at Donald Aitken Associates, have dedicated our lives to helping individuals
and companies, communities and cities, states and nations, fulfill
their missions and goals through policies and buildings that are in
harmony and balance with the Earth's natural systems. We believe that
we are, thus, contributing to sustainability in the truest sense,
while enhancing the quality of life of our clients and the strength
and stability of their cultural and economic support systems.
by Donald Aitken Associates
The benefits of retaining the LEED™ Accredited Professionals of Donald Aitken Associates as consultants will depend, of course, on the nature and goals of your project. It will also rest on your own understanding of, and enthusiasm for, sustainability. The following two sections can help you determine your interest. And, for idea of what we can do by what we have done, read our bios (the buttons are on your left.) Or skip directly to the design services we offer.
is designing for sustainability?
is usually defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without
compromising the needs of future generations. Donald Aitken Associates
recognizes that "needs" remains undefined and could be interpreted as
either the barest of life-support essentials or profligate waste by
affluent societies. We, therefore, define sustainability on the basis
of passing the integrity of essential natural ecosystems on to future
generations, since all economies and human societies depend directly
upon healthy ecological resources. Included in our aims is the re-vitalization
of natural systems for our living environment in a framework in which
humans are totally integrated and non-disruptive. Our designs and policies
seek to be simultaneously beneficial to natural habitats, to all life
support systems, and to human habitats and economies. We draw for our
resources and energy systems upon the Earth's ever-replenished (renewable)
do I need to know about the concepts of "sustainability" in order to
include them in my project?
not a lot more than logic tells you. For example, the United States
has less than 4% of its original native forestland left. Clear-cutting
has scarred hillsides in many forests. Yet many American builders still
think they should be able to build poor quality wood frame homes that
last 30 years or so and then will be torn down and dumped in landfills,
so that new homes can be built on the same sites, wasting precious resources
and trees! Profitable for builders, stimulating for the economy, and
devastating to the environment. Wood is a wonderful resource. Properly
designed wooden buildings can last for centuries, and the wood from
demolitions can build new buildings. There is also profit in building
for durability and in reusing building materials. If this is all obvious
to you, then you understand one of the basic principles of "sustainability"
applied to residential construction methods and materials.
of fossil fuels to provide for everything from comfort and light in
buildings to driving inefficient vehicles is, according to the overwhelming
majority of responsible climate scientists, and to the consternation
of the major insurance companies in the world, apparently changing our
climate in environmentally and economically destructive ways. Human
habitat should require the minimum of external resources for heating
and cooling comfort, lighting, and appliances and office machines through
energy efficient design and product selection, and the use of locally
available indigenous and renewable energy resources. Design for human
habitat should include no waste that cannot be assimilated through natural
processes, and should not require the use or introduction of unhealthy
materials either into the building interior or the environment. If this
is obvious to you, then you already understand more of the basic principles
of sustainable building design.
two-thirds of the nation's electricity is used in buildings, mostly
in commercial buildings. Commercial buildings account for one-third
of the nation's emissions of climate-changing gases into the environment.
And the quality of the interior environment in buildings is usually
far less healthy than outdoors. Yet "whole building" design allows us
to reduce the environmental impacts by 50% or more while creating much
healthier buildings, generally for an extra cost ranging from 2% down
to nothing. Daylighting and healthy indoor air enhance the performance
of the occupants of those buildings. If this makes sense to you, the
design principles of "sustainability" applied to commercial buildings
will be easy for you to grasp and stimulating to your creativity.
for reducing fossil fuel use, and hence reducing the contribution of
transportation to this global problem, are also readily available through
community design. Buildings and communities can reduce the impact of
vehicles by providing safe pathways for human feet and bicycles, or
simply reducing "fossil fuel miles traveled" by integrating home, work
and stores into the same communities and structures. Human habit should
build communities that are neighborhoods, integrating building sites
and walkway design to promote friendly interaction, keeping cars, garages,
driveways and access roads out of the way of people. Valuable additional
elements to introduce, where possible, are natural corridors for wildlife,
community gardens, and local agriculture for local consumption. If this
all sounds attractive to you, then you are clearly being drawn to the
human benefits of sustainable community design.
Planning must seek to answer every question about present and future
needs of human habitat and its environment as part of any development
and building process. Nothing can be left to chance if the earth's delicate
ecosystems are to survive at a level healthy enough to support the needs
of future human populations and economies. You already have that understanding
on an intuitive level. Donald Aitken Associates will help you to bring
that understanding into your project.
are the actual services that Donald Aitken Associates provides?
the factors briefly outlined above, and many more, are taken into account
by Donald Aitken Associates, working in close collaboration with clients
to balance these objectives with their particular needs, interests and
constraints (including economic) and the unique conditions of their
sustainability cost-effectively, all factors involved in designing and
constructing a building must be considered during the initial
planning stages. The factors that we always consider, and the
related services that we provide, are the following:
Existing topography, flora and fauna must be recognized
and honored as the footprint of the building is established and the
integration of the building into its natural environment is considered.
Minimal building footprints are encouraged. So are minimum impacts
of the finished building on its site. Many of these principles are
still appropriate in urban sites. So we gather all relevant site and
surrounding environment information, and work with the landscape designer
to identify those important features to be retained. We carefully
note any possible environmental restoration opportunities.
If the building is designed to be "climate responsive",
or "climate adapted", it will be a comfortable, energy efficient building
with maximal use of climate resources for building reliability and
safety and for occupant comfort and support. So the local climate
must be understood. We gather all appropriate information, and then
interpret this information to the client and all members of the architectural
and engineering teams as criteria that should be introduced in the
earliest stages of building design and engineering conception.
from the local area (indigenous resources and locally produced building
materials and products) should be used in construction, and energy
needs should be met, in so far as possible, by a combination of sensitive
environmental design and locally available renewable resources. Buildings
should be organic and integrate art, natural materials, sunlight and
daylighting, and green plants, into their very structure and fabric,
and provide for low noise levels. Their presence should ideally enhance
local environmental quality, rather than degrade it. We identify all
of these possibilities and present them as criteria at the beginning
of the design process.
the first steps: Donald Aitken Associates seeks to
assure these benefits early in the design stage. Toward this end,
as the first step in the entire design process, it is often helpful
to conduct a design charette with the client, and all members of the
design and engineering teams, to introduce the environmental and sustainable
design principles and to begin to develop a consensus on their inclusion
in the design itself. Following this we work directly with the architect
and engineering firms, and facilitate the design development of these
features through to working drawings.
The building envelope should be designed for maximum
energy efficiency, air tightness, moisture "breatheability" and beneficial
interaction with the local environment. To the maximum extent possible
(and economically feasible), the building design should draw on locally
available environmental resources, either to reduce energy consumption
or to provide energy. Along with energy-efficient design of the building
envelope, energy consumption is reduced by natural ventilation, shading,
daylighting, and ground-coupling of HVAC systems. Energy is provided
by passive solar heating, solar water heating, and building-integrated
solar-electric systems. Donald Aitken Associates is uniquely qualified
to provide design conception and system specifications for all energy-conserving
and natural energy systems.
Air Quality: Human life cannot be sustained over time
without healthy air to breathe, free of toxic substances. No materials
should be used that contain contaminants harmful to human health or
to the health of the Earth. Materials for the construction, interior
design, painting and furnishing of buildings must all be non-toxic,
free of outgassing, and safe for human physiologies. Donald Aitken
Associates works with the building material specifier, interior designer
and architect to assure these benefits and features to the maximum
extent feasible and cost-effective.
and wastewater: Careful design and selection of water-efficient
appliances can reduce the dependence of the building on local fresh
water supplies. Natural rainwater is collected where feasible and
used in buildings to displace fresh water from uses not requiring
clean water (e.g. toilets) in parallel with greywater systems or on
landscaping. Rainwater not used should be collected in percolation
ponds and reintroduced into the local aquifer (instead of being washed
down storm drains) to make up for the loss of exposure over the building
footprint. In outstanding cases, "Living systems" may be incorporated
into buildings or their local environments for purifying building
wastewater. Donald Aitken Associates works with the architect, engineers
and landscape architect to incorporate these water-conserving features
into the design and operation of the building, and recommends appropriate
designers of living systems to the project owner.
for Evolution: If buildings are to be built to last
for 100 years or more, as they are in Europe, we have to consider
making their uses evolutionary, or changeable over time. Thus, for
example, a house built for a young family with small children will
soon be a house full of teenagers, then a house for "empty nesters,"
then a house with elderly parents who need care. Perhaps at some point
there will be one or more businesses operating out of the home. Similarly,
a commercial building may have several owners in its lifetime, with
different requirements for the use of the space. A building should
therefore be adaptable, interior walls should be moveable or transferable
for other uses, and mechanical and electrical systems should be flexible.
And, in the end, a building should not be designed to be "demolished,"
but rather "deconstructed," so that its valuable materials may then
be incorporated in other new buildings. We work with the designers
and structural engineers to design, develop and include these features.
and Lifecycle Costing: at all times we advise clients
of both cost implications and potential lifecycle benefits of design
suggestions. But the clients need to be aware that we will seek to
have the most important intangibles which are not subject to cost-benefit
analysis, such as occupant health and productivity, building functional
reliability, and minimal environmental impact, be given weight in
the design decisions. National experience with sustainable buildings
has shown that virtually every feature can be included within an add-on
of not more than 10% for first costs. The actual national average
extra cost for LEED certified buildings is about 2%. Very often a
substantial portion of the desired features can be accomplished through
"whole building design" for no extra first cost, as savings in one
area (e.g. cooling) are applied to another (e.g. operable windows
and better glazings).
We are available for selected commissioning responsibilities
upon completion of our buildings to assure performance of the building
and its features as designed.
scope of responsibilities by Donald Aitken Associates, and all related
fees and costs, are discussed and agreed upon at the inception of the