When Building Sustainably is Simply Building

by Abeer Sweis
May 31, 2018
What seems like long ago I would see for-lease signs on the sides of buildings advertising available space as “fully wired” or “wifi enabled”; these technologies were new and unique amenities at the time. Prior to this by almost 150 years I am sure the lease advertisements listed the brand new lift equipment called the elevator to win tenants over the competition. We do not see these building amenities advertised as “modern”, “new” or “featured” anymore because these technological advances are ubiquitous and standard and are just part of building. I hope, in the near future, the sustainability movement, like other advancements in building technology, will have progressed so that we no longer need to build sustainably. Instead, all building materials will be inherently sustainable, and we will just simply build.

In the meantime, sourcing sustainable materials is getting easier and less expensive thanks in large part to states like California and supply and demand. Here in California on the job site we are required by law to recycle our demolition and construction debris, we can only purchase high efficiency lamps, all water fixtures must be low flow and all future new homes must have solar panels. Building sustainably is the responsible thing to do, but it is also inspiring. There are so many exciting and beautiful materials becoming available all the time, and some that are not new that are beginning to be recognized. For example, solar panels printed into wallpaper, cement made out of carbon dioxide industrial emissions, phase-changing materials that absorb and release energy to maintain an ideal temperature, ground cover aggregate made from solidified acrylic paint waste, and drywall made with recycled newspaper.

What has me most excited is the movement from sustainability to being Net Positive. Defined many ways, sustainability is fundamentally “causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time,” whereas Net Positive is a way of operating that puts more into the environment than is taken out. Organizations such as the International Living Future Institute foster the idea that our built environment should give back to the natural environment and to our communities through responsible and transparent practices. Net positive buildings generate more energy and clean water than they consume, they are built with materials that are safe and resilient, they promote Universal Design and designs that elevate our spirits and inspire us, and they foster community that is just and equitable. SweisKloss is doing our part.

For SweisKloss, being environmentally responsible is being attentive to the well-being of the whole building, grounds and occupants as one environment. An environment deserving of quality materials, abundant light and fresh air, and technology that enhances the lives of the end user. We use recycled material in recyclable packaging and we reuse existing materials and donate those we do not use. We present to clients material options that are sustainably and locally sourced and we specify energy efficient appliances and HVAC systems that are right sized. Every project includes doors, windows and skylights that allow for both daylighting natural ventilation, as well as adequate insulation to protect from same. Exterior shading and pergolas have the effect of light shelves; permeable pavers reduce water run-off. We install home automation systems with lighting, HVAC and spa controls that are programmed to enable the client to use and enjoy their space as fits their lifestyle. SweisKloss integrates sustainability into design + construct; we already just simply build.

 
Abeer Sweis