The Big Picture

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. License: CC BY 2.0.

OVERVIEW

It’s easy to get caught up in the details—earning one more LEED point or getting that documentation you need for recycled content.

But it’s a lot easier to achieve all the project goals if the owner and the whole project team are in agreement about why you’re putting in all this work in the first place. Stuff like:

  • slowing down climate change

  • dealing with global water shortages

  • avoiding depletion of nonrenewable resources

  • preventing public health problems associated with manufacturing

  • righting social wrongs

Here we set the scene, providing context that can help get—and keep—everyone on the same page about project goals.

  • Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation
    June 1, 2010

    Feature Article

    Insulation is key to reducing carbon emissions from buildings. But the blowing agent in extruded polystyrene and spray polyurethane foam offsets much of that benefit.

  • Cool Products From Greenbuild 2009: An Expo Floor Tour
    January 1, 2010

    Feature Article

    Alex Wilson provides a tour of 37 innovative products from the U.S. Green Building Council's 2009 Greenbuild conference in Phoenix.

  • Design for Adaptation: Living in a Climate-Changing World
    August 28, 2009

    Feature Article

    Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, rising global temperatures would still bring major changes to the climate system and our way of life. This article offers solutions for designing buildings that not only mitigate our impact on the global climate, but also adapt to the changes that are coming-and those that are already here.

  • The Folly of Building-Integrated Wind
    April 29, 2009

    Feature Article

    Wind turbines on buildings could produce electricity where it's needed and catch high winds above ground level. However, wind turbulence, safety, cost, and poor performance all make building-integrated wind a limited strategy.

  • Net-Zero-Energy Schools in a Post-Paris Accord U.S.
    June 7, 2017

    Op-Ed

    The challenge might seem greater, but focusing on schools is crucial as climate change advocacy moves to local leadership.

  • Integrated Project Delivery: A Platform for Efficient Construction
    October 29, 2008

    Feature Article

    Integrated project delivery, or IPD, is a new contract mechanism for design and construction. Among its benefits for green building, it enshrines integrated design and building information modeling (BIM) into a legally supportive framework.

  • Counting Carbon: Understanding Carbon Footprints of Buildings
    June 27, 2008

    Feature Article

    Everyone seems to be talking about measuring carbon footprints and designing carbon-neutral buildings, but these terms mean different things to different people. Some focus just on operating energy, while others also look at transportation, materials, and other building-related emissions. As with so many things, the results depend on what you count and how you count it.

  • Making Air Barriers that Work: Why and How to Tighten Up Buildings
    May 29, 2008

    Feature Article

    Incorporating a continuous air barrier into a building's design and construction can save energy and improve the indoor environment, among other benefits. The right materials and assemblies can help accomplish that goal, but careful attention during design and close oversight during construction are essential.

  • Is Nano a No-No? Nanotechnology Advances into Buildings
    March 1, 2008

    Feature Article

    Nanotechnology takes advantage of the novel properties that particles can exhibit at a billionth of a meter in size. Those properties are being used in building materials, where they can improve thermal performance and the effectiveness of photovoltaics, among many possibilities. The field has little regulation, however, despite significant health and environmental concerns.

  • Sustainable Development through Open-Source, Participatory Design
    May 30, 2017

    News Brief

    Alejandro Aravena wins Gothenburg Award for offering revolutionary strategies for social housing.