There is a lot that goes into a new sustainability project. And, as part of a series on principles of sustainable design, we will be providing an overview of what goes into such projects. From the initial idea through the design and then finally to construction, sustainably designed buildings take a lot of planning. Part of that planning is site optimization. Here are some of the key components of site optimization in sustainable design:


Site Optimization: Location

●        Reuse and retrofit. To start out on the right foot in site optimization, it’s important to consider the alternatives to building new on undisturbed land. When possible, opt for retrofitting existing buildings or selecting disturbed or otherwise previously used land for new construction.

●        Building orientation. Sometimes, simply changing the building orientation can make an impact on sustainability. It’s important to consider solar energy opportunities, safety considerations, and the availability of natural daylight to help reduce future energy costs.

●        Walkability. If your site is located in an urban setting, an important part of optimizing for sustainability is through walkability. Depending on the purpose of the building, look for nearby businesses and residential areas that would complement your planned design. Consider the sidewalks, space and design of parking lots, etc. as you design for walkability.

●        Transportation. Closely tied to walkability is transportation in general. Perhaps, due to your location, you will be more concerned with public transportation or traditional vehicle commuting. Ideally, for fully optimizing your site to high sustainability standards, you ought to focus on alternatives to traditional commuting. Public transportation has been greatly improving in cities across the nation, and people are looking for this option more and more as they consider where they live and work. As you decide on where your site will be, keep these transportation methods in mind.

●        Security. Although easily forgotten when planning for sustainable design, the security of a site is incredibly important. Pay attention to the surrounding area and be sure to consider all your security options. Look at access roads, parking, barriers, lighting, and activity in the neighborhood or surrounding area. Keep in mind that lighting may not solve a security problem, and could potentially be a hindrance to both safety and sustainability.


Site Optimization: Environment

●        Landscaping. As more than simple beautification of an area, landscaping has an enormous impact on sustainability. From controlling erosion to providing shade for the building, site optimization relies a lot on landscaping. Additionally, it will be important to plan accordingly to the natural landscape and hopefully eliminating or reducing the need for irrigation. Consider the possibility of a green roof as part of your project and thus greatly increase the sustainability of your building.

●        Runoff. Storm runoff can be a problem. As you work on site optimization for sustainability, consider solutions to runoff. Appropriate landscaping and green roofs as mentioned above will help, as will site optimization. Using rainwater cisterns, vegetated depressions or constructed wetlands where needed will help greatly.

●        Wildlife. Depending on your location and the size of your project, there will be serious wildlife considerations to make. For large-scale projects, it will be important to incorporate wildlife corridors that allow for undisturbed movement. Minimize habitat disturbance as much as possible and incorporate native plants to improve sustainability.


Sustainability is one of our core values here at Gausman & Moore. We look at each element of the design process, whether simply regarding plumbing or lighting, or on a larger scale through collaborations or commissioning. Learn more about the Gausman & Moore dedication to sustainability here.