Ask Danny

Ask Danny

Sustainability on a Big Scale

by Adam S. on May 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM in Sustainability

Adam S.

It’s clear from your website and your design studio that you’re really into sustainable design. Aren’t some of these massive projects on Build It Bigger the opposite of that?

Danny Forster

Well, yes, certainly sustainability isn’t the point of a lot of them. But even those tend to have sustainable elements—a technology or an efficiency that we try to highlight. I think you’ll see that in almost every episode, we try to fold sustainability into the show somehow. (We tried, by the way to do a whole series on sustainable design. Did you see Build It Bigger: Rebuilding Greensberg? No? That’s why it isn’t on anymore.) And we don’t cover projects that are really obviously bad for the Earth—like the Three Gorges Dam in China. Amazing, unprecedented scale (just the way we like it!) but an ecological and human disaster, so in that case Build It Bigger passed. So even in the shows we don’t end up doing, there is an awareness of sustainability and the overall impact of these megaprojects. On the other hand, we did visit the Deriner Dam in Turkey for this upcoming season. There are environmental unequivocal impacts that come with the construction a reservoir and dam, but to us they appeared to be balanced by Turkey’s attempts to shift away from fossil fuels by using more hydroelectric power. These are complicated issues (and sometimes contradictory), and we don’t shy away from them. Do I wish all giant projects were 100% sustainable? Yes, but that’s just not how things work. Yet.

Building Greener

by Sarah G. on Feb 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM in Sustainability

Sarah G.

I’m thinking about building a house, and I want to go green. Where do I begin?

Danny Forster

Well, the best thing to do is to hire DANNY FORSTER Design Studio. They really know what they’re doing over there. But, okay, if you can’t hire me as your personal DESIGNER, which is the best way to go? Start with the simple stuff. Where’s the sun? Where are the windows? AND will my house be hot or cold as a result of these environmental and circumstantial factors. In other words, look to see if there are low-cost, passive strategies to help mitigate issues that would otherwise get picked up by heating and air conditioning systems. And then look at the materials—Where’s the wood and siding coming from? Is it traveling a great distance to get to your project? Are there local providers that can get you certified lumber? There are wonderful companies providing sustainable and affordable options for almost every material you need. If you want to go further, you should consider whether a geothermal system is an option for your site. It takes longer to recoup an investment in solar panels, but if that’s not an issue, consider them as well. Finally, all kidding aside, you should really consider hiring an architect. They will cost 10 percent of your budget or more, but they should be able to save you at least that amount with careful planning, careful spending, and . . . how do I put this gently? . . . by not making all the mistakes an amateur would make.