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Green Building Starts with Land Planning and Urban Design

October 22nd, 2010

Sustainability has become the catch-all word for projects pursuing some level of green building certification.  This is especially true for projects attempting to gain entitlements from municipalities, or receive some kind of special funding geared toward green building practices.  Yet, the word sustainable continues to be one of the most poorly defined words in the English language.  Does it only mean that proposed buildings within a project meet some sort of criteria (LEED® or otherwise) that designate them as “green”?  Or, is there a more elusive, perhaps more encompassing definition to the term sustainability.

At BartonPartners, we view sustainability more holistically, and while we are continuing to polish our expertise in specific green building technologies such as utilizing SIPs paneling in place of conventional framing, specifying high efficiency HVAC systems, we believe that sustainability has just as much to do with lifestyle.  Through a fully integrated planning, urban design, landscape, and architectural design process, we strive to create projects that are mixed use and/or oriented to encourage pedestrian activity, while simultaneously accommodating the needs of modern everyday life. While individual buildings within a project might not quite reach (or even pursue) green building certification, if the end users of the project use their cars less and walk more, then the project is inherently more sustainable.

Indeed, to be truly sustainable is to have lifestyle choices with specific regard to transport­ation and connect­ivity, whether by car, bus, train, or foot. Much of today’s con­temp­orary sub­urban de­velop­ments lack these choices, and offer zero connect­ivity between uses.  Placing a “green building” whether certified or not, in the middle of this morass seems somewhat counterintuitive.