Seven Keys to Green Building
Posted: 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Seven Keys To Green Building
Incorporating sustainable design is good for both the bottom line and employee morale.
Increasing storms, violent floods, fluctuating global temperatures, unstable energy costs and global water shortages. All of these threaten to derail, destroy or bankrupt businesses around the world. Businesses that can't afford to rebuild if they are destroyed, or stay profitable as energy prices rise while the global economy sinks. In today's environment businesses can no longer wait for governments to help shape solutions to deal with climate change.
No matter how large or small a business is, business leaders must consider the work environment. Applying certain principles of sustainability can lead to dramatic savings that also improve a company's performance from an environmental and social perspective. Following are seven strategies to help businesses make a difference:
1) Consolidate Office Space
Amid economic uncertainty, many companies are downsizing, consolidating office or production space or looking at new facilities that will provide operational and maintenance savings in the long term. This provides the ideal opportunity to integrate elements of sustainable design and can lead to dramatic environmental health and cost savings. Energy costs for renovated existing facilities or new buildings can easily be reduced by 50% from previous levels.
2) Set Green Building Performance Goals
Setting initial green building performance goals for a renovation project or new site can help a company track and benchmark its performance. The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System and the International Living Building Institute's Living Building Challenge are two commonly accepted tools available for businesses to benchmark their building and interior space performance.
3) Reduce Equipment and Load Requirements
In designing a new space or the renovation of an existing space, first consider solutions to reduce equipment and energy load requirements. Excessive building glazing can lead to discomfort in summer heat and can drive up air conditioning costs. Improve the quality of the building envelope--the space between the outer and inner walls--with insulation. Employ simple design strategies that include the use of natural daylight, ventilation and sun-mitigating measures such as interior blinds or external louvers to minimize air-conditioning needs. Together these can reduce energy use by 10%-20%.
4) Conserve Energy
Look at energy conservation measures. Deploying readily available high efficiency lighting such as LEDs and compact fluorescents provides a three-year payback. Using multiple lighting levels, instead of an on-off switch, can reduce consumption. Daylight sensors can decrease lighting loads during the day when natural light is available. Switching to these types of energy-efficient lighting design can result in 10%-15% in energy savings.
5) Design Comfortable Work Environments
Daylight and human comfort are the two biggest concerns employees have with respect to their work environments. The challenge is to balance the desire for external views and natural daylight (which can increase productivity) while avoiding excessive heat from the sun. Between 50% and 90% of operational costs for a business are employee salaries, so designing a pleasing, comfortable work environment is important. It can aid in reducing absenteeism, increasing employee morale, and attracting and retaining staff.
6) Consider Renewable Energy
From a design perspective the most costly energy strategy is the use of renewable energy technologies such as solar hot water, solar panels for electricity or wind power production. However in many cities and states, subsidies and inducements are available to improve investment returns and reduce capital costs. Renewable energy systems have the added benefit of ensuring some degree of self-sufficiency in the increasingly likely event of power disruptions due to climate change events.
7) Additional Strategies
Opportunities for innovation and greenhouse gas reductions do not end with design. Business leaders need to examine every aspect of their operations. For example:
--Recommissioning a building to ensure that your building systems are running properly and efficiently can lead to 10% savings in energy use.
--Invest in energy-efficient transportations systems, equipment and better fuels. (This would be done at a municipal or regional level, of course.)
--Examine standards of energy-efficient IT infrastructure and switch to Energy Star-labeled equipment.
--Establish recycling and composting programs throughout your business.
--Track miles traveled by air and vehicle, and commit to a program to offset employee carbon emissions with the purchase of carbon credits.
Many of these strategies can be applied to any scale of design or operation of any business. What is needed is strong leadership and commitment from upper-level management and buy-in by employees at all levels. The experience will likely build a sense of teamwork within your company and drive the future success of your business in a climate of change.
Peter Busby is managing director of the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will, a global architecture firm. He is involved with the design and sustainable direction of each of the firm's projects. Busby is also a founding member and recent chair of the Canada Green Building Council. Perkins+Will has the largest portfolio of built green projects in Canada.
Originally published by Forbes.com