Product specifiers in building design have an increasingly complex task in trying to discern what a sustainable building product is and deliver it to end users. So, where does one start?
Several leading industry publications – Architectural Record and Construction Dive — have published commentary on the incoming U.S. presidential administration and the future of the green building movement.
Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt, of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency respectively, have both rejected accepted, mainstream science on climate change and vowed to roll back environmental rules like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This has architects worried that the new administration could reverse other regulations, including those mandating sustainable construction for federal buildings.
Current federal mandates require buildings to improve energy performance and reduce consumption by 2.5% every year through 2025, and while these initiatives have resulted in significant energy savings, they could be rolled back. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires certain green building practices, is not as easily scrapped. Some of this push back may also be offset by local government commitment to green policies.
Even if the incoming administration wages war against sustainability in construction practices, building owners are not likely to abandon the principles. Last year, the Bentall Kennedy report revealed that green buildings, particularly those that are LEED-certified, can garner 3.7% higher rents and 4% greater occupancy rates than non-LEED-certified buildings. The company also discovered that ENERGY STAR-certified buildings earned 2.7% higher rents and saw a 9.5% increase in occupancy.
Touted as “the world’s largest passive housing” project, a 162 unit residential complex is currently under construction in Heidelberg, Germany. The solar-powered Heidelberg Village designed by the Frey Architekten firm will feature a wide range of sustainable features, as well as rooftop and vertical gardens. The complex is expected to use 75% less energy than a similar project using conventional building design.
The Passive design concept originated in Germany in the 1990’s, and has now been embraced worldwide as an effective and economic way to cut carbon emissions and reduce energy demand in buildings while still providing high-caliber living comfort, superior indoor air quality and structural resilience. While the movement began with a residential focus, passive “house” building principles have been adopted in major commercial building projects as well, setting new standards for heating and cooling efficiency, total energy consumption and air leakage.
One of the most ambitious “passive design” commercial projects currently underway is in Belgium where Europe’s largest passive office complex is under construction. The Herman Teirlinch government office will be a 66,500 square meter mixed use, low-rise, sustainable building designed by Neutelings Riedijk.
While entire passive home neighborhoods have yet to be created in the United States, passive design residential and commercial buildings are cropping up nationwide. The key components are 1) high-quality insulation and thermal-bridge-free construction 2) airtight construction 3) energy efficient windows and doors 4) mechanical ventilation for air quality.
Sto Corp has been a leader in providing passive design projects with energy efficient exterior insulation and finish systems. StoTherm ® ci continuous insulation, air moisture barriers, and advanced wall cavity systems have been used to meet and even exceed passive design energy efficiency standards in various climate zones across the country.
For more information on the Herman Teirlinch office building: http://inhabitat.com/belgiums-largest-passive-office-building-breaks-ground-in-brussels/
For more information on passive design: http://www.phius.org/home-page
For more passive design case studies: http://nypassivehouse.org/new-york-passive-house-2015-the-nyph-flip-book/)
For the 40th consecutive year, the editors of Building Design+Construction have ranked the nation’s largest architectural, engineering and construction firms as part of their “Giants 300 report”. AEC firms are ranked by discipline, specialty and sector with 22 building sectors covered — from airport terminals to healthcare and educational facilities, hotels and sports arenas. Over 50 design firms and their latest innovations are showcased including Green Building firms who are focusing on technology and occupant health to maintain their edge in sustainability. Turner Construction was ranked #1 out of 90 Green Construction Firms with revenues of $5.7 billion and Gensler, not surprisingly, was at the top of most of the architectural lists.
A recent study published by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) suggests that Green Buildings create optimized conditions for health and productivity. In a series of experiments, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) factors for both “green” and “conventional” buildings were simulated in a controlled environment that included office workers, and the researchers measured variables such as carbon dioxide variation, ventilation and exposure to volatile organic compounds in the building atmosphere.
The results? On average, cognitive scores for the two groups of workers were 61% higher for those working in a building with green features than with conventional construction. In other words, green building can potentially deliver a smarter workforce.