By LINSEY STONCHUS
The luxury industry recently has been more conscious of the planet, with sustainability making it into the ethos of numerous brands.
Luxury homes are no exception – everyone from interior designers to architects, and their respective clients – are demanding a more sustainable way of living.
“Architects and designers are becoming more and more comfortable with [sustainability],” said Duan Tran, partner at KAA Design Group. “Homes are becoming much more thoughtfully designed and less impactful on the environment and everything else that goes along with it.”
California-based KAA Design Group prioritizes both overall wellness and sustainability as it considers its architecture projects.
More than ethical
In some regions, incorporating eco-friendly design is not just ethical – it is legal. California, for instance, has among the strictest regulations in terms of environmental consciousness.
“We’ve seen that the government regulations are getting tighter and more thoughtful in terms of ensuring that we’re designing homes that are sustainable and responsible moving forward,” Mr. Tran said.
“A lot of this has to do with things that relate to water conservation measures, which relate to the drought issues that we have here in California,” he said. “Also, they’re making sure that these homes are net-zero energy homes.”
Energy conversion is one of the most frequent forms of sustainability, with tactics that include alternative forms of energy and simply, smarter architectural design that organically minimizes the need for heating or cooling.
KAA Design incorporates a handful of these ideas in many of its projects.
In terms of clever design, one practice is to design a home with passive ventilation. Essentially, windows are placed on either side of a room, which creates a natural cross-ventilation and reduces the need for air conditioning.
Similarly, deep overhangs from the exterior provide shade and minimize the reach of the sun, further keeping a space cool.
Looking at greener forms of energy, solar is often the go-to in California, which is ideal, of course, because of its abundance of sun, but also because many new homes feature flat roofs, making them perfect for solar panels.
Roofs at a 15-degree angle, specifically, maximize solar energy.
Geothermal, too, is another alternative energy source that uses the Earth itself to both heat and cool, rather than energy-consuming mechanical equipment.
Sustainability, however, goes beyond energy.
Looking at natural materials, using FSC-certified wood ensures that the tree is sustainably grown and harvested.
Also, when planning a garden, including native plants, instead of those not natural to the surroundings. This is better for the local ecology and easier to maintain.
ETHICAL LIVING IS a no brainer, considering the environmental benefits of sustainable design, renewable energy and native plants, along with the wellness benefits that a natural home provides.
Mr. Tran describes the beauty of a project of his, Tower Grove Drive, which featured a vegetated roof made of native succulents and terraces of outdoor living space to match the hillside placement of the home.
“In the case of Tower Grove, the project was uniquely sited because it was along a hillside,” Mr. Tran said.
“When we first started the project, we fundamentally wanted to create a house that was of the site of the hill and not necessarily on top of the hill,” he said. “It allowed us the opportunity to bring the garden from the hill up onto and through the house.
“The idea of having a vegetated roof was an extension of bringing the landscape through the house so that the house felt really connected and contextual to the site – it didn’t feel alien.”
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