Buildings all over the nation use a variety of resources (energy, water, materials, etc), they generate waste (construction, occupant, etc) and release atmospheric emissions. And building owners are often faced with the challenge to meet the ever changing demands for new, upgraded facilities that are accessible, secure and healthy; while minimizing environmental impact. Thus, choosing sustainable building design can help to reduce operation costs and carbon footprints as well as increase building resiliency.
Energy Efficient Buildings
Energy use in the U.S. typically includes air conditioning, heating, ventilation, lighting, and facility support. Although every commercial building uses resources, generates waste, and creates pollution, it has become more fuel-efficient and less labor-intensive over the years.
According to the EPA, in the United States, buildings account for:
- 36% total energy use
- 65% total electricity use
- 12% total water use
- 30% total CO2 emissions
- 60% total non-industrial waste generated (from construction and demolition)
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. This presents building owners and managers with a huge opportunity for operating cost savings through sustainable building designs.
Energy and resource efficient, eco- friendly designs aim to decrease the depletion of resources, reduce pollution, and create a safe and productive environment for the people living and working in it. Green buildings have minimal impact on the environment and utilize natural resources. They are beneficial to the community and environment, socially responsible and thus well received, and often the most economical and best operational choice for businesses.
The EPA states that Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
- Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
- Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
- Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation
As a top Energy Engineering Company KMB seeks to balance the needs of these areas by providing results oriented designs and solutions.
Definition of a Green Building
The concept of a green building can be loosely defined as one that has minimal impact on the environment. It is constantly evolving.
Also known as green construction, a green sustainable building refers to both a structure and the using of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. One which has minimal impact on the environment.
Ideally, the green building preserves and restores the surrounding habitat that is vital for sustaining life and then becomes a net producer and exporter of resources, materials, energy and water (rather than being a net consumer). Green building construction and operation assures the healthiest and most efficient (meaning least disruptive) use of land, water, energy and resources.
Six Fundamental Principles of Sustainable Building Design
While the definition of sustainable building design is ever changing, the National Institute of Building Sciences defines six fundamental principles.
- Optimize Site Potential
- Optimize Energy Use
- Protect and Conserve Water
- Optimize Building Space and Material Use
- Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
- Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices
1. Optimize Site Potential
Whether designing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, site design must integrate with sustainable design to achieve a successful project and begins with the proper site selection, including the existing building’s rehabilitation. The location, orientation, and landscaping of a building all affect local ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use.
According to the WBDG Sustainable Committee, “The site of a sustainable building should reduce, control, and/or treat storm-water runoff. If possible, strive to support native flora and fauna of the region in the landscape design.”
2. Optimize Energy Use
Improving the energy performance of existing buildings is important to increasing our energy independence. Operating net zero energy buildings is one way to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy.
3. Protect and Conserve Water
Freshwater resources in the United States are increasingly becoming a scarcity. A sustainable building design and construction is one that uses water efficiently to minimize the impact that affects freshwater stock. Additionally, sustainable construction and building design should encourage the practice of recycling water on certain on site projects when possible.
4. Optimize Building Space and Material Use
As the world population continues to grow; the use of natural resources (and the demands for them) continues to increase. A sustainable building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials in the most productive and sustainable way across its entire life cycle.
Utilizing sustainable materials can also help to minimize environmental impacts such as global warming, resource depletion, and toxicity. According to wbdg.org, “environmentally preferable materials reduce impacts on human health and the environment, and contribute to improved worker safety and health, reduced liabilities, and reduced disposal costs.”
5. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
The indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. Among other attributes, a sustainable building maximizes daylighting, has appropriate ventilation and moisture control, optimizes acoustic performance, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions.
Although all buildings require different measures, HVAC modifications can go a long way toward improving commercial air quality.
6. Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices
Building owners face unique challenges to meet increasing demands for new or renovated sustainable building designs that are balanced with safe, secure, and productive environments.
Through collaboration, engineers, architects, and other site contractors can specify materials and systems that simplify operational practices and reduce maintenance requirements. On-site and within the facility, these practices not only aim to reduce water and energy requirements, and require less toxic chemicals use, but are also cost-effective and reduce life-cycle costs.
Energy Engineering Company Makes an Impact
Ultimately, energy efficiency can be enhanced through the integration of sustainable architecture and engineering and can have direct impacts on our environment, society and economy. With experience in multiple LEED projects and energy intensive markets, our experts at KMB look to propose and implement environmentally sound practices on all projects based upon historical evidence of practical, economical results.
Is sustainable building design one of your strategies for your next commercial construction project?
Contact us to get started today!