Green Buildings

For a building to be green, it has to use less energy, have little negative impact on the environment, use sustainable materials, and be a healthy place for its occupants.


Sustainability & Green Design

Highly trained and accredited green building design and contracting professionals on your side.  Let us help you make your building a sustainable green healthy and happy place to live and work in.

What does designing a green building really mean?

Most people would define a green building as one that is well insulated and saves you money by reducing the energy consumption.  At Harmoni Designs and Harmoni Build, we take this definition to the next level.

For a building to be truly sustainable (green) it does have to use less energy than a traditional building, but it also needs to be a healthy place to be in, it has to consume less water, and be one that has an overall smaller negative impact on the environment when it’s being built and throughout its lifespan.

Building green is a complex process that most contractors aren’t qualified to handle on their own.  In green buildings there a numerous systems that are closely interrelated; make one decision and it’s likely to have important impact on a number of other things.

Most contractors are trained in traditional ways of construction and know very little about actual building design and even less about building technology. Most harmful problems in buildings, such as mold, mildew, and off-gassing toxins, can be avoided when the right professional designer is involved throughout the design and construction process.

Harmoni Designs and Harmoni Build offers professional and trustworthy advice to building owners. We have extensive knowledge of building design, technology and sustainability. We can help you reach your goal of having a truly green and healthy building.

Contact us to find out how we can help you with your green construction project.


Interested in getting your building certified under LEED, Energy Star, or other green building programs? We have deep knowledge of the green building certification process. Contact us today to find out how we can help!

Green Building Sites

The building site plays an important role in the building’s impact on the environment. This holds true not only for new buildings, but for renovation, addition and remodel projects as well.

There are several key sustainability issues to address for all project types when it comes to the building site. Harmoni Designs works through all these issues with the building owner in greater detail, but here is a brief outline of some elements that ought to be considered:

  • Careful building site selection
  • Green landscaping design
  • Solar orientation of building
  • Selection of hardscape materials
  • Heat island effect from materials
  • Lighting choices and light pollution
  • Construction activity pollution
  • Transportation pollution: 20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles
  • Impact on ecosystems, natural resources, and energy use; especially when constructing on virgin land

Green Building Materials

There is a lot of hype and “green washing” in the construction market on what “green” products you should use in your building construction project. So, which products are truly the green choices and what are the pros and cons?

The truth is, there are many green product and process considerations that deserve proper attention such as: construction waste, virgin material depletion, renewable cycle, transportation, environmentally responsible practices, etc.

For example, construction and demolition waste constitutes about 40% of the total solid waste stream in the U.S. If planned for and implemented correctly, most projects will be able to divert upwards of 80 – 90% of the construction waste.

Also, it is important to understand materials’ origin and how they are produced. Are they made from virgin materials that are being depleted? Do they incorporate high amounts of recycled content? Are they rapidly renewable? How far will they have to travel before arriving at your building? Are products that have been extracted and manufactured locally available?

Furthermore, the way that materials are extracted and manufactured can have great impact on the local and global environment. Therefore, it is important to select materials that have been extracted in an environmentally responsible way.

The reality is that most contractors and design professionals do not have the experience to properly research and locate the right green materials, and even fewer have the technical knowledge to adequately analyze their many complexities, how they affect other systems and the environment.

Harmoni Designs specializes in green design and construction and we are uniquely positioned to help you select the right green materials for your building. Here’s a sampling of services we offer; and we provide a personal on-demand service whenever you need a quick answer:

  • Research and locate green materials
  • Advise on use of existing, salvaged, and refurbished materials
  • Establish a construction waste management plan
  • Assistance with hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead based paint
  • Select green materials with recycled content
  • Find, compare, and analyze local and regional materials
  • Guidance on renewable materials such as bamboo, cotton, agrifiber, etc.
  • Certified and sustainable wood choices
  • Green roofing systems

Lower Your Energy Bill

We help building owners navigate through the technical challenges and important issues related to energy efficient design and construction.

In the U.S., buildings consume approximately 37 percent of the energy and 68 percent of electricity produced annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Furthermore, energy generated from coal and oil has tremendously negative effect on the environment from extraction to end user consumption.

Most people think of energy usage when they hear the term “green building.” The cost associated with energy usage can visually be measured by reviewing an energy bill. However, reducing a building’s energy consumption can result in several harmful outcomes if someone with proper technical design knowledge isn’t consulted.

Harmoni Designs and Harmoni Build help building owners navigate through the technical challenges and important issues that relate to energy efficient design and construction. Following is an abbreviated list of energy related subjects to consider:

  • Indoor air quality: allergies, mold and mildew
  • Optimize energy performance
  • Adequate and correct insulation
  • Air leakage
  • Energy loss though windows, etc.
  • Heating and cooling system design
  • Lower consumption thru smart selections and control
  • Professional quality control
  • On-site renewable energy choices
  • Solar systems
  • Geothermal systems
  • Wind energy for electricity
  • Architectural solar design strategies
  • Passive solar design
  • Daylighting design

Healthy Indoor Environment

Specializing in designing and building comfortable buildings that are healthier to live and work in

Americans spend on average 90% of their time indoors where the levels of pollutants may run from 2 to 5 times and occasionally 100 times higher than outdoor levels. 17 million Americans suffer from asthma and 40 million have allergies.

When careful attention is paid to the materials and products that are incorporated into your building and how they are installed and treated, you can end up with a more comfortable building that is healthier for the occupants’ well-being. Harmoni Designs has the required knowledge of building design and technology that is needed to make your building a better place to be. Here are some things we can assist with to improve the indoor climate of your building:

  • Reduce odorous, irritating and/ or harmful indoor air contaminants
  • Minimize potentially hazardous particulates and chemical pollutants
  • Develop and implement an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan for the construction of the building
  • Ventilation design (natural or mechanical ventilation)
  • Thermal comfort control
  • Enhanced daylighting and views
  • Lighting control
  • Green Housekeeping
  • CO2 monitoring

Reduced Water Usage

Good water savings measures will save money and water for the life of the building.

In the United States we extract around 3,700 billion gallons of fresh water per year more than we return to recharge the natural system. This loss of fresh water will obviously be a tremendous problem in the future if not addressed.

Building owners who use less water can lower their water use and sewage expenses. Many water conserving measures add no additional cost to the construction project and they continue to save the owner for the life of the building.

Here are some water conserving measures to consider when building green:

  • Toilet flushing: Replacing old fixtures can significantly decrease water usage
  • Low flow options
  • Irrigation: Plant and grass types, irrigation systems, and watering times all impact consumption
  • Rainwater collection and reuse
We hired Harmoni Designs to serve as architect and design adviser for the extensive remodeling of our kitchen, as well as the adjoining breakfast nook and butler’s pantry. Our goals were to:

— Increase our food preparation and storage spaces
— Upgrade the usefulness of our work surfaces and appliances
— Improve lighting and temperature consistency
— Upgrade the appearance of our kitchen consistent with the look of our 1920’s home.

We considered Harmoni Designs based on strong recommendations from a general contractor and a real estate agent, both of whom are prominent in the Cleveland Heights area. We were impressed by the architectural education and design experience of Harmoni’s President and Director of Design, Martin Johannessen. We also found him to be a pleasant but business-like person with whom we could work effectively.

We initially hired Harmoni Designs to determine architectural feasibility for anticipated structural changes and to help us coordinate and establish a budget for the project. As work on the project progressed, Harmoni also assisted us in selecting aesthetically pleasing building materials and dealing with the suppliers of those materials. This assistance proved invaluable in dealing with the suppliers of our cabinets and our granite counter-tops.

Harmoni Designs demonstrated an uncanny knack for resolving what we thought were unsolvable problems that would limit our potential for meaningful kitchen redesign. One example was Martin Johannessen’s idea that we reconfigure the lower portion of a stairway that enters our kitchen directly from our third floor. This permitted us to create space for much-needed design flexibility within the kitchen. Martin also determined that we could remove a large section of a weight-bearing kitchen wall with less cost and less support in our basement than we originally anticipated.

We cannot think of a single aspect of our experience with Harmoni Design that left room for improvement. The results of our project exceeded our lofty expectations, and we have received “rave” reviews of our remodeled kitchen from several friends, neighbors and relatives. Martin Johannessen was pleasant and professional in all of his dealings with us. We would strongly recommend Harmoni Designs to anyone who is considering a kitchen remodeling project.

Leonard and Cynthia Ringenbach