Why we need them so badly
A building can either make life on the planet worse or better by the way it is constructed and more importantly by the way it is run. Some of the key considerations in making a green building are: reduced energy and water usage, a healthy indoor climate and air quality, sustainable building materials and its overall carbon footprint. Environment Protection Agencies throughout the world have formed energy scoring systems based on these credit categories. With benchmarks understandably higher across the EU, Nordic countries, U.K. and U.S.
Green buildings, on average, are 14 percent less costly to operate than traditional buildings, with a 7% increase in resale value. [source: Smart Market Report, by Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation]. So it’s an obvious choice. However to realize the benefit of an “easy” green building, you first need to understand what they entail.
What does green building consist of?
If you have any relation to facility management or building ownership, you have heard the term ‘green building’ ping-pong in work circles or seminars, for a while now. You’re probably getting mental images of underground copper piping, ice tank cooling, hundreds of solar panels on building roofs, and a million trees over entire structures, popping in your head.
While they largely comprise of harnessing energy sources other than electricity and gas, our Precious, green buildings cover much more under their vast green Eye, excuse LOTR pun. But just so we are on the same page, let’s quickly list down prominent existing green technologies and solutions for buildings.
- Biodegradable material, to not harm the environment on building tear down, and material disposal, eg: protein paint, hemp, earth-pressed bricks etc.
- Cool rooftops to reflect heat on hot summer days and reduce pressure on air-conditioning system
- In-wall insulation, recycled fiberglass, composites, etc.
- Underground copper piping for extracting geothermal energy: taps into earth’s natural heat few feet below the ground
- Solar energy panels, installed on roofs or sun-facing walls.
- Passive solar power designs (orienting structures in a way to heat and light up the indoors by sun most of the day) and tint-adjusting glass.
- Smart appliances
- Smart heating ventilation and air conditioning, to use just as much as and just when required.
- Automatic systems for smart water usage.
- And smart meters
So to sum it up the solutions can be lumped into 3 main classes
- Eco-friendly and smart building materials
- Alternative energy sources for zero energy buildings (buildings operating independent of the electrical grid)
- Data-driven automated systems for energy efficiency (current energy usage < previous energy usage) iteratively.
But here’s the problem. The first two of the above mentioned solutions are only applicable during base construction. Meaning all building owners with constructed property can not avail them unless they expand in which case you should definitely consider building green from scratch.
Secondly, the high initial cost of green building is very demotivating. It is true that the cost savings in long term by building green would outweigh the initial loss by 10 times [source: buildings.com]. However, this expenditure discourages many building owners with finite construction budgets.
I can’t build over! What’s the easy way?
The easiest way to have a green building for those who don’t want to tear their place down and build over, is to first have a functional and accurate enough building management system (BMS). A holistic, data-crunching automated system that will look after your building and dramatically reduce energy consumption.
It would gather data from systems in your entire building, or chain of buildings for that matter. And provide distributed control for all energy fed activities housed inside. An automated BMS would mean that your rooms are at the desired temperature before you walk in. But self-adjusted according to weather. Your lights are lit only when daylight is insufficient and when a room is occupied. Oxygen and CO2 levels in air are automatically adjusted. All activities requiring energy operate on a smart, only-when-needed basis, to conserve energy, without you worrying.
Speaking of hassles. Here’s reason number 2 why I said this is the easy way. Apart from no-new constructions, this particular BMS comes as a retrofit device. So you don’t have to replace your existing HVAC and control systems, to install new smart ones. You can just plug in a device, which will start extracting data from your already housed systems, and give you all the actionable information you need. And voila! You have a smart, energy-efficient, green building. (More details on the kind of information presented by the building management system on the link).
You get to have a green building, without having to build-over or do any renovations.
Commercial buildings are currently responsible for 36% of the planet’s carbon emissions [source: European Commission]. A green and energy-efficient building contributes greatly in reducing this percentage. But you already knew that. Of course there are benefits to planet earth. And you sleep more peacefully knowing that you’re fixing some of the wrong. But the practical and business benefits are much more tangible and immediate.
- You meet carbon footprint benchmarks in your country and can finally have stress-free energy audits for any department in your infrastructure.
- Furthermore a good energy rating actually attracts more clients and accelerates onboarding! Some great examples are businesses that earned LEEDS Gold and/or Platinum certification for their buildings in the U.S.
- All costs associated with running the building are immensely reduced. You save a huge chunk of expenditure. Which can be invested in another productive or revenue-generating venture. (Or fancy holidays).
- It changes the way people work and live. Healthier, happier employees with better indoor air quality are more productive employees.
The cons? Well there really aren’t any.