Sustainable design doesn’t have to cost more

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At this years’ Ontario Association of Architects annual conference, the opening plenary focused on valuing zero carbon emissions and net zero energy in buildings. Experts discussed at length the role of architecture and design in building and valuing low-emission energy-efficient buildings.

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This one-on-one interview took me to Hamilton and a conversation with Joanne McCallum, architect and CEO at mcCallumSather Architects. “Sustainable design has been considered as ‘additive’… that you have to add money to do it….and that is just not true,” she says.

A design objective for builders and architects is to start with a goal to create a much more robust outcome. “If you think you’re saving a nickel today (in a new build) you’ll be spending a dollar tomorrow,” says Joanne. She advocates for a collaborative purposeful design process from the outset to create an unmatched building performance including resiliency.

Joanne says that good design considers lessons from nature. Resiliency and storm water management are often more effectively accomplished by the integration of living architecture, not just concrete and pipes.

I asked Joanne for her perspective on the future real estate marketplace. “We have never been individually responsible for the energy we consume… we don’t even think about it,” she says.  In the future there will be more interaction and personal responsibility with our buildings, she says. “There is no question that there is interest, especially in younger people, in taking stock of energy efficiency information when purchasing anything, including real estate.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, Joanne said, “Every little thing we can do makes a contribution, small changes add up.”

Valuing zero is clearly an important part of our future marketplace. When you have opportunity to advocate for the value of energy efficiency and low-carbon buildings, consider the asset value in the relatively near future where carbon and energy will be important considerations for real estate investors.

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