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Expert Advice on Sustainable Home Architecture: An Interview with Russ DePietro- DePietro Design Associates- Architects

By Russ DePietro

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

DePietro Design Associates, Inc.- Architects, founded in 1985, specializes in architecture, engineering and design. Our offices are located at 212-1/2 East Walworth Avenue, Delavan, Wisconsin. We take pride in providing each client with exceptional service. Our staff has over 40 years of combined experience in the areas of custom home, home transformation, commercial, office, hospitality, multifamily, and retail design. We are a partner in Wisconsin's Energy Star program.

Can you briefly explain what sustainable architecture is?

Sustainable architecture (structure) reduces the environmental impact by being resource-efficient throughout a building's entire lifetime: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition while optimizing the comfort and safety of its occupants.

Project-by-project and day-by-day, sustainability is a part of everything we do. Our theory at DePietro Design Associates when designing green buildings is: To catch the sun, accept the breeze, and grow naturally out of the earth. We then blend these elements into a natural feeling environment.

Why should clients consider sustainable architecture or green building design over "standard" residential design?

Everyone needs to understand that if they just utilize the 'low hanging fruit' concepts of sustainable architecture they will be benefiting our environment- and it will minimally impact their building budget. Our belief is that we are all stewards of this earth, our planet's resources are limited, and we have innate responsibilities for what we do. We believe that reducing the environmental impact of our built environment, wasting less, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions not only increases the healthfulness of our environment for ourselves but also for our children.

What are some of the most frequently used sustainable features used in Wisconsin house design?

Here is a list of 'low hanging fruit' features that everyone should consider in both new construction, remodeling, and everyday activities:

  • We attempt to keep the house design based on a 2 ft x 2 ft increment. This produces less construction waste.
  • We request that the contractor recycle all construction waste.
  • We specify increased insulation- especially in the attic. This reduces both your heating and air conditioning costs.
  • We specify premium quality, energy efficient windows and doors.
  • We specify Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL's). This will reduce your electric usage as well as your monthly utility bill.
  • We specify Energy Efficient Appliances. We specify the use of low VOC paints, and wallcoverings.
  • We recommend that our clients consider not installing any carpet.
  • We recommend that our clients use 'green' house cleaners. Eliminate the chemicals.
  • We specify the use of occupancy sensors to turn off your lights.
  • We recommend that our clients consider not having a fireplace.
  • We recommend that our clients allow us to use a detached garage in the design of their homes.
  • We specify only one showerhead per shower.
  • We specify low flush toilets. This will reduce your water usage and reduce your monthly water bill.
  • We specify the contractor insulate all hot water piping.
  • We specify the use locally sourced products.
  • We recommend that our clients consider reducing the size of the house that they'd like to build. Don't overbuild. We subscribe to the 'Not so Big House' design concepts.
  • We recommend that our clients consider permeable paving for their driveways.
  • Last but not least- We recommend that our clients Reduce- Reuse- Recycle in everyday life.

What newer sustainable architecture trends do you think homeowners should know about?

We feel that photovoltaic solar panels and water reclamation/ recycling is gaining ground as the next affordable trends in sustainable construction. We also are of the opinion that Passive Solar Design is making a comeback.

How do the building costs and long-term costs usually factor into sustainable design choices?

Again, 'low hanging fruit' concepts have minimal impact on the immediate and long-term costs of a building project. Currently, solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal heating all have higher initial and long-term costs associated with them- however we encourage our clients to consider these alternatives as well.

Do you have any advice for people in Wisconsin who want to build a new home?

Our belief is that successful buildings capture the spirit of their surroundings, even as they assert their own identity. They're visually appealing, healthy, comfortable, flexible, incorporate advances in technology, secure and efficient, overall our projects should inspire those who live in & use them. We believe that built environments should reflect context, history, cultures, communities and the natural environment while creating a minimal environmental footprint. We are committed to not only reducing environmental impact, wasting less, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, reintegrating ecological systems and limiting exposure to harmful substances, but also helping to improve the environment through regenerative designs which heal their local environments and their occupants. In short, our belief is that successful buildings are a carefully constructed collage of forms and spaces that is at once dynamic, aspiring and meaningful.

If you hold the same beliefs and are looking for a partner to help you design your next project- please contact us- we'd love to work with you.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Contact us at 262/ 728-9300. Or e-mail us at russ@depietrodesign.com. We'd love to hear from you.

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