So many goals, so many ideas, but how to start?
These are our 12 Design for One Earth principles. They are the environmental, social and economical framework for our design approach and philosophy. When applied together they paint a pretty complete picture of a bright, green future and create opportunities for innovation.


Design for One Earth pushes us toward holistic design solutions that espouse 12 values centered on environmental, social and economic priorities: carbon, energy, water, waste, materials, land use, prosperity, vision, resilience, beauty, health and happiness. By maintaining big-picture thinking and a holistic base of values, opportunities for innovation in our work reveal themselves. We can then hold ourselves to being exemplars of the highest levels of sustainability and design excellence all while seeking to aggressively reduce the environmental impact of the built world and creating a future of abundance.



Zero energy involves balancing energy use and renewable energy supply so that the built environment consumes net-zero fossil fuel energy. 

This is made possible by implementing energy efficiency, demand-side reduction, on-site renewable energy, grid-wide and distributed renewable energy.



An eBook from NAPHN that discusses the Passive House pathway as well as providing many built examples where buildings have incorporated renewables to become net zero and others which are net zero capable.

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Not only is this 222,000-sf Research Support Facility LEED-NC Platinum certified,  but well on course to be the first net-zero energy building of its kind. Here you'll see an in-depth look at how the design and construction process allowed the RSF to be a showcase for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

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To be carbon neutral means eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel related to all human activities. 

This must be done while considering all scales and interactions in the built environment: building operational energy and carbon; embodied and construction-related carbon; transportation-related carbon and soil and landscape carbon release and sequestering.  



To achieve water balance, we must design systems that are interconnected with and  perform like ecosystems to achieve water balance in the built environment. 

Nature has adapted perfectly to the extremely varied distribution of water across the planet through a diversity of ecosystems that thrive in all climates. the one commonality is the presence of water -- a prerequisite for life. The issue is not the global quantity of fresh water, but its poor distribution and how we continue to pollute it.



Materials balance is achieved when material needs can be satisfied without depleting natural resources. 

To do this, we must incorporate durability, longevity and adaptability so that materials can serve a long life. We must also incorporate design for disassembly so that materials can be captured and diverted at the end of their service life.

Materials balance involves incorporating reused, re-purposed, recycled and rapidly renewable materials, while optimizing local and global resources in material choices. 



Waste is an indicator of inefficiency and a sign of design failure. In order to eliminate waste, we must close the loop on material cycles so that all "waste" is diverted for reuse, new use, recycling or composting rather than disposal. 

In addition, we must eliminate pollutants and toxicants in all forms. 



To preserve ecosystems and natural habitat, develop new habitat and landscaped open space.

Consider land use and landscaping at all scales, including large open space habitats, rooftop gardens and interior plants.

Leverage density and urbanism to create sustainable habitats for people. Globally, agriculture has a significant impact on greenhouse emissions, water use, health and the economy. Consider food production within the built environment. 



Create sustainable places that provide opportunities and allow everyone to prosper.

Prosperity is an inclusive economic measure that considers personal wealth, natural capital, long-term value and equity.  



Create built environments that hold long-term value, are enduring and adaptable.

Resilience is part stability and part adaptability. It is a quality that promotes long-term viability and the ability to weather adversity. 



Innovate to create new value and new models.

Visionary is the use of foresight to invest for the future, but also to invent the future. 



Promote health in the built environment through design for active living and through access to quality air, daylight and thermal comfort.

Eliminate toxicants and chemicals that impede health. Health is the foundation of life. Health is measured at both the public and personal level and can be greatly influenced by decisions and systems at many scales. 



A report commissioned by the AIA to "document the positive economic impact of investing in the design and construction of healthier buildings from the perspective of owners, architects and human resources professionals."

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Promote beauty int he built environment and provide for a connection to nature and natural beauty.

Beauty is an intrinsic part of nature and humanity. It is a basic human need, not a luxury or elitist concept. 



A report from Terrapin that discusses how biophilic design "articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications." 

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Create environments that promote happiness, well-being, productivity and delight.

Our buildings need to be more than energy efficient. Happiness is an important measure of quality of life and is tied to many things, including the built environment.