When I used to give lectures on sustainability, I would open with a slide of Fallingwater. Why? That house leaks like a sieve. It is cold in the winter and it is hot and humid in the summer, and it costs a fortune to run and maintain. But it is sustainable because it is so beautiful, we love it and will not allow it to be thrown away. I never want my students to forget beauty and enrichment is as important as energy conservation.
~ Eddie Jones

Sustainability Design

The DTS Project House design and execution does not include any design choices made soley for sustainability, energy conservation, or a “green” cause. Although individual decisions, materials, and devices can greatly contribute to a building’s energy performance, environmental impact, and thus sustainability, in the end these decisions, materials, and devices must be evaluated for their multi-faceted contributions to the architectural experience and not soley for their isolated contributions to sustainability. Sustainability is only one among the many aspects that make for significant architecture, and thus sustainability cannot be segregated from the architecture in such a way that one can speak of sustainable architecture – one can only speak of architecture.

Although each design decision and choice must ultimately be evaluated for multiple facets and contributions, it is still necessary and useful to evaluate how each decision contribites or detracts from the singular focus of sustainability. It is instructive and valuable to the design process to pull apart the design and isolate singular strategies, aspects, and elements for evaulation based upon a single particular focus. A singular focused evaluation process is effectively mandated by the various green rating systems and programs.

Sometimes in isolation a design choice or product might be judged very sustainable but not contribute to the sustainablibility of the whole. And then sometimes a product might not be judged significantly sustainable in isolation but massively contribute to the sustainability of the whole. After pulling apart the various design elements to be evaluated in isolation they must be re-assembled and re-synthetizied into an integrated whole so that in the implemented building sustainability is never sensed or experienced as separate and apart from an integrated architectural experience.

The DTS design process must account for how general strategies, material choices, and specific devices and products will contribute to making the architecture and contribute to various aspects of sustainability. The design process must address how the building will operate, how it will grow and maintain, and how it will adapt to changing parameters over time. The design process must consider how the design and experience affect the physical, mental, and emotional well being of its inhabitants and visitors. The design process must also navigate the sometimes contradictory goals among sustainability, green design, and energy usuage as there is no design decision that equally and positively aligns with all relevant objectives of sustainability, green design, and efficient energy consumption. Sustainability design is priortizing and reconciling these various aims in the context of an architectural whole.

The DTS Project House intends to be sustainable because it is good architecture instead of attempting to be good architecture because it is sustainable. The DTS House is not intended to be an architectural lecture on sustainability. If the DTS House achieves it’s goals it will not be about sustainability, it will be sustainable.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.
~Paulo Coelho

Sustainability Design Process

The content and quality of the sustainability design outcomes are determined by the clarity of the sustainability goals, the makeup and expertise of the design team, the organization of the design process, and the scope and breadth of research informing the design process. The sustainability goals help determine the design process, those involved in the design process, and the research focus.

Sustainability Goals

The goals for the sustainability design help establish the design process to be implemented, who is part of this process, the research required, and the possible design outcomes. The clarity of the sustainability design goals and design intent determine the clarity of the design outcome and the architectural achievement. Confused goals and design intentions produce confused design results and a less powerful architectural experience.

General sustainability goals are expressive of how architecture and sustainability are intimately intertwined, and more specific goals include compliance with LEED Platinum and Los Angeles City Green Building Code Tier 1 requirements. 

Sustainability design goals are not determined by the DTS Project House design process or edited to include only what is thought possible. It is critical instead that the goals determine the DTS Project House design process and the goals determine what design is possible.     

Project Team

The DTS project team is both determined by the sustainability design process and shapes the sustainability design process. The design team does not determine the sustainability goals but is assembled to determine how best to implement the goals. It is important to always keep a clear distinction between what is a goal and intention and what is an implementation. The project team’s expertise must be in implementation.     

The project team members were all engaged for their ability to provide multiple areas of expertise within their disciplines including differing levels of sustainability design expertise depending on the discipline. The DTS Project House design and consultant team consists of multiple LEED accredited professionals including the Landscape Architect and Lighting Designer, a LEED AP Mechanical Engineer specializing in innovative and alternative engineering, a Certified Irrigation Designer, and a Sustainability Consultant accredited for  LEED Homes.

The Project Team was involved in Schematic Design, LEED planning, energy and envelope systems analysis and design, design development, contract documents, and will continue to be involved in the construction and commissioning. An all-day Design Charrette was conducted with Team Members at Project commencement.


The constant innovations in “green” technologies and products in real time makes a research effort focused on sustainability necessary and critical to the overall design and construction process. The DTS research effort focused on sustainability includes investigations of green  design strategies, technologies, materials and building systems, products and devices, evaluation techniques, and compliance standards. The research is focused on how the DTS Project House is designed and constructed and not intended to inform attitudes and values related to the need for sustainability which the sustainability goals already presupposes.  

Research includes evaluating known approaches, technologies, and products for their data driven metrics and alignment with the sustainability goals. Research includes exposure to unknown innovations related to sustainability. Research includes looking for approaches, technologies, and products to implement the specific sustainability goals and comply with specific code and program compliance standards. As one of the general sustainability goals is to incorporate promising “innovations” in order to test and evaluate their efficacy and make them know to a wider public, research includes exposure to more experimental and speculative areas of development.  

Research specific to sustainability is conducted through extensive use of the internet; attending trade shows, product launches, and showcases; reading trade journals and white papers; participation on crowd funding websites; and field trips to showrooms, installations, and buildings. Although there are now numerous websites, journals, and trade shows focused on every aspect of green building, sustainability concerns are now so intertwined with all aspects of design and building it is nearly impossible to not increase your useful knowledge related to sustainability when investigating any material and product or attending trade shows focused on any topic.        

Sustainability is one area where it is critical to not let the research effort paralyze necessary decision making and in turn paralyze the design and construction process. Both the temptation to become singularly focused on data driven compliance outcomes and the never ending improvement and innovation in green technologies makes it difficult to suspend research and make necessary commitments. Often, between the time a green technology or product is specified and the time it is installed and made operable, it is supplated by a newer and improved version with better data or supplated with a more innovative alternative. Thus, balancing the need to build in the present and anticipate the future is a critical aspect of sustainability research.   

Research in the sustainability realm can easily cause means and ends to be confused. The sheer amount of information, data, and options can overwhelm the purposes of research. It is imperative to remember that research’s purpose is to identify the appropriate means to achieve the sustainability goals, research’s purpose is not to define or alter the sustainability goals. The means will be determined by research informed by art and science, but the ends are chiefly determined by values which this focused research cannot inform.

It is also critical that sustainability research be approached and evaluated with skepticism as the research reveals many differing, equally expert opinions. Contrary to what many would try to convince you, many aspects of sustainability are not and cannot be “settled science” because they are values and not science based  This does not mean that any particular information should be rejected, but it does mean that no research should be accepted at face value and should be evaluated with common sense and an accounting for the known biases of the source. Research should not just confirm of our own biases, but provide competing viewpoints, technologies, and products from which we can make informed choices to most appropriately manifest the DTS Project House’s sustainability goals.       

In creating a particular future, we inadvertently close others down. The sustainability crisis, therefore, is the aggregation of our species’ myriad defuturing choices, when experienced in their inseparable, overwhelming totality.
~Jonathan Chapman

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