Location is a critical element of green building: it can define appropriate strategies, yet it can also limit how green a project can actually be. Depending on the environmental issues that are most critical in a particular area, location can influence a project team’s priorities. Location includes these factors:
- Natural context. Climate, sun, wind, orientation, soils, precipitation, local flora and fauna.
- Infrastructural context. Available resources, materials, skills, and connections to utilities, roads and transit.
- Social context. Connections to the community and other destinations, local priorities, cultural history and traditions, local regulations and incentives.
Selecting a location is one of the earliest decisions made in a project, and this decision defines many of the opportunities and constraints that the project team will encounter. It can determine whether a project can take advantage of sunlight, have access to public transportation and other services, and protect habitats. As discussed earlier in this section, a building whose occupants must drive long distances may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as destruction of natural habitat for infrastructure development.
To design sustainably for place, a team can start with a project site and determine what uses are most appropriate there. Alternatively, the team can start with a function and find the best place to put it. In either case, the goals of the project must be clear and the needs and resources must be clearly identified so that the building can be carefully integrated into its context and support a thriving and sustainable local community.
Project teams with a goal of sustainability develop a deep understanding of the place and context in which their projects are built. They go beyond a cursory site assessment and study the land and its history. They look for ways to make connections to the immediate site, the surrounding watershed, or ecological features and promote their healthy evolution. They also engage the community’s traditions, strengths, and needs in order to ascertain how the project can contribute to social and economic well-being and growth.