What Goes Into a Green Building?

Nov 3, 2022

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With more companies than ever before searching for ways to become more environmentally friendly, the demand for green architecture has grown significantly in the past few years. In many cases, large companies have set lofty sustainability goals that they will need to achieve in just a few years time. For example, there are some companies that strive to produce zero harmful emissions or reduce their carbon footprint by half within the next 20-30 years. This probably goes without saying, but in order to reach their goals, these companies will have to make some significant changes to how they operate. One of the main ways that companies are limiting their impact on the environment is by focusing on green architecture. Green architecture is something that we’ve all heard about—but few know what actually goes into the development and construction of these buildings. To give you a better understanding of what is and is not a green building, we’re going over some of the major tenets of green architecture that you need to know.

Building Automation Systems to Conserve Energy

By using data and machine learning to control all aspects of building operations, companies will get closer to their sustainability goals

Building automation prevents any unnecessary power usage.

The first aspect of green architecture we’re going to discuss also happens to be one of the main principles of modern building design—building automation. Building automation refers to the automated control system that is in charge of all of the major operating systems that keep the building running properly. In this section, we’re going to be taking a closer look at how 3 main operating systems become more environmentally friendly thanks to building automation systems.

Lights

Proper lighting is important for any type of commercial property. Good lighting design should make all inhabitants feel safe and comfortable both inside your building and in the outside surrounding areas. If these lights are being turned on and off manually, then there is a high chance that the building is wasting energy. That’s why building automation is introduced as a way to help curb the waste associated with manually controlled lighting. By implementing adaptive lighting using a network of sensors, lights will dim and brighten based on the amount of natural sunlight. That way, only a necessary amount of light is being produced at any given time.

Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling a large commercial building is one of the top areas for wasted energy. In some cases, more than 50% of a building’s average energy consumption is due to heating and cooling costs. This is especially true if the building is located somewhere with an extreme climate. Much in the same way building automation systems are able to control lights, automated HVAC systems only produce the exact amount of heating or cooling required. This prevents personal temperature preferences from getting in the way of a company’s sustainability goals. Using a network of interconnected temperature sensors, your HVAC system will be able to keep the whole building at the same temperature no matter changes in outdoor temperature or building occupancy.

Water Usage

The last example of the resource saving capability of building automation systems is water usage. Right now, there are some areas of the U.S. that are in a nearly permanent drought. That’s why building developments in places like southern California and Phoenix need to have systems in place that conserve water. To implement an automated water system, there will need to be sensors placed throughout the water pipes that can monitor normal usage. Should there be any irregularities in the amount of water used—whether there is too much or too little—the system will record it and use the data to make suggestions for possible solutions. If too much water is being used, then you’ll be able to pinpoint where and why the water was being used excessively. If there is too little water running through the system, then the system will signal that there is possible blockage or need for repairs.

All of these different systems are able to report back to the same building automation system, making automation one of the top ways to conserve energy and create greener buildings.

Built-In Greenspace

It is always beneficial to integrate green space into a sustainable building design

A green roof is both sustainable and durable.

One of the other major tenets of green architecture is actually designing green space as a part of the building’s infrastructure. The best way to do this for many buildings is by incorporating a green roof as part of the design. Though a green roof will initially increase the cost of the building design, there are a whole host of benefits that make the additional investment worthwhile.

  1. Water management - In the event of a big storm with significant rainfall, a green roof is better equipped to manage runoff and retention.
  2. Durability - A green roof will last longer without replacement than traditional roofing.
  3. Better air quality - A green roof will improve the air quality in the surrounding area. This is especially important if the development is in a large city.
  4. Heat reduction - The green roof will absorb much more heat than other types of roofing.

All of these factors, plus the added value and curb appeal make installing a green roof one of the most effective ways to turn a regular building design into a green building design.

Environmentally Friendly Construction Materials

Creating a green building isn't all about the design, the construction materials matter as well

Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.

As a green building begins construction, one of the most important considerations to make is about the type of building materials to use. There are some materials that are better for the environment than others. Let’s take a look at some of the most sustainable building materials that can be used for commercial buildings and explore what advantages they present over traditional building materials.

  1. Precast Concrete - Precast concrete is durable, easy to assemble, and does a good job of controlling heat.
  2. Bamboo - Bamboo grows quickly and exponentially, making it the best alternative for traditional wood.
  3. Recycled steel - Many large developments will require steel reinforcement. In order to make sure the steel used is as environmentally friendly as possible, it is recommended to take steps to ensure you are using recycled steel as opposed to newly manufactured materials.
  4. Cork - Cork is not only harvested with little damage to the environment—it comes from tree bark which can grow back—it is also multipurpose. Cork can be used as a building material in everything from wall insulation to floor tiles.

By prioritizing the use of these materials over traditional materials, buildings can be constructed without putting unnecessary strain on our environment.

Access to Public Transportation

One of the main considerations for environmental sustainability is excessive vehicle use

Choosing to build near a public transit line is one of the key ways to build sustainably.

In recent years, there has been a concentrated pivot away from car-based architecture in favor of other forms of transportation. What we mean when we say car based architecture is basically parking spaces and parking garages. In the past, a vast parking lot was looked at as an asset. In the present day, a large parking lot is looked at as an out-of-date eyesore—especially if it is taking up space in an urban area.

In order to build a commercial development that discourages car use, it is important to cut the amount of parking spaces in favor of access to other methods of transportation. For example, developers can choose to build a commercial property close to public transit access like a popular bus route or metro stop. They can also increase the amount of bike parking that is available on site. With fewer parking spaces on site and more connections to public transportation, more people will be encouraged to make the journey without a car.

Sustainability is not something that can be achieved in a few easy steps. If you are brainstorming ways to develop a truly sustainable building or complete sustainable renovations, then it is imperative that you consider every aspect of sustainability we’ve listed. While there are far more ways to make sure that a building is sustainable, these four areas are a good place to start. In the coming years, expect more and more buildings to be built with these principles in mind.

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