Rightsizing Systems

I call this the Goldilocks principle of building design systems should be the right size for the job, neither too big nor too small. This seems obvious, but since temperature complaints are a large source of occupant discomfort and criticism in most buildings, engineers have become naturally conservative in sizing systems, making them larger than they need to be, both to avoid complaints and to provide an extra cushion for extreme events and the degradation of system performance over time. This...

Photovoltaics

Photovoltaic (PV) solar electric systems (photo-voltaics means electricity from light, especially sunlight) have been around since the 1950s and have been used extensively in world's space programs to power satellites, the International Space Station and other spacecraft needing power for operations. Using semiconductor-grade silicon, solar cells convert the energy in sunlight to electricity, typically at efficiencies of 5 to 12 , or with power output of about 5 to 12 watts per square foot....

Question Authority

Green buildings represent a challenge not only to the authority of architects and engineers, but also to the codes and standards prevailing in the building industry. In many cases, building code officials in cities and counties are unaware of new technologies, putting the burden on the design professional to make a case for evaluating a new idea on a performance vs. code-prescriptive basis. In a performance evaluation, the proposed design is assessed to see if it provides the same level of...

Ventilation

Everyone knows the importance of fresh air. Just stay cooped up for a few hours in a poorly ventilated room and see how sleepy and generally out of sorts you feel. Engineers design buildings to meet or exceed building code requirements for fresh air. LEED gives an extra point for designs that circulate at least 30 more fresh air than standard approaches to encourage this simple approach to a healthier building. In many parts of the US, fresh air can also cool buildings for hundreds of hours a...

Triple Bottom Line

The triple bottom line represents a new way of thinking about green buildings and sustainability truly appropriate measures need to incorporate consideration of ecology environment, economy and (social) equity (the three Es), or people, planet and profits (the three Ps). The triple bottom line contrasts with the traditional business bottom line which considers only profits. Clearly businesses have been moving away from a profits-only orientation for quite some time, as the corporate social...

Knowledge

It's often commented that modern society is smart, but not wise, that we know how to do lots of things right, but we don't necessarily do the right things. Green buildings develop from a knowledge base not only of how to make energy-efficient buildings, but how to do so in the least harmful and most resource-efficient way. In their highly influential book, Natural Capitalism, authors Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins point out how we've learned to optimize each subsystem of a...

Green Building Terms

In this chapter, we present the guts of the book, a brief explanation of 108 of the most important (and up-and-coming) terms used in green building discussions. These terms are typically used by architects, engineers, builders, developers, local officials and building managers to describe the green building attributes of a specific development. Our intention here is not to present a complete description of each topic, but to give you a brief, technically accurate introduction, so that you'll...

Green Roofs

Green roofs are one of the most obvious and visible commitments that a green building can make. In addition to providing habitat for plants and animals, a green roof can assist with stormwater management and can provide some additional buffering of the environment, to reduce heating demand in winter and cooling demand in summer. Green roofs are found everywhere in North America, from cold, wet northern places like Toronto and Chicago to hot, dry southern places like Phoenix. The City of Chicago...

Homes Green

What's a green home If you're in the market for a new home, you should be asking for a green home, one that, at a minimum, saves at least 30 of the energy of a conventional new home, has water-conserving fixtures and uses non-toxic finishes. Increasingly, regional and national homebuilders are offering such projects. A recently completed Northern California project by Lennar, one of the ten major US homebuilders that deliver about 35 of all new single-family homes, shows this potential. The...

Bicycle Commuting

In addition to giving access to public transportation, green buildings very often provide accommodations for bicycle commuters, since the cost of doing so is typically small relative to overall project costs. In many cities that are bicycle-oriented, increasing numbers of people are commuting to work in this healthy, friendly, non-polluting way.3 In my former home of Portland, buses and light-rail cars were outfitted to hold bicycles for the long trek home, especially in darkness (evening...

Design

In architecture, celebrity designers such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava are international icons. Management guru Tom Peters began talking about the design decade several years ago he says, Design is the seat of the soul.41 In his view, every business needs to incorporate the essence of design thinking elegance with economy. With noted architect Michael Graves designing for Target and Martha Stewart for K-Mart, and stores such as Design...

Wind Power

The wind blows everywhere on the planet. You might think, why not harness it for power in buildings Typically, average annual wind speeds of 11 miles per hour are needed for commercial applications, while lower wind speeds can be used for water pumping and battery charging. Now, most cities are not built in places where the average wind speed (every hour of the year) is 11 mph that's not really very comfortable. So the best wind resources are located away from cities, and the most...

Permeable Pavement

Permeable pavement is one of those great innovations about which everyone says, Why didn't they come up with this sooner In parking lots, its purpose is to allow water to infiltrate directly into the ground, instead of running off into the streets, storm drains and eventually into rivers and oceans, polluting them with oil and grease. EPA states that used oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water.117 The main source of this runoff is the incredible amount of...

Feng Shui

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system for the harmonious placement of buildings on a site and for the placement of rooms and objects within a building or office. The goal is to allow the free movement of a subtle energy called chi that permeates the world. (Most martial arts systems are based philosophically on the movement of this subtle energy.) In Feng Shui, cities and homes are seen as intimately linked with both the landscape and the cosmos. According to one expert, in China, Every...

Engineering a Sustainable World

Building design focuses so much on architecture that many people forget that it's the engineers who make all the building systems work, from structural systems to heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) to plumbing, lighting, electricity, technology systems, external water supply and waste disposal, fire protection and life-safety systems. About 15 to 20 of the construction cost of a typical commercial building is taken up by engineered systems, not by the building structure or...

Views of the Outdoors

The Lewis and Clark State office building in Jefferson City, Missouri, designed by BNIM Architects, is a LEED Platinum-certified building with abundant views ofthe outdoors. The Lewis and Clark State office building in Jefferson City, Missouri, designed by BNIM Architects, is a LEED Platinum-certified building with abundant views ofthe outdoors. clear glazing, so anyone can see through them to the outdoors, or to locate corridors along the building perimeter, so everyone can see outside. When I...

Green Buildings in a Global Context

Green buildings are part of a global response to increasing awareness of the role of human activity in causing global climate change. Buildings account for more than 40 of all global carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main culprits implicated in the phenomenon of global warming. While the US and Western Europe, Canada and Japan contribute the majority of greenhouse gas emissions at the present time, this situation is going to change dramatically in the near future. The projected rapid growth...

Operations and Maintenance Practices

Environmentally beneficial operations and maintenance (O & M) practices are just beginning to come into use, spurred by the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) rating system. Building owners and managers are beginning to examine their use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other toxic substances, to eliminate those that pose significant hazards to people, animals and the environment. Large organizations with sustainability mission statements are beginning to see the...

Bis Picture

As our discussion of the Architecture 2030 program shows, there is a big picture of global climate change, species loss, rainforest destruction, soil erosion and a myriad of other environmental issues on the table, as human beings attempt to accommodate an estimated 9.4 billion people on the planet by 2050 (up from about 6.6 billion today) at reasonable levels of health and material well-being.4 The big picture was dramatized to many of us, in 1969 by the first pictures of the entire Earth from...

Recycledcontent Materials

When you think of a green building, if you're like most people, recycling and building with recycled-content materials would likely spring to mind as a key characteristic. In the LEED system, credit is given to projects in which recycled-content represents more than 10 of the total value of all building materials (excluding equipment). This includes structure roof, floors and load-bearing walls rough and finish carpentry insulation (sometimes cotton-batt insulation is made from recycled jeans)...

Technology Green

During 2006 and 2007 venture capitalists finally discovered green building, investing in a wave of product innovations and renewable energy, which attracted considerable money in 2005 and 2006 when oil price hikes reached record levels. In this 1.1 trillion building industry (construction value), private-equity companies are investing in products and systems that reduce the use of toxic materials in construction make the construction process more efficient encourage green housing technologies...

Architecture 2030

Recent analyses by New Mexico architect Edward Mazria showed that buildings are the source of almost half the global greenhouse gas emissions implicated in widespread climate change. The figure below shows the growth in such emissions up to 2000. Mazria's work and that of the Architecture 2030 organization shows that stabilizing emissions in this sector and then reversing them to acceptable levels is a key to keeping global warming to approximately 1 C (i.8 F) above today's level.1 In 2005...

Furniture and Finishes

Furniture plays a significant role in green offices and homes. The life-cycle impacts of the materials used in chairs, tables, desks, partitions and similar systems, the source of the wood products and the ecological footprint of fabrics are all considerations in green interior design. One of the easiest ways in which companies can start on the journey to sustainability is to evaluate their furniture and furnishings purchases and to incorporate such criteria. The LEED for Existing Buildings...

Highperformance Buildings

Many people have begun using the term high-performance buildings instead of green buildings or sustainable buildings because they want to emphasize what is gained from these projects, not what is given up.68 High-performance also appeals to Americans we want everything turbo-charged and super-sized. A high-performance building is one in which energy and water efficiencies are high, indoor air quality is high, recycling rates are high, etc. This is a much easier concept to explain to most...

Green Power

Green buildings (as well as you and I) have the option of buying some or all of their electricity from a green power provider. In this context, green power is renewable energy produced somewhere else and then transmitted to the project site (figuratively). There are dozens of such suppliers in the US, most of which are wholesalers of wind power, some solar power and some biomass, geothermal or low-impact hydro facilities. My own local utility, Tucson Electric Power, sells two packages of...

Solar Thermal Systems

I got acquainted with solar energy systems in the mid-1970s when the first Arab oil embargo led many people to start looking to the sun as a source of free energy (as the slogan went, Four billion years without a shortage.). I participated in the development of the solar energy industry in California over the next decade, first directing the state's landmark solar-industry commercialization programs, then as a private sector participant, marketing, selling and installing solar systems for...

Energy Conservation

This is a vast topic, so here we're just going to introduce a few key concepts. The basic notion is that energy conservation is the cheapest power we can buy, or to use Amory Lovins' term, it generates negawatts, negative demand on the power grid and fuel supply. A 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society concluded that energy efficiency (conservation) and renewables could contribute an average of about 1,200 million metric tons per year of carbon reductions by 2030, putting the US on...

In Your Office or Workplace

There are many things you can do where you work to promote green buildings and sustainable design. Here are a few brief suggestions you can implement right away. In early 2007 Swiss Re, a major global insurance company, announced that it would be supporting investments and purchases made by employees that contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The new COYou2 reduce and gain program is part of Swiss Re's commitments supporting the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2003 Swiss Re declared...

New society publishers

Preface Foreword 1 Green Buildings in a Global Context 3 Resource Depletion and Carbon Dioxide Emissions 7 2 Green Building Current Situation Understanding Green Buildings Who Is Using 3 What is a Green 4 Becoming a Green Building Advocate 19 In Your Office or Workplace In Your Home or YourTown, City or State The Power of Local Initiatives 22 Your College or University 5 Green Building Terms Access to Transit Bicycle Commuting Big Building Carbon Dioxide Carbon Certification Certified Wood...

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is diesel-equivalent, processed fuel derived from biological sources (such as vegetable oils, even waste cooking oil from restaurants such as fast-food establishments), that can be used unmodified in diesel engines. Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic and produces significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. A recent article reported that chicken fat could be used, prompting major chicken producers such as Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Smithfield Foods...

Renewable Energy

There's so much to say about renewable energy. You can conceive it this way imagine civilized life on Earth before the advent of the fossil-fuel era. Think of ancient Rome, the Italian Renaissance and the settlement of America, all of which took place using only sun, wind and water, along with draft animals, for power. Imagine that we could live healthy, happy and productive lives without electricity. This was reality for our great-grandparents (that is, if you're my age if you're under 30, add...

Onsite Sewage Treatment

We live in a flush without fear society, in which most of us just flush away and presume that they will take care of it somewhere downstream. Of course, for most of us, our downstream is someone else's upstream Nevertheless, for the most part, this is a reasonable presumption, since modern sewage treatment systems have been perfected over the past 100 years, and flush toilets have been around since Thomas Crapper first popularized them in London in the 19th century.104 However, a basic...

Salvage Materials

A penny saved is a penny earned, wrote Ben Franklin. We care about reusing building materials because of the energy and resources they represent. It takes energy to down-cycle them into recycled-content materials (think of old concrete from a building ground into three-quarter-inch aggregate for use in concrete or as the base material for a parking lot or roadway), so why not use them in their original form instead of throwing them away or using them in some devalued form LEED recognizes the...

Ozonelayer Protection

The Montreal Protocol came into force in 1989. It bans the production and use of chemicals that have been shown to damage the ozone layer, a concern first raised by scientists in the 1970s. Without the protective ozone layer, we all would get skin cancer Discovery of a persistent ozone hole over Antarctica in 1984 by British scientists highlighted the damage to the ozone layer and heightened public concern over the chemicals that were believed to be causing the phenomenon.109 These damaging...

Investing in Green Buildings

In 2006 real estate investment in green buildings grew dramatically with the announcement of a joint venture by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) to fund future commercial real estate projects by the Hines development organization. A large national real estate developer, Hines is well-known for its commitment to Energy Star and LEED certification for its buildings.80 The Hines CalPERS Green Development Fund (HCG) was capitalized with over 120 million of committed...

Cradletocradle Design

Cradle-to-cradle design was introduced in 2002 by architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart as a method for evaluating products that could be safely used without any harm to people or the environment, based on known data. The evaluation criteria for products include material properties, specifically toxicity and carcinogenicity, persistence and toxicity in the environment, and use of heavy metals material reuse potential, either in recycling or composting efficient or...

Vastu Shastra

Similar to Feng Shui, a design philosophy and approach known as Vastu Shastra is based on teachings of the ancient scriptures of India. Introduced into the US by the American practitioners of Transcendental Meditation TM , Vastu Shastra aims to harmonize people, buildings and land. While individual homes have been built using these ancient principles, the largest commercial expression of this approach to creating healthy work and living environments is an office building in Rockville, Maryland,...