Ecological Made Economical. Adia


At Adia, we’re proud to be a company that cares about the environment. We don’t just say that for marketing. We live by it.

We’ve discovered that when you live green, you save green. Environmentally-friendly designs save energy, save waste, and ultimately save money. Harmony with nature makes people happy and healthy.

Our approach to environmental design is different from most. There’s a lot of talk these days about high-tech ways to save or produce energy. Everyone’s eager to sell a new contraption. But time and time again, we’ve found that the best ways to save energy and save the environment are the most natural ways.

Green Design vs. Green Decoration

You won’t see high-tech gadgets on most of our designs; in fact, you might not see any striking “green” features at all. That’s because we believe in environmental design, not environmental decoration. For us, environmental consciousness is not an afterthought; it’s an integral part of our design process from the beginning. Our goal is not that our designs would look green, but that they would be green.

True environmental design requires natural thinking from the start. The style and material palette of the building evolve within the context of the particular site, climate, and culture. The shape and orientation of the building accentuates solar patterns, prevailing breezes, site vegetation, and watershed. Materials are chosen strategically for their natural capabilities to capture or resist heat, to resist or retain moisture, to reflect or absorb natural light, etc. Windows are placed for optimum light, view, and ventilation. Nothing is left to chance.

All of our designs have “invisible” eco-friendly elements at work as well: space-saving floor plans that reduce the amount of building; waste-reducing construction drawings and building dimensions; super-insulation within the walls and roof to conserve energy; rain catchment systems to collect and recycle water. These are just a few examples of the many ways we take care of our environment and our clients at the same time.

Smart + Small

Nothing is more natural than nature undisturbed. Though it sounds bad for business, we believe that the most eco-friendly type of building is not building. Our approach is always to build as little as possible to fulfill the necessary functions and requirements. Less building equals less material, less construction time, less space to heat and cool, lower taxes: ultimately, a lot less money. Less material and less space to heat and cool means less impact on the environment.

This does not mean we design shacks and shabby spaces. It means we design smart. We make the most of everything and create spectacular spaces with minimal square footage. That’s where the creativity and innovation come in.

Insulation, Insulation, Insulation

Have you ever calculated how much you spend on heating and cooling a building? Many people in the U.S. spend $400+ per month heating/cooling their home. That’s almost $5,000 per year, or $150,000 over 30 years! And if energy costs keep rising, who knows what the cost will be in a few years.

For new construction, the best thing you can do to avoid this is to insulate wisely and generously. Conserving energy is much cheaper and more efficient than creating energy. Unfortunately, since most homes in the U.S. are built for speculation where lowest first cost is king, energy-saving measures like better insulation are usually skipped. Building codes require minimal insulation, and since insulation is “invisible,” it doesn’t increase sales appeal like a granite countertop or $10,000 cash allowance.

We like to super-insulate our buildings and make a habit of also insulating the interior walls, though such practices are not required by codes. The insulated interior walls are important because they allow for one room (e.g., bedroom) to retain the heat/cool with a localized heater/fan, even if the rest of the building is unconditioned at the time.

Tradition vs. Technology

Many people think that green homes should look different than traditional homes. They expect that green homes should have unique forms, non-traditional materials, and lots of high-tech functions—like the homes they see in magazines. But if you think about it, traditional vernacular homes evolved over hundreds and thousands of years and represent centuries' worth of innovations and insight in how to create the best response for a certain climate/region. Without electricity, cultures had to learn how to build homes that afforded light, heat, and cooling naturally. To toss out tradition without understanding the reasons for it is a scary thing.

Most of our projects are not "high-tech." We are not against technology, but we realize that many budgets cannot afford it—and that almost always, the natural way is the best way. Over years of practice, research, and consultation with many experts and designers, we have learned that technology is not always as powerful or positive in the long term as it seems. For instance, though solar panel technology is promising, what many people do not realize is that solar panels often break before they’ve paid for themselves in energy savings, and that the amount of energy and resources required to manufacture solar panels and battery storage systems is immense. Money is not the only problem. Some “new” manufactured materials have been found to contain or emit elements which are harmful to breathe; some are surprisingly combustible or extra-susceptible to mold. A few materials and modern technologies have even been implicated as possible causes of cancer.

It will take decades for scientists to understand all the long-term effects of new products, materials, and technologies. In the meantime all we can go by is research, experience, and common sense. We do for our clients as we would do for ourselves, and as we believe is best for the earth.

What About LEED?

We applaud the efforts and intentions of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and believe it serves a purpose to increase consciousness of environmental practices in the building industry. We follow many similar guidelines because we believe them to be integral to good design, and have been following them since before the USGBC's LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) even existed. Many of our designers are LEED certified. However, we do not endorse LEED or seek LEED certification for any of our buildings unless specifically requested by a client. We realize this is contrary to most design firms, but we feel strongly about this.

Our feeling is that LEED guidelines are focused on how to mend a broken system, while at Adia our interest is in developing new systems. Whereas LEED guidelines are beneficial and enlightening in average circumstances, our work typically deals in extreme scenarios. As a city building inspector once told us: “the energy codes are for getting the hogs out of the wild and into the pen. You’ve already slaughtered the hogs and taken home the bacon.”

Our primary resentment against LEED is the harm we’ve seen it do to good, truly eco-friendly design. We have watched architects make changes to their designs that were worse for the environment or worse for their client in an effort to earn enough points for LEED certification. We’ve seen them add useless additions to the buildings for the sake of points. If you socialize with architects, you’ll hear many of them laugh about the silly loops they’ve jumped through to get LEED certification, and point out ironies of how following the letter of the law resulted in a product that contradicted the heart and intention of the law. LEED's principles are good and benefit many buildings, but the LEED certification process often leads to compromises and unnecessary costs.

As with any powerful rule-making body, we also recognize the potential for political and profit-driven biases with the USGBC, especially as a private non-governmental organization. Over the years, building codes have been influenced and manipulated by donations and lobbying efforts from material manufacturers, trade unions, etc. What began as an attempt to make safe buildings is now a battlefield for powerful interests hoping to see their product become the new required standard. We fear the same could happen with the USGBC/LEED program.

As it is, we follow many LEED guidelines and principles for sustainable design, but do not participate in LEED certification. We believe in doing what’s best for the earth and for our clients, regardless of whether or not we are applauded. We believe that if a building is green, it’s green—with or without a denomination. We work very hard to keep costs as low as possible for our clients. The LEED certification process can add significant cost for the client, making our efforts at economy vain.

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