The philosophy of building science


We need to design, construct, operate, and maintain buildings in the same way that nature builds cells—with efficiency, elegance, and unerring deference to the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

A green architect or builder must be a student of science first; great buildings will follow. Green building is all about ecology—physics, chemistry, and biology. Green building is all about systems and integration.

Building is about shelter and creating boundaries between people and the environment.

Green building is about creating optimized boundaries between people and the environment.

Optimized means performing like Nature’s most basic element, the cell. Cells have membranes and even walls that relentlessly observe the laws of physics and chemistry, selectively permitting and excluding passage of all manner of things into and out of the cell, all in an effort to create a secure and comfortable environment. Green buildings accomplish the same optimized selective boundaries for light, heat, moisture and would-be invaders. For the cell and the green building, optimized selective boundaries require the expenditure of energy, but as little as possible. So optimizing is about energy, too.

Green building is even more about energy because of really striking indirect effects. There is no shortage of energy, just limited access. The particular circumstances of our planet mean that more energy strikes the earth each day than the whole earth knows what to do with. It’s the stored forms we currently use—coal, oil, natural gas, and even hydroelectric—that carry heavy-duty environmental consequences. Optimal energy use in buildings is a combination of how much we use for producing and then operating our buildings. The best way to accomplish the former is to use as little of a material as possible—efficient design—for as long as possible—durability. The best way to accomplish the latter is to think like a cell—set up optimized boundaries.

Green building is largely about how well and how long buildings perform. And buildings lacking an integrated systems approach will most often do neither.


This article comes from Building Science Corporation, which has designed some of the best high-performance buildings in the country, including the town homes in the Cleveland EcoVillage.

Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information?
Subscribe to receive FREE TIPS, all new Radio/Podcast Episodes and Videos that will help you start Dropping your Energy Bill!
Enter your email below to join a world of new knowledge and savings!