Sustainable Design: G&M’s First Workshop

Green & Main Sustainable Renovation Workshop Logo

Green & Main Sustainable Renovation Workshop

What do we mean by Green Design or Sustainable Design? It includes a variety of areas such as community design, energy efficiency, water-use efficiency, resource conservation and indoor environmental air quality.

As developer Chaden Halfhill states, “The practical is where it happens.” This is where we began last Friday at our first Green & Main Sustainable Renovation Workshop put on by Center for Sustainable Communities (COSC). We met on the early side of 9 a.m. at the Mickle Center located about three blocks away from our pilot project, the retrofitting and renovation of a multi-use building on 19th Street in Sherman Hill.

About twenty people attended the workshop, lead by Jacob Kvinlaug of Jacob Kvinlaug Design & Construction, and Chaden Halfhill, head of the Green & Main Pilot Project. We took a couple of minutes to introduce ourselves and say why we were there. It turned out that many disciplines were represented: a general contractor who is looking for practical information; a coordinator of deconstruction and energy efficiency goals who is seeking to develop curriculum for his constituency; a grant writer in areas of sustainability and public policy wanting to learn more about how to tailor projects to green street initiatives; and a consultant who is continuing to educate himself on how to best guide clients who are buying older or historical houses.

Mr. Kvinlaug spoke at length on principals for green construction and green remodeling, referencing his 30 years of experience. He stated that the principles for green construction and green remodeling were the same, and once you know these, the direction forward becomes clearer. What is central to both is to take a whole systems approach. This approach sees the interdependence of all decisions within the construction and design trades. “Iowa weather is extreme,” he says. Temperatures can fluctuate between 100 degrees plus to 30 below zero with all sorts of weather events in between. This must be taken into account when one seeks to make a house more energy efficient.

First, Mr. Kvinlaug says, improve the building envelope. Make the building use less, then after that put in energy efficient technologies. This means tighten up the house. Seal up the attic floor, tighten up the windows. “Seal, seal, seal. Do this first then assess the situation. See what it does to your utility bills. Don’t get enamored with technology unless it makes sense.”

Mr. Halfhill spoke of sustainability within the fabric of an urban area, looking at the urban core and building use within this context. For his project, the vast majority of the choices that have been made and will be made hinge upon the integrating of historical requirements and energy efficiency requirements into a workable, sustainable whole. It is thinking through the design process in relation to preservation issues.

There are two main ways to make decisions about deconstruction, construction, retrofitting and building rehabilitation, he states. One is the environmental impact of the choice, the other is choice based on cost. The Green & Main Pilot Project is a demonstration building. “It is about the stretch,” he states. Mr. Halfhill is driven more by the environmental goals and the educational opportunities inherent in such an endeavor. “The goal,” he continues, “is to pattern and simplify the process without the hurdles. The hurdles are where the time goes and once these have been eliminated, [the process becomes] more economically viable.”



– Jean Danielson is director of operations for Indigo Dawn. She does not like making replicas of the Iowa Capitol complex using match sticks.


  1. I was unable to attend the meeting, but very nice to hear about what kinds of people were in attendance and the perspectives they bring! Very nice article!

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