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our core concepts: environmentally sustainable

April 24, 2010

This is the fourth part in a five-part blog series, illustrating the core concepts that have become the foundation of residents:understood. Part four illustrates the core concept of: ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE.

Try as we might, there’s no way of escaping the overused—and so often misused—word: sustainability. Still, we haven’t come across a better word to describe a core principle of both our professional and personal lives. Sustainability simply means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Applied to design, sustainability is a philosophy that “seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizing negative impact to the natural environment” (The Philosophy of Sustainable Design by Jason F. McLennan).

The Hopeful Story….

Buildings and all the “stuff” that goes into them hold the shameful #1 spot in the US for being the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. As design professionals, we have the responsibility to reduce the negative impact buildings have on the earth and its inhabitants. We are a part of this generation’s group of designers who are working to reduce that frightening #1 emissions rating. Hopefully the day will come in our lifetime when buildings with a net-zero impact are common practice. Yes – we are dreamers, but that’s how big things happen!

So what does all this mean for our clients?

It means whether you notice it or not (and without compromising on our core concept of affordability), sustainability is integrated into our design process from the very beginning. This can be done by:

1 – Reducing the amount of energy needed to construct or redesign your home

2 – Minimizing  your home’s reliance on energy

Simply put, we will do our best to select materials and products that require little energy to extract and produce (such as recycled or rapidly renewable materials), or less energy to get to your home (locally sourced). We will then consider energy-saving strategies for your home – ranging anywhere from specifying energy-efficient appliances, to designing a home that more exclusively depends on natural ventilation or natural light. And one more thing – we will do our best to make your home healthier to live in. You’d be amazed how much better it feels to breathe in air that isn’t contaminated by carpet adhesives, paint toxins, and formaldehyde-laden furniture!

What does sustainability look like?

Some may be fearful of the “look” that sustainability may bring – but designing ecologically sound homes does not mean that style must be compromised. The images below are all beautiful interiors that one would not immediately recognize as something sustainable, right?

To read more about the sustainable projects seen above, visit

On the other hand, some may wish to fully embrace the idea of sustainability in their homes, or even wish for it to be transparent. We can help achieve those goals by finding materials and products that celebrate ecological design – products that make fun reuse of materials such as those pictured below.

LEED and r:u

We have a designer on our team that holds the LEED AP designation, a title given to those who sit for an exam in order to demonstrate expertise in green building strategies. This means we can be part of a team that builds (or renovates) your home to meet green building standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and earn a LEED certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized framework that provides guidelines for designers like us to apply practical and measurable green building design solutions to your home. Please visit to learn more about this exciting strategy to green your home.

Coming Soon…

To lead you into an upcoming series of blogs about our latest project for The Washington Post’s House Calls section, we want to mention one of the sustainable strategies we feel to be especially beneficial to the environment: design small. Small spaces are innately sustainable – they require less material to build and less energy to operate.  For many, small spaces can be very uncomfortable and elicit the feeling that more space is needed. We believe that more often than not, good design is the solution to the cramped feeling,  and with it, most anyone can live comfortably AND happily in a small space. This is a very rewarding transformation for a designer to create. In the most optimal of situations, such a transformation will cause a  person to forego their dream “McMansion” because they have discovered that the quality of a living space does not depend on the size. Next month, we will show you how we transform a small studio apartment from a bedroom to a comfortable home with all the desired amenities.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2010 8:58 pm

    Very informative and very entertaining. Style clearly emerging in design and writing. I’d like to see your core concepts applied to my future lakeside home and boat/guest house. Landscape design, interior design, and nature come together to serve up multiple and large game fish for r:u designers!

    Proud of you!

    Love to all,

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