Charlotte architect talks about green building and LEED certification

Charlotte architect talks about green building and LEED certification

After a 23-year career in architecture, Giamportone opened his own green design firm on Earth Day in 2006. Keith Giamportone is a member of the American Institute of Architects and LEED certified architect in North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York and Florida. He has a bachelor's and master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When and why did you start to incorporate green building elements into your design?

"I worked on the MIT Solar 5 project, an experimental solar-powered classroom, as an undergraduate student, and I've been interested ever since. I've always tried to site buildings intelligently and make them energy efficient. But I started designing green in a more holistic way in 2000. That's when the information about LEED was becoming available."

How interested in green design are builders and buyers?

"People always want to do the right thing, but the concern is how to do it in an economical way. People have always looked at the cost of building first. But they'll save money in the long run for making the skin of the building energy efficient. I think the challenge is to get builders and the public up to speed on how to design green."

What green building standards do you follow?

"I use Energy Star certification at a minimum, but I use LEED as the guidelines to make homes more efficient whether we pursue certification or not. There's also another program called HealthyBuilt Homes in North Carolina, which is pretty similar to LEED in terms of its requirements. I think HealthyBuilt Homes is actually a bit more stringent. You get points for building smaller homes."

Are codes keeping up with residential green building?

"I think the codes will be changing shortly at the state level. Every several years the requirements become more stringent. The biggest thing is alternative wastewater treatment. It's difficult, if not impossible, for officials charged with public safety to approve these measures. There's a learning curve they haven't caught up to yet regarding alternative wastewater treatment."

What would you suggest to a homeowner or buyer who is interested in green building?

"My advice would be to look at the building envelope first. Replacing windows and insulation is a cost effective way to improve efficiency. Also, it's very humid here. A typical air conditioner will allow condensation to accumulate inside the home. There's humidity control systems for air conditioning units [which] take the moisture out of the air to prevent condensation."


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