Stockbridge Green, Architects is committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem when it comes to the built environment and the critical issues associated with anthropogenic global warming.
Our long term goal is to produce buildings that simply do not damage the environment, even if produced in great number, while providing greater comfort, health & utility for the occupants. We would like to go one step further and create structures that actually help the environment to stabilize and recover.
It will be a while before we can fully realize this vision. There are 3 phases in a building’s life and each generates GHG emissions; construction, occupation and demolition. Presently, Stockbridge Green makes buildings that do not require fossil fuels during the occupation (useful life) phase. Eliminating emissions in the supply chain of all the stuff that goes into the construction of a building and what happens to the stuff when a building is destroyed is beyond the control of the architect. Fortunately these emissions are finite and can be off-set during the life of the building.
The principles on this page give direction to our work. Each project we do incorporates each of these principles to greater & lesser degrees. In time, we will do better; much research, invention & testing remains to be accomplished.
To this end we follow these stated principles in the course of our work & business. Please note that this listing will be updated as required.
The Hannover Principles present an overview of the goals of sustainable building design. We consider this to be a good starting point for our discussion. They were created and published by William McDonough & Partners for the 2000 exposition in Germany. The nine items if the Hannover Principles are reproducedhere.
To do good
Comfort / Health
A work in progress
To Do Good
There is considerable effort being exerted in a broad range of disciplines, products etc... in an attempt to reduce environmental impacts. It seems the collective goal is to be more green then the competition or the Chinese or your neighbor resulting in some type of personal gain. However, when these collective behaviors are combined with increasing demand from growing population segments, the net result is still increased degradation of the environment; still leading to the increasing of devastating negative impacts for us all from global warming. This is the Doing Less Bad Scenario.
One of our current projects is to create a ranking system for buildings, products and processes that will identify their environmental intelligence (EnQ). It is a 200 point scale that will behave much like the widely known IQ scale. A score of 100 is the environmental break even point. Less than 100 indicates the existence of negative environmental impacts. A score of greater than 100 indicates positive environmental impacts; the manufacture leaves the environment in better condition than its pre-construction state. The point of the En-Q ranking is so people involved in the problem can focus on the range above 100 where actual solutions lie and away from "I did the best I could" below 100, which means failure.
Principle -We believe that it is no longer acceptable to do "less bad", relative to environmental issues. We must instead strive to do "good".
Resource efficiency A resource is any thing incorporated into the design - wood, metal, plastic, energy, motors, light bulbs, etc. For us, resource efficiency has to do with a balance between production of the raw material, manufacture and waste, required maintenance, Useful life, disassembly and reuse. It may also involve looking at the true cost of resources instead of the market, subsidized cost and factoring in the environmental costs as well. For example, it makes little sense to install custom granite counter tops that could survive for 500 years in a kitchen that will probably be replaced within 15 years. It might work better if they were fabricated in such a way that they could be reused in 10 or 20 other kitchens over the years in the form of their original fabrication.
There are at least three ways to be efficient; 1) Use less, only what you need, 2) Use in a form that can be re-used by others when you are done with it (material pathways) and 3) Use for an extremely long period of time (consume extremely slowly). The resource we are most concerned about at this time is energy.
We are not suggesting that anyone should go without anything they desire. Only that decisions should be made responsibly and sustainably. Unbridled consumption is definitely out. In a world with a rapidly expanding consumer population, we must learn to think of others and share.
Principle - Resources should be consumed as follows - Use only what you need (based on sustainable principles), Use as little as possible and for greatest effect for the greatest length of time.
All materials, methods and technologies incorporated into buildings carry some environmental cost. We work to minimize these costs and then balance them against length of time in use for an item and the desirability or value to the user/customer.
A single use, non-biodegradable item that is manufactured 2,500 miles away and shipped to the site briefly and on to the landfill is a bad idea and should be avoided. A unique specialty item that is responsibly harvested and processed or manufactured 10,000 miles away that can be recycled and re-use after an expected 30 year first use that is displayed prominently and gives pleasure to the owner daily is a better and acceptable choice. The use of fieldstone gathered on site and incorporated into the project with minimal processing might be the best from an environmental point of view.
We believe that an environmentally sensitive approach to life does not mean going without or lowering of the standard of living. It means making different choices.
Principle - Minimize negative environmental impacts of materials, products and methods incorporated into the work while addressing modern expectations and desire.
A useful new approach to sustainable design & construction should be highly adaptable in many ways;
It would accommodate wide range of building types and sizes.
Architects should be able to integrate approach into their varied practices without requiring significant re-training.
Approach should be useful in new construction, renovations and additions to existing buildings.
In finished work, changes in technology, electrical & plumbing should not require demolition and repair.
When a competed building reaches the end of its useful life, materials should be disassemblable for re-use or recycling into new work; in part or in whole.
Principle - Design adaptability into a project as possible and appropriate to each project, What is true for the evolution of species is true for buildings in the environment.
Strive to design and construct with ppermanent, environmentally appropriate materials and detailing to insure a long and useful life. Maintenance and repair should be on a 25 year cycle; not continuous following commission as is the current practice. This is not efficient and provides continuous opportunity for degrading the environment with toxic, non permanent materials and wastes energy in a way that is difficult to control. If equipment cannot be designed to function for long periods of time, get rid of it, simplify. create simpler systems with fewer moving parts. Study nature. Different parts of buildings require different types of strategies.
Building surfaces that contact the weather are the most important here. For example; paint works ok (maybe) if it is used on exterior surfaces not exposed to direct sunlight. Repainting every 4 to 6 years is a disaster, environmentally and financially. I don't know what to say about landscaping. We love it and its incorporation into work increases with wealth. Unfortunately, it causes more environmental damage than the buildings themselves; Gig emission in maintenance, chemicals in fertilizers, water, destruction of ecosystems... ; Landscape less, encourage native flora.
Principle - Design and construct as though buildings were permanent objects that could last hundreds of years and not employment opportunities for the handyman maintenance and repair industry.
A significant amount of inefficiency and complexity in a building comes from not getting at root causes of problems. This is partly due to the way buildings have evolved over the centuries and partly due to our economic system. We tend to add more and more complicated things to buildings to correct for design flaws instead of correcting the original flaw.
For example; our construction system, which has produced great buildings, has never dealt with how much insulation was appropriate for a building. On the housing side, the standard is when you get done putting everything else into the exterior walls and roof of a structure, fill the remaining cavities with insulation; job done, good enough. It's not good enough. It turns out that as you add insulation to a building (in the design phase) you get to a point where everything gets a lot simpler. Heating and cooling loads disappear along with the complicated high maintenance machinery that are currently required in code construction to maintain comfort; safety and security increase. Life becomes simpler as well.This is but one example of many.
Principle - From a sustainability point of view simpler, fewer moving parts is better. Operating doors and windows as the only moving parts would be best (maybe I oversimplify).
Aesthetics is where we interact visually with buildings. As we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While I believe that one role of the Architect is to explore new aesthetic expressions, new ways to represent our culture, the interests of our customers, our materials and methods. We realize that many prefer older styles and our approach can serve them equally as well. Our primary commitment is to sustainability and we are interested in reaching a wide variety of people. We therefore offer choice in this area.
Principle - To meet the needs of a each customer & project, a wide variety of architectural styles must be able to be accommodated.
It is difficult to determine which source of energy has the least negative effect on the environment, which is the most cost effective, which technologies will develop and be available to the general market and what choice does a consumer actually have? If one were to choose clean energy it would have to involve Photovoltaic or wind power to generate electricity. Heating and cooling energy could come from the earth (Geothermal). The amount of energy to be produced is reduced substantially if it does not have to be transmitted across miles of wire. All of this, of course, must be proceeded by reducing the waste in energy use. This would involve conservation as well as using energy for only those things which are desired and effect lifestyle and removing energy use that does not. This is (personal) Energy independence
The sun through it's effects, light, warmth, wind, rain, photosynthesis, life (sunna), is available almost everywhere, surrounding us (ambient). We believe that a building once constructed and functioning could and should be able to find everything it needs for that operation from these elements in the location where it sits. We call buildings designed on this principle Sunnambient Structures. This is not limiting in most cases. A traditionally constructed building would require a power plant 4 or 5 times larger than any building proposed on this website and would be a significant expense.
Primary energy - that which is needed to operate basic building systems; Systems that all modern buildings are expected to provide. Primary energy will be provided by on-site renewables. Secondary energy is non-building energy required to run owner gadgetry. Typical loads will be met by on-site renewables. If special intensive energy loading might exceed the limits of on-site generated power and could be met by power from the electric grid in a separate system. We encourage our customers to use primary renewable sources for these needs as well, but recognize this may be prohibitively expensive as we can not control the efficiency of consumer products and equipment.
Access to energy you need is an absolute requirement for living a modern life. Don't leave this to others.
Energy Independence (Personal)
Principle - Limit energy use in a building to that available from the sun and natural elements where the building sits; combustion not allowed.
Air in the environment will be viewed as a valuable resource and not as a vast reservoir that can absorb toxic waste of all sorts. Care will be taken to limit project contributions to this old system of disposal. Our buildings have zero emissions from combustion; on-site or off. The use of out-gassing products by the occupants is beyond the control of the architect.Our buildings will be designed to be virtually air tight when all doors and windows are closed. Fresh air entering the building will be controled, filtered and conditioned. This is for efficiency, comfort and health. Health, indoor air quality - In enclosed environments this involves protecting occupants from exposure to toxic substances that can break off from exposed surfaces, particles and allergens that are airborne, materials introduced by the occupants (cleaners, herbicides pesticides) either intentionally or imbedded in objects, combustion by-products. Solution – continuous low velocity air circulation with filtering and mixing of preconditioned outdoor air, sealed construction that limits access by bugs and air leaking through wall, floor, ceiling cavities where it picks up a variety of toxins and particulates not suitable for human ingestion.
Principle - Treat the air as the precious valuable & limited resource that it is.
Water shall be provided for all desired purposes but it is inappropriate to use pure drinking water for all water needs. Water from several sources may be incorporated in the project, including drinking water from a public source or well, rain water & filtered grey water.
Use of water as a vehicle to remove waste and garbage from buildings will be minimized. Where possible, water used for this purpose shall be grey water. This is second use water.
Well water shall be considered a limited special resource and shall be used sparingly.
Efforts will be made by limiting impervious surface, green roofs and capturing rain water to counter the water run-off problems usually encountered in land development and the construction of buildings.
Rain water collection, storage and distribution will be considered in all projects. Rain water can be used for any purpose except drinking and food preparation. It is foolish to use pure drinking water to irrigate landscaping, flush toilets, wash cars, etc… Clean water is a vanishing resource and should be treated as such.
Principle - Treat the water as the precious valuable & limited resource that it is.
Limit the disruption of natural systems existing on the sites of the projects in which we are involved. The biggest disrupters are landscaping and parking. This might also suggest that buildings could be more stories with smaller footprints.
Limit the addition of toxic materials into the project sites during construction and during occupancy. Post construction this involves materials for landscape maintenance, fertilizers, pest control and thinks that leak from automobiles.
Limit the use of materials on the ground in forms that cannot be fully absorbed and processed by the flora and fauna of the site. Thinks that help grass to grow may be fine, but most of what is sprayed on lawns does not get absorbed and instead runs off to cause problems in lakes and rivers.
Control storm water run-off from the site which spreads toxins into the larger environment.
Our work is necessarily invasive to the environment. We work to limit the negative impacts and to heal existing natural ecosystems.
Principle - Treat earth as the precious valuable & limited resource that it is.
"Cradle-to-Cradle" - This concept advocates that things be designed and constructed so that at the end of their useful life they can be disassembled and parts re-used in same or higher quality applications. This differs from current re-cycling which is really down-cycling where materials are reused in lower grade products. This Concept is described in detail in a book by the same name written by McDonough & Braugnart.
In our work we will be looking at buildings and their related issues in terms of their entire lifecycle as well as their first costs and impacts
Re-cycling and up-cycling
We try to keep in mind the true cost of our constructs and make decisions that minimize this cost.
principle - Borrow resources from the natural system, use them carefully, realizing that they will eventually be re-used or returned to nature; create food not waste.
First, not-so-big, a concept championed by Sarah Susanka in a number of books, advocates a lifestyle / design approach that focuses on quality, not quantity. That is, sacrifices in size and quantity can leave room in construction budgets for increases in quality. The end result is buildings of greater beauty and higher functionality. Big is overrated. We apply these principles to our work as we can.
Create buildings intelligently with an eye for quality. In trying to solve large and difficult problems, one must begin with baby steps.
Principle - Value quality over quantity.
Proven Technology, Materials & Methods
We use existing, proven technologies, materials & methods where possible, though sometimes combined in new ways. We are pushing the envelope and expect to incorporate innovations into the process as well. Most successful innovation comes from nudging existing art and not from introducing totally new work. We are following this path.
A building should function effortlessly and outside of the consciousness of daily life. The technologies that provide comfort should not require special attention of the occupants once the parameters have been set. No lifestyle changes are anticipated by the occupants of our buildings. You are free to live your life.
Principle - Lifestyle changes not required.
Comfort / Health
In architectual terms, comfortresults from the interplay of, temperature, humidity, air quality, air movement & light intensity and other human factors.
Principle - Prime directive; improve health safety & welfare.
A Work In Progress
In my opinion, we are at the very beginning of the 2nd industrial era. In this era, we will reach the stars. This work is part of a natural progression. Even Stockbridge Green is a work in progress; a proactive architectural practice. Part of a process of research, creation, production which is expected to continue into the future. The magic box approach is the first tangible to come out of the process.
How do you eat and elephant? Answer - one bite at a time. Big problems take a long time to solve and are often solved incrementally. Start small, but start.