Sustainability Is The Key To Future-proof Design


By Malika Junaid

As an architect, I have a special passion for sustainable design & its many benefits. This is why I encourage my clients to embrace green living and seek sustainable opportunities that can complement & enhance their lifestyles.

There are 4 common elements in sustainable design features of a residence which I’ve used in my projects:

  1. Site Evaluation

To achieve high sustainability, you need a great plan. This is why site evaluations are so important. By having a professional architect assess your property, you can identify strong opportunities to maximize your home’s “greenness”.

For example, studying the topography of your property can help your architect make your home, work with the landscape, not against it. Site evaluations can also help find the areas with highest sun exposure for capturing most light & enhancing indoor illumination.

  1. Energy Efficiency

A combination of strategies to lower energy consumption can include building a home in the right orientation, choosing tinted or insulated windows, selecting energy efficient appliances, & even installing renewable energy sources, like solar panels.

The benefits are so well-known now that both federal & state governments in USA are offering tax incentives for it.

I’ve found that whole-house dehumidifiers are also excellent tools for saving energy. High humidity makes the air feel warmer, thereby requiring more cooling to compensate and can significantly minimize your air conditioning needs in the summer, thus lowering your energy bills.

  1. Water Efficiency

As temperatures rise around the globe, water is becoming scarcer. This has made saving water a prime concern, especially in dry California.

Fortunately, a variety of systems are available for harvesting, recycling & treating the water that is used in your home. I’ve used many different kinds, each with their own purpose and benefits:

  • Dual-purpose rainwater harvesting systems can both dissipate stormwater & redirect recycled water to your laundry system or landscaping
  • Gray water recycling systems collect mostly clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines etc., reusing them in toilets & landscaping
  • Home water filtration systems purify tap water by removing harmful pollutants.
  • Hydronic heating systems & aluminum-clad subfloor radiant heating (e.g.: Warmboards) are often more energy efficient than forced-air heating.

Efficient landscape design, location-based weather forecast irrigation systems etc. can also have a big impact on water usage. If your property is in the hills, using natural slopes & added irrigation canals will help distribute rainwater over the yard, reducing the need to water the lawn & plants.

  1. Material Selection

Green building is all about choosing the right materials. An experienced architect can help choose building materials that are non-toxic & environmentally friendly.

A green material will be at least one of the following: free of harmful chemicals, crafted from renewable resources, recycled, or recyclable. Examples include bamboo wood flooring & concrete alternatives like “hempcrete”.

If your project involves demolishing existing structures, you should aim to re-use some of the materials. I personally love respecting the history of a property by giving its old materials new life in a modern design, such as reusing your home’s old bricks to create an industrial-style kitchen backsplash or make a rustic accent wall out of reclaimed wood. The possibilities are endless, it just takes some creativity.


There’s more to sustainable design than just the 4 domains listed above. Much of it requires thinking outside the box, finding creative ways to take advantage of the unique opportunities each project presents. This is personally my favorite part of designing sustainable homes!

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