Green building articles abound, but it’s important to note the subtle differences in perspective, which may change depending on the writer’s geography. An article may give green building advice that doesn’t make sense in your geography. Take this Houston article for instance. It’s a good read. In Houston, the climate requires an innovative balance of green building techniques. Houston is hot and humid. I won’t say it’s the armpit of America, but it’s hard to keep dry in that place. Here are a couple examples of localization in green building.
- Passive Design – Houston architects suggest putting most of your windows in a north/south orientation because the east/west orientation draws too much heat into the home and doesn’t allow exposure to the cool breezes that blow from the southeast in the summer.
- Materials – Houston architects will building with metal, as opposed to brick or stucco. Metal reflects the sun, while brick holds in heat and stucco is prone to mold. Unfortunately, metal doesn’t work for all applications, so you have to balance and make trade-offs.
Rule: Consult a knowledgeable professional to pick the optimal green building strategy that effectively considers the ramifications of the local geography and materials on your site. It’ll pay dividends later when you actually start to occupy the building and use it. Pictures via Cameron Armstrong Architects, a Houston architectural firm with several metal homes in their portfolio.
Recently, in the Week in Review, I blogged about these twin skyscrapers becoming the world’s first commercial development to include large-scale wind turbines in its structure. As you can see from the pictures, Bahrain WTC towers have three, 32-yard diameter propellers that supply about 11-15 % of the buildings’ energy needs, or about 1100 to 1300 megawatts per year. The shape of the towers create an airflow tunnel through the buildings for improved energy generation output and each turbine will be suspended on a bridge connecting the buildings. According to BWTC designer Shaun Killa, solar panels available at the time of construction lost their efficiency due to the high Bahrain temperatures, so wind technology was the better choice for renewable supply. The turbines will be tested throughout the year and the building will open for business later in 2007.
The dueling towers are 50 stories each, with 34 floors of office space. When complete, the entire complex will include a shopping mall, including about 150-200 luxury brand retail sites, and a 5-star Sheraton hotel. In addition to having SMART features that include high-tech security and IT infrastructure, the building will use an environmentally friendly water cooling system. Via GE Eco-Business.
- Ten "Zero-Energy" Town Home Community Planned in Issaquah, Washington [Seattle Times]
- McGraw-Hill Construction’s GreenSource Magazine and ENR.com Win Neal Awards [PRNewswire]
- Bahrain Twin Skyscraper Complex Becomes World’s First Commercial Development to Include Large-Scale Wind Turbines in its Structure [GE Eco-Business]
"Climate change, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, green design–call it what you will. The need to change how we inhabit the planet to avoid catastrophic consequences is now widely accepted…in the year ahead I plan to work with the AIA board’s Sustainability Discussion Group to aggressively advance sustainable design and the key role the AIA can and our members must play to engage the great challenge confronting our generation–the future of our planet." – RK Stewart, FAIA, Principal at Gensler, AIA President
Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification. Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%. At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually. Plus, there’s the financial case for the building. Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area.
In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment." His firm walks the talk. About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP).
The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system. Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10. I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach.
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release