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Green Buildings are taking over the urban landscape. Newer construction methods and design features drastically improve a structure’s performance while also reducing waste. Helping to drive change, the U.S. Green Building Council certifies building projects that demonstrate the best use of energy, water, and materials.
Common Strategies Used by Green Buildings
Energy use is critical. The less power a building consumes over time, the lower the environmental impact it will have. Designers have only two options to streamline energy use. They can reduce consumption or generate their own power. Green technologies are enabling both. Solar panels placed strategically on surfaces convert the rays of the sun into electricity and can also draw in heat energy for interior climate control. Dynamic shading and ventilation systems also reduces the power consumption needed for cooling.
Water conservation is another area where better designs are making an impact. Using water-free toilets and collecting rain water in cisterns reduces the demand for non-potable water. Builders are starting to incorporate piping and filtration systems that can recycle used water. Garden areas and permeable pavement helps to retain more ground water which reduces the impact on aquifers.
Eliminating waste does not stop with just the functionality of the building. The physical location and convenient access to public transportation encourages occupants to change their commuting habits. Riding a bike or taking public transportation lowers emission levels and keeps more drivers off the roads. Sourcing building supplies from recycled materials and local manufacturers can also reduce the environmental impact from construction.
A Look at New Strategies in Action
One of the most impressive examples of new green building technology is the Bullitt Building in Seattle Washington. This structure incorporates just about every possible green strategy imaginable in one structure. It has successfully become a net zero energy consumer. It’s array of solar panels and energy saving strategies combine to reduce its overall consumption to the point where it must store extra energy on the city’s power grid at times.
It also has a unique design feature to control interior temperature, lighting, and ventilation. It uses a complex and ingenious system of windows and shades that react dynamically to the ambient conditions. Known as its living skin, the triple pane shades have a glaze that can scatter and redirect solar light for the maximum effect.
New Life to Old buildings
The Edith Green Wendell Wyatt Federal Building is one of the greatest successes of Portland Oregon’s green building projects. This building was originally constructed in 1974 but was renovated between 2009 and 2013. Thanks to upgrades, this structure is now close to achieving platinum LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) certification with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The building was modernized with solar panels for heating and energy production. The elevators were also modified to generate power when descending. Water and air recycling systems have improved both water conservation and the air quality of the building.
A Scalable Solution for Sustainability
Critics of green building movement argue that the technology is impractical for larger structures, but the Packard Foundation Building in Los Altos California proves these naysayers wrong. When it was completed in 2013 it was the largest building to be certified as a net zero consumer of electricity. The 49,000 square foot building earned its platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and owners expect the recover initial costs through energy savings over the next ten years.
The building has 915 solar panels on the roof, and uses many of the same energy savings strategies of other high performing buildings. This building stands out though. Data alerts are sent to employees throughout the day to inform them when the windows can be opened or shuttered to optimize the interior temperatures, ventilation, and natural lighting.
Green buildings are using new technologies to cut overall costs and improve the lives of residents. These successes are soon to become common features in the urban environment. For more on this topic, check out this handy infographic from Avanti Systems USA.