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Wrigley Hall is home to ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability and features several elements of sustainable design.
Wrigley Hall is home to ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability and features several elements of sustainable design.

The first thing that many people picture when they hear the word “city” is a glittering, glass-and-metal skyline. While cities are many things, they always include a collection of buildings.

Houses, office parks, skyscrapers, restaurants – the urban environment is a study in construction lined up and framed against the sky. It makes sense, then, that a key step toward creating a more sustainable city might be to create more sustainable buildings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines sustainable building as “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.”

A number of researchers at Arizona State University have turned their attention to making buildings more sustainable – both environmentally and for human health. They are figuring out how to improve the design of buildings in order to save energy, use materials with less negative impact and get one step closer to that elusive “sustainable” label.

Start with efficiency

Kristen Parrish, assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, thinks energy efficiency is one of the best ways to make buildings more sustainable. It is the cheapest and easiest tool in the sustainability shed and it humanizes the problem of energy consumption by putting a more positive spin on it – “efficiency” and “savings” are more palatable to people than “sacrifices.”

T. Agami Reddy, a professor in ASU’s Design School and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, says that energy efficient buildings are also referred to as “green buildings.” Read more