The Role of Your Architect in a Green World

ROLE OF YOUR ARCHITECT

“Green,” “Sustainable,” “Energy efficient,” “Off the grid,” “Energy Star,” and “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are all key words in the environmentally-responsible design of today’s residential projects. But be sure you understand the terminology. The design professional keeps abreast of the ever changing construction technology and efficiency techniques. Technology, however, is just one part of the building program.

The essence of good architecture is the combination of sound planning, sensitivity to the environment, and a respect for the community. In addition to helping you navigate the technology considerations, your architect can help you select a site that is particularly suited for passive solar and can generally help you incorporate energy efficient solutions into the myriad component parts of your building program. The most livable houses transcend the utilitarian and achieve a level of cohesive design that is the essence of all good architecture.


Baker has always been a proponent of energy efficient houses. He has advocated for passive solar elements in his houses and incorporated a photovoltaic array in his own house:

John Milnes Baker - Going Green

  

Some years ago Better Homes & Gardens published a cover story devoted to his work. The article began:

“Engaging, thoughtful houses are the hallmark of architect John Milnes Baker.”

In a section of that issue they presented a “Passive Solar Portfolio” of seven of his designs. Here are a few of them:

 


What do you desire in your own house?

  • A house that reflects your own lifestyle and personality.
  • One that satisfies our sense of comfort and well-being in all seasons of the year.
  • One that graces the site in a way that is deferential to the site, the surrounding environment and is respectful to the neighbors and the community.
  • And certainly one that uses sound building practices that makes your house as energy efficient as possible without compromising its esthetic integrity.

The best way to accomplish these goals is to build a house that uses space efficiently, makes use of the natural features of the site and uses materials that require a minimum of maintenance. Challenge your architect to design a house that seeks solutions by Ingenuity first and Technology second. But there should be a complementary balance between the two.

Ingenuity

  • Orient your house to make the most of the free energy from the sun
  • Consider natural features if the site – prevailing breezes in the summer and the winter
  • Design a house that is carefully planned to meet your program but is no larger than need be

Instead of building the 3,500 square foot house you thought you needed all along, a clever architect can show you how you can get everything you need in 3,000 square feet – or even less. It is the use of space that is important. It will reduce the need for energy and will result in lower maintenance costs. Consider zoning your house so your energy needs are further reduced.

Technology

  • Insulation: Be sure that your house meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of the state and national energy codes. A tight house that cuts down on air infiltration is an easier house to heat but there must be a reasonable air change per hour or there will be a detrimental effect on your respiratory system.
  • Electrical: Consider the cost benefits of a photovoltaic array.
  • Heating: Explore the cost benefits of geothermal heating systems, air heat pumps, as compared to natural gas. Oil has been the basic for many years but may no longer be the best choice.
  • Modular Construction: There are many efficiencies gained by modular construction. And they are not limited to small houses. Note the house called Clover Hill in the House section of this website. It is a eight thousand square foot house that incorporate over a dozen component units.
  • Earth Berm Houses: This system of building into a hillside – or even banking earth against the north side of a house - can be an effective approach. It’s very “organic” and can offer many cost savings.

Instead of building the 3,500 square foot house you thought you needed all along, a clever architect can show you how you can get everything you need in 3,000 square feet – or even less. It is the use of space that is important. It will reduce the need for energy and will result in lower maintenance costs. Consider zoning your house so your energy needs are further reduced.

 

JOHN MILNES BAKER, AIA

76 Spooner Hill
South Kent, Connecticut 06785

Phone: 860.927.4262
Fax: 860.927.4294

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