The term “Green Space” refers to areas of plants, grass and other vegetation used for aesthetic or recreational purposes. Yet using environmentally friendly materials and design practices can make your home itself a “green space,” and that, said architect Terri Hogan Dreyer of the award-winning NANO architecture firm is an important goal for all to embrace. 

While countries like Italy and France are leaders in the mission of saving the planet through green practices (“they’ve invested in their architecture for climate change,” she noted), Dreyer advised that there are myriad ways that New Orleanians can move toward sustainability. To begin, she recommends using widely available, environmentally friendly materials such as no-VOC paints (two options are Benjamin Moor’s Aura line and Sherwin Williams’ Harmony line) and LED light bulbs. Though more expensive up front, their long-term value outweighs the cost.

“It’s worth it; it’s better for your family and for the environment,” Dreyer said. 

Dreyer recommends sourcing things locally (reducing the carbon footprint) and opting for natural materials when possible such as wood flooring. If you can’t use a real wood floor and are using a veneer on plywood product, for example, she advises requesting an environmentally friendly glue. 

“A contractor is going to use what’s readily available unless you request it,” she said. 

  1. Create your own systems at home. Decentralization lessens the load on centralized systems.
  2. Install a rain barrel.
  3. Recycle, recycle, recycle.

Other basics include installing a rain barrel for watering outdoor areas, adding solar panels to your home (“we should have solar panels on every home,” she said), and recycling architectural elements and other salvaged goods. Dreyer’s firm has re-used structural wood from old buildings to create everything from furniture to cabinets and has recycled metal gating as railings.

“Creating your own systems lessens the load on centralized systems,” she said. “We have to think about this as an economic driver.”

Just as aging in place has become a motivating force in building practices, Dreyer said global warming and catastrophic weather events have meant a greater emphasis on ideas and practices that help us to shelter in place. Metal roofs, she said, offer a better alternative for hurricanes, and thereby reduce post-hurricane waste – not to mention dollars.

In recent years, recycled plastic has gained a foothold in the world of green materials and Dreyer says there are a host of other materials as well. Today’s market offers permeable pavers made from recycled concrete, natural, plant-based oils for wood floor finishes (such as Monocoat), and zero-waste porcelain and tile products (such as Fireclay, a California company looking at creating local subsidiaries to reduce the carbon footprint of distribution).

“It’s not just about depositing recyclables, it’s about proactively using them,” she said.

About the Designer

With degrees in architecture, interior design and environmental design, Terri Hogan Dreyer brings 35 years of experience to NANO, the firm she leads with her husband and business partner Ian Dreyer. As 2020 president of AIA New Orleans, she increased the number of New Orleans architectural firms signed up for the 2030 challenge (an initiative to make new buildings and renovations carbon-neutral by 2030) by more than 300 percent. NANO was the recipient of the European Cultural Centre’s (ECC) Best Architecture Exhibit at the 2021 Venice Biennale.