruction wrought on the planet by industrial civilization derives from the use of unreplenishable sources for energy and building materials. To live more gently on the earth we need to use the non-depletable ambient energies of the sun, wind, waves and gravity, and use constantly replenished materials such as woods from sustainably managed sources, or near inexhaustible materials such as mud, clay (for bricks) and sand (for glass). Much of the energy consumed by buildings might soon be generated from un-depletable sources, with electricity from wind farms, hydroelectric, geothermal or biomass (vegetal waste) burning plants and wave or tide-driven generators.


In nature there is no waste. In the organic cycle, the 'waste' from one creature or process is the nutriment for the next. Today, we not only consume or destroy nature┬╣s resources faster than they can be regenerated, but we give nothing back to nature. Instead we further burden it with waste and toxic pollution. We have to stop this or urgently learn how waste and pollution can become resources to be recycled. Obsolete buildings, their materials and components tend to be treated as waste.


Buildings not only use energy, it also takes energy to make them. This is 'embodied' energy, which is all the energy required to extract, manufacture and transport a building's materials as well as that required to assemble and 'finish' it. As buildings become increasingly energy efficient, the energy required to create them becomes proportionately more significant in relation to that required to run them. This is particularly true because some modern materials, such as aluminum, consume vast amounts of energy in their manufacture.


As well as conserving nature and energy, green design is concerned with conserving old buildings, and with new buildings that lend themselves to being conserved. There are several reasons for this, including not wasting the embodied energy in the building fabric and increasing the financial returns on the initial investment. Designing such buildings forces architects to think long term about the legacy to future generations, and to transcend the utilitarian and the fashionable to consider how to make buildings that will always be valued, that people will identify with and wish to reuse and conserve.


Green thinking takes the long-term view and looks at the larger impacts of any action on the environment and society. Total life cycle costing is an essential part of such holistic thinking. Even when applied in a narrowly economic manner, life cycle costing demonstrates green design to be a sound investment. It proves that a building's initial capital cost amounts to only a small fraction of the total cost of running and maintaining it. Over the years, the savings in utility bills achieved by energy efficiency can prove equal to or exceed what the building originally cost. Also, buildings that require less maintenance, and are easier to clean, can recoup several times over any extra investment necessary to achieve this.


A green building cannot be designed in the abstract and imposed on a place. Instead of being conceived to produce a self-contained object, the design process must focus on elaborating a dense web of complex symbiotic relationships with all aspects of the building's setting. This does not imply a single, ideal design approach, but a spectrum of approaches. These range from a process informed by knowledge of the place, its local materials and building traditions, and drawing on the personal experience of the designer, to one based on rigorous surveys of all aspects of the site and then predictive analysis that draws on state of the art computer modeling.


Transport, particularly automobile use, is the second biggest consumer of energy, after buildings. Even the most energy-efficient work place, if sited miles beyond access by public transport, does nothing to ameliorate pollution and global warming--at least until low-energy or non-fossil fuel burning automobiles become a reality. Such a building would be even less useful from a green perspective if it were removed from local shops, restaurants and opportunities to socialize, and housed none of these itself. A building's location in terms of its accessibility and proximity to a range of other functions is critical in determining how green that building can be.


Too many contemporary buildings, particularly workplaces where people spend a significant part of their lives, are not only bad for the environment around them, they are bad for the people inside them. Their occupants are deprived of fresh air and natural light, and do not have personal control over the artificial substitutes for them. Nor do they even have a view to the outside. Designed only for efficiency, as defined in the narrowest terms, such buildings do nothing to foster any sort of community life.


The mind set that tolerated our destruction of the natural world and the legacies left to us by history depended on the suppression of a sense of connection with each other, nature and the cosmos, as well as to past and future generations. If a green architecture is to help bring about a sustainable culture, it must regenerate a sense of community and connection to, even communion with, the natural world. The opportunity for communities to form and function needs to be designed into all levels of the built environment, and is a challenge to planners and urban designers as well as architects.