Sustainable Arizona House

Abstract

A hot-button topic at Northeastern University is the “go-green” phenomenon, which raises questions regarding how we treat the world in which we live. Although sustainability is an issue has global implications, it is nonetheless one that can be confronted at the micro-scale. Currently, the construction and maintenance of our buildings is accountable for 48% of global carbon dioxide emissions. This includes not only the heating and cooling costs and the embodied energy released by moving materials to a site, but also the performance of those materials once the building is finished. As architecture students, we realize that the onus is on us to make choices to ensure that our buildings can be part of a future, rather than the ruins of a past. A recent Environmental Systems class began to show us ways to make these environmentally conscious choices throughout the design process. During the semester we faced weekly challenges regarding the design of the different systems of a “sustainable” house, sited in Phoenix, Arizona. The final investigation was the use of energy-modeling simulations, which allow the architect to understand the effectiveness of their design, and help guide decisions made regarding material choices and HVAC systems. Despite only an experimentation with these programs, the results were promising and verified that the house functioned as intended. I believe a longer exposure to energy simulators such as DesignBuilder would result in significantly more sustainable designs, not only in my work, but for the entire Northeastern Architecture program altogether.