Glossary of Sustainable Design Terms

Active Solar uses photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into energy.

Advanced Framing stacks wood framing members at 24” on center, using less wood and allowing for more insulation in the spaces between.

Bamboo is a fast-growing, very strong and beautiful building material.

Charrette is a brainstorming and planning meeting in which project participants identify design goals, challenges, and constraints, and outline possible solutions.

Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, and chopped straw used to sculpt walls, benches, and other items by hand.

Constructed Wetland is a manmade habitat for waterfowl and other life, often using Greywater or overflow from Rainwater Catchment.

Composting allows vegetable material and manure to decompose into clean, organic fertilizer.

Engineered Lumber uses small pieces of wood and glue to create strong dimensional pieces that are often used in place of sawn wood.

Grade Beam is a concrete footing poured on top of the ground, usually over a Rubble Trench or between concrete pilings.

Green is a way of living and serving the world that works with, instead of against, nature.

Green Roofs use a lightweight medium to support low growing plants. They provide evaporative cooling, convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, and reduce storm water runoff.

Greywater is waste water from showers and washing machines, often used to flush toilets or irrigate landscaping.

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) reclaims the heat from warm exhaust air being vented out of a building to pre-heat fresh air brought in.

Hydronic heating is a system which distributes hot water through pipes to radiators, or through a thermal mass floor which absorbs the heat and radiates it to the living space.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF’s) are a leave-in-place system built from insulating materials. They can be used for basements or above grade walls.

Integrated Design (also called Integrated Project Delivery) is a collaborative process that engages owners, designers, contractors, and specialty sub-contractors in early and ongoing coordination in an effort to maximize potential efficiency and synergy in all aspects of building and systems design. For a more in-depth discussion of this process, please visit our blog.

LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system for the United States Green Building Council.

Net Positive Energy buildings create more energy than they use over the course of a year.

Net Zero Energy buildings creates as much energy as they use over the course of a year.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) uses small chips of wood scraps and glue to create strong sheet material that is often used in place of plywood.

Passive Solar uses the sun to directly heat water, or the interior surfaces of a building.

Pervious Paving allows water to flow through the finished surface to replenish ground water.

PV is short for photovoltaic or solar panels, used to gather electricity from sunlight.

Rainwater Catchment refers to collecting rain and snow melt-off in a cistern for landscape irrigation during the dry season, and for filtered domestic use year round.

Rammed Earth walls are made from clay and sand with a small amount of cement. They have a high amount of mass used to balance Passive Solar gain.

Regenerative Design is a systems-based approach to design that focuses on the relationships within ecosystems, and strives to create designs that reinforce and regenerate these systems.

Rubble Trench is a base of compacted stone that extends below the frost line, on which a Grade Beam is placed.

Salvaged Building Materials are quality structural or finish materials removed from old buildings and reused in new or remodeled buildings.

Straw Bale Construction uses an annually renewable waste product to build thick, super-insulated walls.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIP’s) are made from solid foam insulation sandwiched between two sheets of Oriented Strand Board.

Sustainable means using something no faster than it can replace itself, so the choice will still be there in the future.

Universal Design emphasizes creating environments that are accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

Volatile organic compound (VOC) is a highly evaporative chemical substance which produces noxious fumes; found in many paints, caulks, stains, and adhesives.

Xeriscaping uses native, drought tolerant plants to create a landscape that requires little maintenance.

Zero-net energy