Is there a reason not to incorporate green elements into your building designs? We can’t think of one. Aside from the very noble appeal of reducing your project’s carbon footprint, green features can drive maintenance savings, create a healthier environment for occupants – and be aesthetic showpieces. Plus, with the range of options on the market today, there are choices for everyone – whether you’re looking for a complete net zero build, or just want to add a few simple green features. Here are some to consider.
A better building envelope. Carefully choosing the materials and techniques that go into creating that all-important envelope is vital for energy efficiency. When it comes to insulation, spray foam insulation is valued for its ability to get into every nook and cranny. Insulated concrete forms, which interlock a bit like LEGO, are another popular choice not just for foundations but above grade, too. They create a tight envelope, and generate very little construction waste.
Control temperature with natural elements. Harnessing the (free) power of nature in the design of a building can significantly impact lifetime energy costs. A good daylighting strategy that takes into account site and window positioning can positively impact lighting and heating costs – and gives occupants the health and productivity benefits natural light provides. In hotter climates, a shade strategy – via design elements or shade-providing vegetation – can impact cooling costs by shielding the building from the sun’s rays.
Energy efficient heating and cooling. That can be as simple as ensuring that you have the correct-sized HVAC system for your building, or as advanced as heat pump (air-to-air, water source, or geothermal) systems. The latter transfer heat from warm to cool spaces, providing both heating and cooling with immense reductions in energy use.
Give your HVAC a boost. Whatever your choice in HVAC system, strategic design elements can further improve its efficiency. Climate-customized roofs are one option. In warm climates, reflective paint or tiles can be used reflect sunlight. In colder climates, consider a warm roof. It has insulation installed on top of rafters, rather than between them, preventing thermal bridging issues that lead to heat loss, condensation and rot. Efficient windows also can have a big impact. Consider triple pane, or low emissivity models that have an invisible thin coating that keeps heat where it’s supposed to be: outside during hot weather, and inside during cool weather.
Built-in water conservation. Low-flow water fixtures including sinks, faucets, toilets and water fountains are a simple way to make a building more efficient. Want to push it further? Incorporate greywater recycling, or rainwater capture, and reuse it for water-heavy processes like irrigation.
Lighten up, responsible. There’s a reason why LED lights are said to be one of history’s fastest technological shifts. They are a simple and cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption in buildings: by 2027, it’s estimated that LED lighting will have generated $30 billion in savings in today’s energy prices in the U.S. alone.
Harness the sun. Solar panels bring many benefits to a building: a source of clean energy, independence from the traditional (and sometimes unreliable) power grid – and cost-savings, even revenue generation. And forget those bulky, unsightly panels you may be envisioning – today’s solar solutions can be low profile, and aesthetically integrated into a building’s design.
You can’t go green without plants. Let nature inspire your building and site. A green choice can be as simple as using native plants in landscaping plans: they’ll flourish without excess water and pesticides. Popular, functional and eye-catching options are green roofs, where part or all of a roof is covered in vegetation. They provide storm water management, extra insulation and extend the life of a roof. Green roofs, as well as interior or exterior living walls, purify air, reduce ambient temperature and noise, and give occupants the benefits of nearby greenspace.
Smart building, smart choice. The Internet of Things has allowed us to make leaps and bounds in intelligent management of a building. Smart buildings monitor and control heating and cooling, lights, ventilation and security systems. These intelligent systems give managers real-time information, allowing them to act quickly on issues, but also to make data-informed decisions about operations, allowing all those green elements incorporated to work at full function – and to provide full benefit.