What Is Sustainability?

In recent years, there has been much talk about sustainability, as "green" has become a household word describing everything from recycled products to clean energy. With the growing concern about climate change, we are increasingly aware of the impact of our actions, from disposing our trash, using electricity or producing carbon emissions.

In the design world, sustainability refers to an awareness of these concerns and the use of design, building materials and the building to minimize the carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is defined as a "measure of the impact that human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide." The building industry generates approximately half of all green house gas emissions and energy consumption in the United States. Sustainable design also attempts to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by the efficient use of energy, materials and developed space.

At Althouse, Jaffe & Associates, we design responsibly to address these concerns while keeping the budget in mind. This means that we incorporate design elements that have a high sustainable impact for low initial cost. We also make design decisions that greatly decrease the long term life cycle costs of a building.

Recently, LEED has also become much more familiar to the general public. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating system is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. This is administered by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) of which Althouse Jaffe & Associates is a member. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in key areas of human and environmental health.

Regardless of whether or not we use the LEED certification program in our designs, we are aware of the factors that contribute to good, sensible, responsible and sustainable design and diligently incorporate them throughout the design process.