Earth Day: Easy, Beautiful Ways Designers Can Love the Planet, Today and Every Day


Tomorrow is Earth Day.  That’s got us thinking about all the ways we can love our Planet a little more – on Earth Day, and every day.  There are lots of easy ways to take personal action to make life more sustainable.  Today we will talk about what architects, and other designers, can do to lessen the impact of buildings on neighborhoods, cities, and our planet.

Generally Good Design Principles 

Some of the most important green design moves happen before we even set pencil to paper: thinking about scale, making long lasting, flexible decisions.  We work to consider the whole building project and also each room separately.  Here’s a rundown of our best green practices for renovating bathrooms, and for making great green kitchens.


Pick Sustainable Materials (and use them responsibly)

Here’s where we sing a song about how much we love using reclaimed wood materials, and WHY that is so important to world forests.  While we’re at it, we try to reduce waste in our construction projects by designing for deconstruction.

Use Green Technology: both Cutting Edge and Ancient

It is important for us to pick up on the best of the new sustainable technologies – like incorporating solar PV and thermal panels, and high tech insulations – as well as old ones – like passive solar heating and cooling –  into our building design.

Advocate for green design in the city around our buildings.  

We must all advocate for (and LOVE) walkable neighborhoods and seek to make them even stronger.   Those sidewalks need to be part of an overall plan to increase permeable surfaces (hint: its to keep sewage from being dumped into the Chicago River).

Plus, every designer needs to work against the teardown epidemic that is not-so-slowly denuding Chicago’s architectural history.  And when we do build new, lets make sure we do it on previously developed (brownfield) sites, so that we can keep Chicago high density and vibrant!

Great Green Projects from the Moss Archives

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Carmen Avenue House

This renovation and addition is just starting construction.  Its sustainable features include radiant in floor heat, passive solar venting, rain water collection, permeable patio surfaces, super insulated walls and ceiling and … perhaps best of all, the reuse of an existing structure which keeps a house full of material out of the landfill and eliminates the necessity for a huge amount of new construction materials.

bang chop thai kitchen moss design

Bang Chop Restaurant

The most Earth Day action we took in this project was the radically simple step of preserving the existing layout and re-purposing as much of the kitchen equipment as possible.  But that doesn’t mean we didn’t look of other ways to be green; that gorgeous slab wood counter at the bar – was sliced out of a storm damaged tree just a few miles north of the city center!

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Begyle Brewery Tasting and Taproom

Our favorite neighborhood source to hoist a pint, Begyle Brewing Company‘s new taproom is already a very Earth Day friendly business – providing locally produced beer to the community in reusable growlers.  We even pick up our regular CSB share on foot (since the Brewery is only blocks from Moss HQ).  Both the original Brewery and Tasting room, and the newly opened Taproom, feature a very green ethos.

We focused on the utilitarian, keeping surfaces simple and cleanable, and making use of reclaimed materials – the merchandise display shelves are wood that was found on site when the guys took over the space.  Bringing in new sources of natural light means that they use less power in the day time and interior lights are energy efficient LED strip lights and fun pendants fashioned from old helium tank caps.  Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, and Drink!

Happy Earth Day!

Here at moss we try to work Earth Day friendly choices into both our personal lives and all our design work.  We love that our clients come to us looking for the same thing.  Every project has some sustainable features and some have many.  So in conclusion, lets make every day a little more like Earth Day!