Six Myths of Sustainable Design

or… “green building isn’t as difficult as you might think.”

So wrote Lance Hosey, Chief Sustainability Officer at RTKL, on Huffington Post last week. His article outlines the six most common misconceptions he uncovered during a survey of “hundreds of architects and designers to understand the obstacles to going green.”

  • Sustainability Equals Environmentalism: Actually, Lance writes, “sustainability” in building “integrates the “triple bottom line” of social, economic and environmental value — people, profit and planet.” Sure, a lot of us like the wider environmental benefits of green building, but 64% of respondents to a NAHB Research Center survey said that savings from green home features was a key consideration. Likewise, corporations such as Starbucks are saving millions of dollars annually with LEED-certified buildings.
  • Sustainability Equals Technology: According to Lance, “technology has hijacked sustainability.”  Or perhaps more accurately, we’ve allowed technology to dominate the discussion about sustainability.  One of my favorite quotes (usually attributed to architect Carl Elefante) is “the greenest building is the one already built”, a concept put into practice at the Coral Gables Museum and other historic buildings in Miami-Dade.
  • Sustainable Design Costs Too Much: Not true! Lance gives several examples, including “RTKL’s LEED Platinum 1225 Connecticut Avenue, in Washington, D.C., [which] cost about five percent below market rate construction in 2009 and sold for the highest rate in the city that year.” Moreover, Shon Anderson, VP of Energy Solutions at Schneider Electric, says that “70-75% of the total life-cycle cost of a building is in operation and maintenance and only 20-25% is tied up in the purchase price.” So even if there is sometimes a higher initial cost, it will still be a lower cost in the long run.
  • Sustainable Design Takes More Time: “Architects often complain that green building is too time-consuming. The additional research, analysis and hunt for alternative products simply cannot be done with limited schedules and fees. Yet, the process known as integrated design, which brings together a project’s key stakeholders, designers, consultants and contractors early to get consensus on goals, actually can save time by ensuring more thorough coordination and avoiding costly changes later.”
  • Sustainability isn’t About Design: As a Realtor very involved in the Miami green building industry, this objection and the next one simply don’t make any sense to me. Sustainable building is ALL about design. A key design element of architect Randall Moreland’s Coconut Grove home was born from the resolution of city conformity requirements and the sustainable building principle of site orientation.
  • Sustainable Design Isn’t Beautiful: While I will admit that I have seen some “sustainable homes” that don’t fit their environment or are down-right ugly, the sustainable homes I’ve seen in Miami have been quite beautiful and appropriate to our location.  What do you think?

Architect Lance Hosey is Chief Sustainability Officer with the global design leader RTKL. His latest book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design (Island Press, 2012), is the first to study the relationships between sustainability and beauty. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment and the US Green Building Council’s Market Advisory Committee.

Melanie Dawn Molina Wood is a licensed Realtor and Sales Director with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, and is an accredited LEED Green Associate. She is also a proud member of the US Green Building Council – South Florida Chapter and a designated Eco-Broker. For more information about sustainable real estate in the Miami area, or to connect with a real estate agent anywhere in the world, contact Melanie Dawn by text/phone at 305-801-3133, or by email at

Published byMelanieDawn

Melanie Dawn Molina Wood is a Miami native currently living in the historic downtown district. She has earned her LEED Green Associate accreditation, the NAR GREEN designation, and an Eco-broker credential. She is also a proud member of the US Green Building Council, and a member of the Sierra Club. For more information about sustainability in Miami, or to connect with a real estate agent anywhere in the world, contact Melanie Dawn by text/phone at 305.801.3133, or by email at

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