We need to mimic nature and create environments as whole systems of interrelated parts. The materials we use for building and finishing are part of this whole network of systems that combine together to create healthy home and work spaces.
Energy systems run lights, water, heating and appliances. The material we use to create those parts also affect the amount of energy required to run the system. Solar panels, tubes and skylights end up saving energy and money down the road. Water purification systems save water and money in water purchase. Insulation and updated technologies improve the heating efficiency of the home which in turn saves money. Innovative new system designs are enhancing the look of the home while improving costs.
The flooring material we select should be chosen not only because it looks good and wears well but because it retains heat better than other materials, or is made from a recycled material. Cork holds more heat than tile. Tile can be made of recycled material. Bamboo is a renewable resource. Thinking of the flooring as part of the whole system can again save money, improve performance, and environmental impact.
Sustainable design and building means looking at projects as whole systems of design, landscape, building orientation, and materials that interrelate. The materials we choose, how they are produced, how we get them to the site, what we do with the waste– these decisions all impact our network of relationships.
Buy recycled. Buy natural. Use less toxic material. Think of each piece as a part of the whole–in design, look, performance, and environmental impact. It matters to all us.