An Architect’s Advice on Green Building

October 12, 2016

Text by John R. Mastera

Green building aims to reduce the overall impact of the “built” environment on both human health and the natural environment. This is done by efficiently using energy, water, and other natural resources, and by reducing waste and environmental degradation.

Though the green building industry has been around since the turn of the last century, architects have been trained since the 70’s to design sustainable, green buildings.  It was the rise of oil prices that really made people think about relying so heavily on fossil fuels.

One much-criticized issue about building environmentally friendly buildings is the price.  Though the cost of green construction has decreased over the years, it’s still generally more expensive than traditional building.

Sometimes building new, isn’t always the most environmentally friendly.  A study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Green Lab, found that demolishing an existing building and constructing a new one almost always has a more negative environmental impact than reusing an existing building.  It can take ten to eighty years for that building’s energy efficiency to offset its negative environmental impact during construction.


Architecture by GLUCK+ via Architizer

It’s a great idea to build for the future with sustainability and energy efficiency.  Architects have been doing that since the 19th Century.  When the pioneers built “Soddy’s” they were way ahead of their time and they didn’t event know it – they were actually building modern day Geothermal Domes (earth roofed homes).  These homes were thermally efficient and kept them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  There are many examples of these roofs today promoting “green” design.


Soddy South Dakota

So don’t get obsessed with green labels.  Many things labeled “green” are falsely labeled and your design will cost three times more to build, yet it will not be any more efficient than your neighbor’s new construction.  Instead, find an architect that will design a home that works well for you.

John R Mastera

A highly energy efficient home designed by John R. Mastera. It includes an Earth Berm like a sod house to cool and warm the lower floor of the house. It also includes carefully placed skylights for solar gain (heating the house).


John R Mastera is an internationally recognized leader in architecture, education, and design.  He has been practicing in New Canaan, Connecticut for over 25 years.


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