Green architecture


David Fojo
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  • Plant tall sun shading trees along the southern and western boundaries. This will protect the home and yard from the hot southern and western sun, increase comfort and reduce AC costs. Make sure to leave enough space between the trees and underneath them so that natural breezes can still flow through and cool the house.
  • Minimize earthwork and leave as much of the site undisturbed as possible to reduce damage to local eco-system – birds, insects, drainage and natural percolation of water into the earth. Plant species used should be hardy local varieties with low maintenance.
  • Maximize green space on building lot. A two or three storey home takes up less green space and is more cost effective to build than a single storey house.
  • Consult a good architect to help you select the best site, because selection of the wrong site can result in significantly increased construction costs, high air conditioning costs, difficulty in designing a green home, and many other negative consequences.
  • Heavily plant “scars” where the earth has been cut using species that can re-vegetate cliffs and provide carefully designed storm water drains to minimize erosion and landslides.
  • Effective night and security lighting should be on surfaces needed only – lights pointing down. Eliminate unnecessary lighting thrown into the night sky – it affects neighbors and wildlife and wastes energy.
  • Plant a kitchen garden and use kitchen waste to create a compost heap to fertilize the garden.


  • Build your house close to where you work and have your activities to minimize pollution and traffic.
  • Use of excessive concrete and concrete blocks and dark exterior colors in your home and yard increases the temperature in and around your house, yard and neighborhood – the Heat Island effect – decreasing comfort and increasing AC costs.


  • Reclaim rainwater from your roof and run into separate tanks. If unfiltered it may be unpotable but could be used around the yard or to flush toilets. However, if purified and alkalized, can make drinking water better than most bottled waters.
  • Purify and alkalize WASA water to improve its health giving properties.
  • Especially where lot is large or city sewer is difficult to reach consider a green septic tank / soak-away system that converts wastewater into water that is safe to use around the yard for decorative and edible plants (must use approved system).
  • Use low flow showers and water closets.


Homes in T&T are notoriously energy inefficient. Average home could have its energy performance improved by 50% with simple and available technology, which would be better for the environment and your pocket book.

  • Use inexpensive radiant barriers in roofs and western walls which can reduce radiant heat gain by up to 90%.
  • Use insulation to reduce heat gain by conduction.
  • Use “out-sulation” where possible. That is, insulate the outside of your house to prevent the heat from penetrating to the structure of your home.
  • Use generous sun shades over all windows to beautify and increase the performance and usability of your windows and doors.
  • Use thermal massing (e.g. thick block walls) in certain areas to postpone the penetration of heat into spaces by several hours. This allows for the use of smaller AC units that cost less and use less energy.
  • Use solar water heaters. They make economic sense.
  • Use solar energy systems, even if as an educational gesture for site lighting. Prices continue to drop and units are widely available, even at Pricemart etc..
  • Use wind power. Because of Trinidad’s yacht industry there are many “yacht” wind power systems available that are not too expensive.
  • Solar and wind are ideal for acreages where there is a cost and/or a time factor to bring TTEC in. Also useful as backup power during power outages and wherever self reliant “off the grid” living is desired.


  • Use locally and regionally manufactured products where practical. This usually reduces transportation pollution.
  • Clay blocks are a good example of a relatively green local material.
  • Use woods certified to be grown in a managed and sustainable way. This discourages pillaging of the forests.
  • Magnesium oxide boards such as Dragon Board and Magna Board are relatively green and perform well.
  • Use recycled materials where practical.
  • Re-use construction waste in creative ways.


  • In the humid tropics we have serious issues of mold, mildew and fungus that grow on clothes, shoes, walls, in AC ducts, and other places where they can become health problems. This can be minimized by proper design which includes ventilation, moisture resistant detailing, moisture resistant materials, barriers and paints, etc.
  • Indoor Air Quality is a more severe problem than exterior air quality. It can be controlled by using low-emitting materials, addition of increased fresh air to AC systems, and mold control.
  • Attenuate the powerful tropical sun to just the right intensity and quality suited for a particular function by daylighting techniques.


This story is based on an interview with David Fojo, Architect, Master’s of Environmental Design, Yale University. Mr. Fojo has a green architecture practice with work in the Caribbean and the US. He can be reached at or you can visit his sites or or by phone at 621-1259.


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