As outlined previously in our article on innovations and trends in the construction industry, building sustainability is moving into shaper focus and there is an ever increasing drive to create buildings that are not only functional and cost efficient but are also environmentally sustainable. There are many ways in which designers/clients can incorporate sustainability. Some of these are examined below.
What is green Building?
According to the Green Building Council, a ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Building green is not only targeted at the final product but also places high-importance on the design iteslf.
The environmental protection agency (EPA) outlines 7 key components of a green energy strategy:
Energy efficiency and Renewable energy
Environmentally sustainable building materials and specifications
Indoor air quality
Smart growth and sustainable development
So this gives a designers a somewhat vague roadmap of the end goal is. Let look at bit closer at how the green building strategy is actually achieved.
How is the green strategy being implemented?
There are ways by which which the green strategy is actually enforced. The establishment of the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) sustainability assessment method in the UK in the early 90’s was a key milestone. This was later followed by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system in the US. Both these schemes measure building performance through parameters such as operational energy, water consumption, site sustainability, and embodied carbon etc. You can learn more about these rating systems here and here.
LEED and BREEAM certification are becoming mandatory in many city building codes and assists designers looking to qualify for certain state and local government incentives. Developers and clients are likely to understand the importance of achieving the highest LEED and BREAAM standards to attract press and investment in building projects in an ever-more sustainability-minded world.
In terms of building design this could likely lead to a stronger focus on recycled materials with low carbon footprints, renewable energy sources, rainwater harvesting, modular construction, and other innovations that are currently in the works.
Often the impediment to change is cost. Although there may be more up-front costs to aspects of green design, in the long run there are potential big savings. Understanding this is a key step is popularising green strategies.
We all know that design decisions such as specifying efficient high performance doors and windows which will help save on HVAC costs in the future are a simple example of how these savings could be achieved. There are other things designers should consider. As noted by the United Sates Green Building Council (USGBC) A landmark study by the firm Davis Langdon (now an AECOM company) found no significant difference between the average cost of a LEED-certified building . The same reference linked above from USGBC includes details of studies which indicate that certified buildings also also attract higher rental values.
There also local and national government grants offered to designers using green strategies. A trend set to continue as society places higher importance on sustainability.
An article by buildings.com also helps to outline some of the tangible benefits to green buildings such as long term asset value, design and construction costs, operating costs, work place productivity and health.
For designers, building green is likely to lead to an increased focus on LCA (life cycle analysis) points and more concern for not just material cost but sustainable strategies. This is starting to creep into designers mind in the last few years in particular as their clients become more aware of the sustainable design and the benefits that come with it.
Examples of green buildings
The pixel building in Melbourne is Australia’s first carbon-neutral office building, generating all its own power and water on site. Green roofs with rain water harvesting, wind turbines and solar panels are all incorporated into this design.
Shanghai tower which is the second tallest building in the world in an another good example of intelligent design driven by a green agenda. It uses 80% less energy for its heating and cooling than equivalent towers. There are some 270 wind turbines within the building facade which are used to power exterior lighting.
In summary there is definitely a shift towards sustainability in design. However it does seem like more could be done to incentivise green building. There simply is not enough pressure or incentive for designers or clients to enforce the strategies inherent to sustainable designs. Building designers are generally hired to find the the most efficient and cost effective solution that meets the clients needs. Sustainability is not still that high on the list. Not yet.
Please comment and share. Thanks for reading!