Go Beyond Efficiency with a Focus on Environmental Design


Architects and designers have the potential to make a significant impact on the environment through the choices they make because buildings account for 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the emissions of new buildings can make a meaningful dent in overall emissions, contributing to the effort to curb climate change. This can be achieved with a focus on environmental design and by following a few key principles that bring buildings closer to net zero emissions and create healthier spaces for occupants.

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Environmental Design Principles

Environmental design centers around making buildings comfortable while creating a minimal environmental impact. Although there is a lot to learn about the details in these types of buildings, some of the key concepts include:

Building orientation

How a building is oriented on a site will inform how it performs. In the US, placing windows on the southern side of the building allows heat from the sun to enter during the winter, passively warming the spaces inside and reducing the energy required for heating. In the summer, strategic shading can lower heat absorption to reduce energy consumption for cooling. It’s also important to take into account other local factors such as prevailing wind directions and shading from nearby structures and trees.

Air sealing

Super-tight air sealing helps further reduce the burden on heating and cooling systems. When less conditioned air is allowed to escape the building, furnaces and air conditioners don’t have to work as hard. Occupants are also typically much more comfortable in a building that doesn’t have cold drafts from leaky windows and doors.


Adding more insulation than is required by code will help keep heated or cooled air inside. Buildings stay more comfortable and occupants also benefit from quieter spaces.

Air quality and ventilation

The combination of air sealing and super-insulation means that these types of buildings need ventilation to ensure that occupants have sufficient fresh air. Using a heat recovery ventilation (HRV) or energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system will circulate air throughout the space with minimal energy use. If you choose to have a fireplace, environmental design doesn’t typically allow for a traditional wood-burning unit because of the tightly controlled ventilation and undesirable impact on indoor air quality. A gas fireplace with a direct vent system protects the indoors from combustion air while providing comforting heat.

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Materials Selection

Environmental design also takes into account the materials used to construct the building, ensuring that they are healthy for occupants and create minimal environmental impact.

Healthy materials

Specifying natural materials and those that don’t contain EPA chemicals of concern will help ensure that occupants are protected from exposure to potentially harmful substances.

Locally-sourced materials

The closer materials are sourced to where they will be used, the less impact they will have on the environment. Fewer resources will be required to transport them, and they also help support the local economy.

Environmental certifications

Brands that have made the effort to receive environmental and efficiency certifications demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices. Some certifications to look for include Energy Star for appliances, FSC for wood products, and CSA for fireplaces

Choose Ortal for Environmental Design

Ortal’s luxury gas fireplaces are designed to be both visually stunning and environmentally efficient. Our CSA Product Listing demonstrates that our fireplaces meet a stringent standard for efficiency. Cool Wall Technology allows you to incorporate a broad range of healthy materials into your designs, including natural wood, stone, and tile. Our unique burner technology ensures clean burning to protect air quality and reduce energy consumption, and direct venting ensures that the fireplace doesn’t compromise environmental design principles like air sealing and ventilation

If you’d like to learn more about incorporating a luxury gas fireplace into your next environmental design project, schedule a meeting today.

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