The Principles of Design that Promote Environmental Sustainability in Construction and Throughout a Building’s Life Cycle

Modern building design and construction place a greater emphasis on sustainability. Not only do sustainable buildings help protect the environment, but they also help save on operating costs and keep the building’s occupants safe, healthy, and comfortable. And windows and doors play a big role in this, too.

Here’s a look at sustainable design and building practices as a whole, along with how energy efficient windows and doors help make buildings greener.


Since building construction affects the environment, the economy, and society, the field of sustainable design works to find a balance to meet the needs of all three areas.

Sustainable design aims to:

  • Prevent environmental degradation;
  • Reduce the depletion of resources such as land, water, energy, and raw materials;
  • Build safe, productive, livable, and comfortable environments; and,
  • Reduce negative impacts on the environment, economy, and society.

Sustainable design concepts are used in both new building construction and through retrofitting existing buildings.


The six principles of sustainable building design include:

      1. Optimize Site Potential

The first step in designing a sustainable building is selecting the proper site. This site selection can also include rehabilitating existing buildings.

The effects of a site’s location, orientation, and landscaping on energy consumption, local ecosystems, and transportation are taken into consideration. These include parking, access roads, vehicle barriers, perimeter lighting, treatment/control of storm-water runoff, and supporting local plants and wildlife in the landscape design.

       2. Optimize Energy Use

Energy efficiency is an important part of sustainable building design. Improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings is essential for reducing the demand and dependence on non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels.

Sustainable building designs reduce energy consumption while relying more on renewable resources.

        3. Protect and Conserve Water

Since fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource throughout most of the world, protecting freshwater sources is an environmental responsibility of sustainable building developers.

Sustainable building design aims to reduce storm-water runoff that can contaminate freshwater sources by limiting impervious surfaces. This field of design also strives to use water efficiently and reuse or recycle water onsite whenever possible.

       4. Optimize Building Space and Material Use

A sustainable building is designed and operates to use and reuse materials in the most productive way throughout its life cycle. Along with maximizing the value of materials, sustainable design also conserves resources and prevents pollution.

The environmentally preferable non-toxic materials used in sustainable buildings also prevent negative impacts on human health, safety, and the environment.

       5. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality

The indoor environmental quality of a building affects the health, comfort, productivity, and overall wellbeing of its occupants. Sustainable buildings have proper ventilation and moisture control while maximizing daylighting, optimizing acoustic performance, and allowing for occupant control of lighting and temperature.

These buildings also avoid the use of materials with high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions.

     6. Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Accounting for a building’s operational and maintenance needs during the design phase will help:

  • Prevent system failures;
  • Reduce energy and resource costs;
  • Improve working environments; and
  • Increase productivity.

Sustainable building designers often include building operators and maintenance workers in the design process. And building operators will then hire and train skilled maintenance workers to operate these high-performance buildings.

To help building operators ensure sustainable operations, designers can suggest materials and systems that will:

  • Include metering to track the progress of sustainability goals—e.g., reducing energy and water consumption;
  • Simplify and reduce maintenance requirements;
  • Require less water, energy, and toxic chemicals and cleaners to maintain; and
  • Be cost-effective, and reduce life-cycle costs.


Energy efficient doors and windows can help improve a building’s energy performance while maintaining interior comfort in every season.

Well-sealed, Energy Star-certified windows use spacer systems to insulate the windows better, reduce condensation, and keep moisture out. These windows also have glass coatings that help keep warm air in during the winter and heat out in the summer.


What are Green Buildings?

Green buildings have minimal impact on the environment, ideally preserving the surrounding habitat, and ensuring the most efficient use of land, water, energy, and resources.

A green (sustainable) building’s structure and processes are environmentally responsible and efficient with the use of resources throughout the building’s life cycle—siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.


An energy efficient building controls the air, heat, and moisture that circulate in the building to maintain the health, safety, and comfort of the building’s occupants.

To make a building energy efficient, you can:

  • Do an energy audit;
  • Improve insulation throughout (e.g., in the basement, walls, crawlspace, and attic);
  • Use a high-efficiency heating system (Energy Star rated);
  • Use a high-efficiency hot water heating system;
  • Install low-flow faucets and shower heads;
  • Install energy efficient lighting;
  • Create an airtight building envelope with proper air sealing and weather stripping;
  • Install adequate ventilation systems.

Along with reducing pollution, depending less on fossil fuels, and maintaining the environment, designing green buildings also helps to reduce costs and improve the quality of life for the building’s occupants. A bit of work can go a long way when it comes to taking care of our health and our planet.