I have a problem with architects, writers, and marketers who think that sustainable design is new. I just read an article in a local journal, the Sussex County Journal, entitled “The Art of Building” that contains a number of misconceptions about sustainability. First, the writer states that the architect Richard Pedranti is a “certified LEED consultant.” As we in the profession know, buildings are LEED certified and people are accredited LEED professionals.

The second mistake the author makes is stating that passive design was conceived in the 1970s in North America. What about the ancient Egyptians who built their mud homes with interior courtyards—passive design techniques. The thick mud walls helped keep the interiors cool, and the courtyards brought natural light into house. What about using a wind tower to naturally cool a building without the need for any mechanically powered device, again a passive design concept used in ancient Egyptian times. There are many more examples, but I think I made my point.

The writer continues with more incorrect data: “Passive buildings are airtight but are kept fresh by a ventilation fan.” Wrong again. This implies that there are no operable windows; passive design relies on natural breezes to aid ventilation. The article also makes reference to “net zero” energy usage, but does not define what that actually means. This term has been recently defined by the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Check out my blog post on this topic.

I have to give the architect, Richard Pedranti, credit for saying that “building science is a critical component that is lacking in traditional architecture education.” He is spot on. Architects need to learn more about building science concepts, which will help make their beautiful and thoughtful designs environmental friendly.