Sustainable Design

Concrete foundation with ICF forms.

Timber framing construction with SIP panels.

Sustainable design is not a new idea, just a new name. In the 1970s environmentally responsible and energy efficient building technology was a new idea. Exciting technologies such as solar energy emerged and there was active experimentation in alternative building technologies such as the revival of the ancient craft of timber framing. This movement was not embraced by the mainstream architectural and engineering professions at the time, but was generally dismissed as a hippie movement (sort of like ending the war or eating healthy food).

We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

During the early 1970s, Jim DeStefano was an engineering student and became fascinated by this movement to develop new and more socially responsible building technologies. He participated in a research project to retrofit a Philadelphia rowhouse with solar heat and he studied alternative building technologies outside the confines of his more traditional University engineering curriculum. His interest in socially responsible building technologies has never waned.

Through the next two decades, environmentally responsible behavior became politically incorrect. Environmental activists were branded “tree huggers” and environmental consultants limited their activities to assisting clients in dealing with regulatory agencies. There were some advancements in energy conservation motivated by building owners’ desire to save operating expenses, but these efforts were tempered by low energy prices.

As the 21st century dawned, Architects and Engineers rediscovered the idea of environmentally responsible design and christened it with the name “Sustainable” or sometimes “Green.” Many still think this is just a fad and if we wait awhile it will pass and we can get back to doing things the way they have always been done. We at DeStefano & Chamberlain, believe that sustainable design, like rock and roll, is here to stay.

Jim DeStefano has been a leader in promoting sustainable design in the structural engineer profession. He is a key member of the SEI Sustainability Committee and is one of the contributing authors of the Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer published in 2010.

At DeStefano & Chamberlain we believe there is more to sustainable design than scoring a few LEED credits for adding fly ash to concrete or acknowledging that structural steel is a recycled material. It is about doing things that make sense. Sustainable design initiatives are incorporated into every project we work on, regardless of if they are LEED certified. It is not about hanging plaques on the wall.

Jim DeStefano practices sustainable design in his own life. In a house that he built for himself, he incorporated geothermal heating and cooling, insulated concrete forms, structural insulated panels (SIPs) as well as responsible forestry management of the site. We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.