Stephen Carroll on Achieving Sustainable Design in Harsh Environments

Harsh environments are geographic areas impacted by climate extremes — heat, cold, drought, flooding and wind. According to the American Meteorological Society, the U.S. experiences “as much or more severe weather than any other country on earth.” As the impacts of the overall rise in global temperatures continue to be felt, the number of areas in the U.S. that can be considered a “harsh” environment will continue to grow.

Sustainable design is particularly important in harsh environments, because it creates buildings and landscapes that not only work efficiently with their surroundings but also are resilient in the face of extreme weather. Sustainable landscape design is important to that resiliency because it is the first line of defense against harsh elements. In hot, arid climates, landscape designers can impact the microclimate of a site by using vegetation, water and hardscape to modify surface temperature, protect against wind, control evaporation and reflect solar radiation. In areas impacted by coastal storms and flooding, landforms and berms can help protect building structures.

The U.S. Green Building Council introduced its LEED certification program in 2000. The program comprises five separate rating systems addressing multiple project types: Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development and Homes. Within each rating system are a number of different project types, all of which have guidelines for four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The certification system is based on a number of points achieved on the project type’s scorecard.

Read the full article in Medical Construction & Design.