It is the question asked for so many times when talking about green building. Does it pay off to make your building green (or at least greener)?
Despite the growth of public transportation and other transportation alternatives, parking locations remain necessary in much of the nation. Even though parking consultants and design teams have been using sustainable practices for parking structures in recent years, many do not calculate energy use as part of their standard methodology. Unknown to most, a garage typically uses 15% of the energy that the building that it is designed to support uses.Worse, this energy use is often lost in the periphery of energy efficiency efforts. Parking structures should not be overlooked, though, because the savings potential is immense. Energy use can be reduced by more than 90% over an ASHRAE Standard 90.1 2007 baseline parking structure with typical construction costs.
Here are some design elements that can be implemented to improve the energy efficiency of parking structures
Design the parking structure to maintain an approximate 40% façade openness, which allows natural ventilation on all levels. This will be enough ventilation to preclude the need for mechanical ventilation systems.
Lighting is typically the largest load, particularly for naturally ventilated structures. To reduce the lighting load to almost zero during daylight hours, perforate the façade with aluminum panels that let in sunlight (while keeping out weather) and, if possible, design to include a “light well” in the middle of the structure to meet a full daylighting effort in the center of the space. If done properly, only a few places in the structure, such as under the stairs, need to be electrically lighted between sunrise and sunset.
Whether driven by a genuine desire to reduce their environmental footprint, or simply to insulate themselves against rising costs, energy efficiency is becoming a significant organizational goal for many companies around the country. In order to achieve these goals, businesses are looking for direction on how they can have their buildings’ designed and/or operated to consume as little energy as possible. Many have looked to the LEED Rating System to provide both the guidance for, and recognition of exceptional energy, water and material conservation. However, large barriers remain; the planning, modeling, implementation, measurement and documentation requirements of attaining a LEED designation can be daunting. Worse, many companies begin the process of having their building LEED certified, only to abandon the project due to lack of focus and uncertainty. While some companies are waiting for the streamlined documentation promised by LEED V4 (set to release in September), the real solution may be found in a more unlikely place – the Six Sigma Methodologies originally developed by Motorola in 1986.
Six Sigma Methodologies
Six Sigma is a business management strategy that seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, primarily statistical, to define a project and carry out a defined sequence of steps towards a quantified target (generally cost reduction or profit increase). These steps are known as DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. All this is done in an effort to operate at Six Sigma quality levels, in which only 3.4 outputs out of 1,000,000 are defective. In a time when New York’s Energy Benchmarking law found that the Chrysler Building, constructed in the 1930s, is more energy efficient than the newly constructed (and LEED Certified) 7 World Trade Center, a discipline that focuses on excellence in results might be exactly what the green building industry needs.
Energy benchmarking can unlock $9 billion in energy savings by 2020, suggests a recent report by the Institute of Market Transformation. Despite our lofty aspirations of energy independence and tackling global climate change, we are only beginning to implement the first step in the multifamily building sector – understanding our energy use. Multifamily housing has a number of characteristics that should make green retrofits an appealing investment, but only a fraction of the potential energy savings have been realized due to the lack of data on best practices and historical cost savings. Experts estimate that the multifamily housing stock could feasibly become 28% more efficient by 2020, which translates to 51,000 GWh of electricity, or 20 coal power plants worth of carbon emissions.
Increasing Demand and Barriers to Adoption
Given that energy costs have risen three times faster than rent increases in the past ten years, utility bills are beginning to be a significant burden on the almost 40 million Americans that live in these multifamily buildings, costing approximately $22 billion per year. Exacerbating the problem in the case of multifamily buildings is the larger capital investments for energy improvements, lack of available capital, and the divide between building owners, utility bills, and tenants. Still, the main obstacle may be the fact that many building owners have never measured, or benchmarked, the energy performance of their buildings, and struggle to make informed decisions when relying solely on energy bills.
The decision to apply for LEED Certification is both exciting and daunting for designers and managers. Having your building recognized by the USGBC is a badge of honor in the design and construction industry, but it also means more planning, measuring and upfront costs. What’s more, a simple “LEED Certified” designation no longer holds the same weight as it once did; in fact, the most common designation is now LEED Gold. This requires getting at least 60 out of the 110 possible points under the current LEED rating system. Points vary tremendously in ease and cost, so make sure not to miss any of the low hanging fruits in this list. Also, you shouldn’t worry about whether these options will still be available under LEED V4; a project can still apply to the current system, LEED 2009, until mid-2015.
1. Include a principal participant with a LEED Accreditation
In terms of ease and benefit, the number one thing any project should do is to make sure you have a LEED AP on the team. LEED AP’s have passed the LEED Green Associate and LEED AP Exams, as well as documented experience on a project seeking LEED Certification. They will have the expertise required to design a building to LEED standards and to coordinate the application process. LEED APs also go through continuing education to ensure they understand the latest in integrated design and how to consider interactions between the various credit categories. Remember that they must have a LEED AP designation, which tests for advanced knowledge of a particular rating system; not simply a LEED Green Associate, which only tests a fundamental understanding of green buildings.
Where are the Green Jobs?
CleanEdison research indicates that nearly 3 million people will be employed in the green economy by the end of 2020.
When we look at job creation and industry growth in areas such as energy efficiency, solar energy, and smart grid technology, we see tremendous growth potential. We estimate that by the end of 2020, nearly 1 million people will be employed in these sectors and nearly 3 million people will be employed in the green economy as a whole.
As Seen in Bloomberg News
Colleges and universities are in a particularly advantageous position to foster sustainability in the short and long term. Their decisions regarding energy, transportation, construction and operations can have real effects on the surrounding community, and collectively, the nation as a whole. Moreover, the inclusion of sustainability in the curriculum and activities of students will help shape a more eco-conscious society as we move forward. There are many different metrics that can be used to define sustainability, but in terms of resource efficiency and human health, LEED certified buildings can serve as a good measuring stick for a school’s commitment to sustainability. In no particular order, here are 10 universities that have demonstrated a willingness to be leaders in the field.
California Polytechnic State University
– Cal Poly is a leader in curriculum focused on sustainability; they currently offer over 170 courses with an emphasis on sustainability. In addition to educating the next generation of sustainable experts, they have made a strong commitment to LEED for their own campus. All new facilities are designed to be equivalent to a LEED Certified level of sustainability, with the goal of each project achieving LEED Silver or higher. Cal Poly was awarded LEED Silver certification for their Faculty Office East building in 2008 and LEED Gold certification for their Poly Canyon Village student housing in 2009, resulting in over 25% of the campus square footage being LEED certified. Moreover, the Poly Canyon Village project diverted 94% of the non-hazardous construction and demolition waste from landfills.
Total Number of LEED Certified Buildings – 11
Combined Square Footage LEED Certified – 1,425,794 sq. feet (25% of total area)
Often, businesses tout the designations they’ve received from voluntary green building rating systems such as a LEED certification to showcase how environmentally-friendly they are as a company. These rating systems have had a significant impact on the building industry, but many feel that there is a need for a code compliance path to document buildings’ performances. This is why the the ICC International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings have been established.
These documents are neither ratings systems or guides, though they do focus on the five categories of sustainability addressed in LEED New Construction: Materials and Resources, Site Sustainability, Indoor Environmental Quality, Energy Efficiency, Water Use Efficiency, and an additional section addressing Operation and Maintenance. These codes are written in mandatory code language and are intended to be adopted on local and state levels.
So, what are the major differences between the two codes? First, one must understand that ASHRAE 189.1 is based on site energy cost, while IgCC is based on source energy use. These unique metrics provide energy-saving measures depending on the particular project. A portion of the IgCC also states that the person doing the energy simulation be a professional architect or engineer in the state where the project is being constructed; ASHRAE 189.1 currently does not have a similar condition.
Have you heard of Socrates’ Megaron House? This structure is an excellent example of an ancient structure that utilizes a passive solar design. (Passive solar uses sunlight efficiently to reduce energy demand, as opposed to using sunlight and heat to increase supply). Here a few tips anyone interested in passive solar one can learn from the great philosopher’s construction.
- Open towards a southern sight: A beautiful and natural southern site is aesthetically pleasing, and a southern orientation makes full use of the solar light and heat in the wintertime and protects the interior from hot sunlight during the summer months.
- Use architecture wisely: Using more narrow architecture towards the northern cold side and featuring storage spaces and stairs provides hot and cold protection for the predominant living areas.
- Use natural barriers: Barriers such as small hills protect the home from cold northeastern winds.
- Employ a Trombe wall: A large wall that is separated from nature by an air space and glazing, this wall soaks up solar energy and releases it selectively inside the dwelling at night using the heat from the winter sun. During warm months, the wall stays cold due to the protective terrace above it.
- Build in a way that allows air to circulate: This allows for comfortable temperatures year-round. Using building materials with favorable thermal masses increases the effectiveness of this type of design.
Sunlight has influenced building design since architecture itself developed, but advanced solar energy techniques were first employed by the Chinese and the Greeks, who constructed their buildings toward the south to take full advantage of the warmth and light the sun provides.
Is your home oriented towards the south? If so, have you seen a positive impact on your heating and cooling bills? Let us know how your home’s solar orientation has impacted you and your family. Comments are always welcome!
It does not take a financial analyst to see that formerly lucrative industries such as the automobile industry have fallen into disrepair. As investment shifts from industries that were seen as infallible and moves toward sustainable industries that promise continued returns on investment and job creation, so does the popular opinion about trades that may have previously been considered impractical and unnecessary. Nowadays, the building professional who can replace an incandescent light bulb with an energy efficiency LED bulb will find himself in higher demand than the person whose skill set reflects the values of previous generations. Thanks to research and development aimed at growing green industries, the climate for green building professionals has become friendlier. Now is the time to equip yourself with green building certification so that you can break into this ever-expanding industry.
As long as private and public investment goes toward renewable energy sources, clean technology, and green building projects, green jobs will stay in existence and hopefully increase in numbers and ease of entry. If you work as a contractor, carpenter, engineer, or designer, then you have already probably undergone a great deal of hands-on job training, making the transition into green jobs even easier for you. There are resources around the globe that make the shift into the green building industry a seamless one, including solar panel installation training courses, lead training courses, and specialized training for individuals who want to work as residential and commercial energy auditors.
Green job training represents a minute investment for many building professionals whose work has been impacted by changing federal regulations surrounding the building industry. For example, renovators who work in buildings constructed prior to 1978 must obtain lead safety certification or pay extremely costly fines for violating EPA rules. For others, green job training is an opportunity to create a sustainable revenue stream in addition to an existing career. Green jobs are the way of the future, and now is the time to get on board.