This page is about the issues that we are tackling in our attempt to make this home a truly sustainable building, and to fulfill the criteria of the Living Building Challenge.
So what are we dealing with here?
A truly sustainable building really means one that costs the planet nothing, absolutely nothing, during its construction, during its use, and during its removal. Given that we are building buildings to last for hundreds of years, that last one is not a significant issue for us. Its the first two that are important.
Starting with construction, what does this mean? It means:
- To use materials whose production causes no environmental pollution and uses no more energy than can be gathered from sustainable sources during the life cycle of that material and the land area originally occupied by that material.
- To use processes that cause no pollution.
- To produce no waste that isnt biodegradable.
Looking at use of the building, what does it mean? It means designing the building so that:
- It uses no more energy than can be gathered from renewable sources from the earth area it and its associated land occupies.
- It uses no more water than can be gathered from rainfall landing on its plot area, and discharges no contaminated water, and no water outside of its plot area.
- It produces no environmental pollution as a result its natural degradation, and wear and tear.
So how do we go about doing this with a renovation of a New York townhouse?
Firstly, we have an existing structure, some of which is compatible with the needs of the finished building, and some of which is not. That means we have to find a way to remove the things we dont want, without putting them all in a hole in the ground. What does this mean?
- We have to remove hazardous materials and process them to eliminate the hazard so that nobody in the future has to come along and do it for us.
- We have to remove and arrange for recycling all materials and items that can be reused in their current form.
- We have to remove and arrange for processing all items that cannot be used in their current form.
Secondly, we have a tall thin building that has a very small ground area in relationship to its habitable space. This means that we have to gather all our energy and water demands and process all our waste within the confines of the building. Click on the Water, Energy, and Waste links below to follow up on these in more detail.
Thirdly, we have to use materials in our reconstruction, that come from sustainable sources, cause no pollution in their production and use, and consume no more power than can be provided from sustainable sources. For more information on this, click on the Materials link below.