Championing Sustainable Structures

House and Home

Pictured: The award-winning Verandah House was completed in 2015. Photo courtesy of Halflants and Pichette.

Tracking trends in sustainable home building has been a decades-long passion of Michael Halflants, FAIA—an award-winning design principal with the Tampa/Sarasota firm, Halflants + Pichette.

On September 22, he shared his insights at the Interior Design Society (IDS) Environmental Design Conference: Green Building, Healthy Lives! on the New College of Florida campus. Halflants served on a panel called “Design for Sustainability and Environment,” and focused on the topic of “Sustainable Density.” He joined two other speakers: landscape architect David Young, who discussed “Environmental Landscape Design”; and interior designer Sarit Marcus, who talked about “How to Create an Eco-friendly, Healthy Home.”

Q: What are some ways that Sarasota is moving in the direction of sustainable building?

A: In Sarasota County, 76 percent of households consist of one or two people, yet most of what’s on the market is living spaces with three bedrooms or more. When the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce surveyed young professionals, almost 80 percent of them stated that they wanted to live in an apartment, and 62 percent of them said they were hoping to find a one- or two-bedroom apartment.

If a municipality restricts the number of residential units per acre to an unreasonably low number, as the City of Sarasota does, it encourages the construction of large condominiums to the exclusion of all others. It’s neither sustainable nor equitable to build an entire city of luxury units. The average unit size should be in the range of 1,200 square feet rather than 4,000. A smaller footprint will use less resources to build and bring more residents in close proximity to restaurants and work. Higher density generates less traffic and a smaller carbon footprint per resident. Many municipalities around the country are subjected to a zoning code that makes it difficult to create smaller units, even though they are more sustainable to build and more inviting to a diverse population in terms of income, age and background. These codes can be described as exclusionary zoning where one is excluding potential buyers who can’t afford an enormous unit. It’s not really possible to create affordable units unless we allow for higher density.

Many of the building issues we have in the states and worldwide could be improved if we went away from the model of single-family lots. In the U.S., land development is growing twice as fast as population growth. In terms of the global population, we’re already spending resources faster than can be sustained, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Halflants + Pichette: 1350 Fifth St., Sarasota, 941-365-1820, halflantspichette.com.

Pictured: The award-winning Verandah House was completed in 2015. Photo courtesy of Halflants and Pichette.

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