Sustainability is Good Business: Obstacles to Green Building Progress

Usgbc_guiding_principles_1 Going green doesn’t mean you’ve turned into a hippy or gone granola, it means you’ve taken a pro-active step to create an efficient, economic, healthy work or home environment.  If you haven’t noticed, there is a nascent (i.e., in terms of popularity), accelerating movement in design + construction towards making buildings sustainable.  It’s likely that 10-20 years from now, the term "green building" will be anachronistic.  All buildings will be "smart" and independent.  But for now, only a small percentage of buildings are heading in this direction and there are a few stubborn reasons to explain why.  In this post, I’m going to talk about sustainable buildings in the context of commercial endeavors, but the principles apply equally to residential.

The fact is, sustainable buildings are better performers: LOWER operating costs, BETTER sales, + HIGHER productivity.  Case studies abound to support this assertion, but the real question is why aren’t businesses flocking to adopt sustainable design principles in their buildings (old + new)?  In a Globe St. article by Brenna Walraven, it was suggested that there are two main obstacles to green building proliferation: 

  1. Energy-efficiency Capital Myth – the myth is that the only way to improve building efficiency is through substantial, significant investments.  My write-up on Adobe’s green building disproves this myth.
  2. Lack of Awareness – this is self-explanatory, but one should consider the impetus to being unlearned on green building, especially for those professionals who make it their line of work to design, construct, + create high-caliber buildings.  Is it political?  Too treehugger-esque?  My response to last-adopters:  sustainable building is to building as Japanese manufacturing is to manufacturing. 

Beddington_zero_energybedzed Buildings that are resource efficient will cost LESS, not more.  Why?  You are using less.  Big changes can be made with slight operational adjustments, and huge capital investments aren’t always required to obtain the greatest benefits for a certain project (new + old).  Further, if you have an architect, property manager, or developer that says it will be too expensive to go the sustainable route, walk the other way and hire someone else.  That group hasn’t been doing their industry homework.  There is a huge paradigm shift in this industry.  If you don’t pay attention, you’ll be like Ford, trying to figure out what makes Toyota so good.  Source via Globe St.

[September] Architectural Record House of the Month: Newport Beach – Heinfeld Residence

House_front_1 Architectural Record always seems to find some of the best modern + green residences in the country:  this month’s spotlight is on Dan + Katherine Heinfeld’s home designed by architectural firm LPA, Inc., in Newport Beach, California.  LPA has a strong commitment to incorporating green concepts in their designs; they’re one of the earliest firms to get involved with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.  Mr. Heinfeld is the president of LPA, so designing his own home included the added tension of getting it right, to prove to clients that green design can be modern + luxurious. 

Green Features:
House_print The house really does include a slew of sustainable features…it’s built with a Glu-lam and composite beam structure that comprises two stories, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms.  Three sides of the house wrap around a courtyard/pool-area.  The pocket glass and screen doors open up to the solar-heated pool area (Suntrek).  The entire house was designed for efficient natural lighting, including a mostly windowless eastern orientation, an extended roof overhang on the southwestern side, an insulated, translucent skylight in the main room (Kalwall Skylight), and mechanical sunshades in every room (Lutron). 

Pool_house Kitchen Living_room

The house is powered almost completely by the 5.3 KW building integrated photovoltaics (Solar Integrated Technologies).  Also, the carpet tiles (Interface FLOR) and floor (Terrazzo) are both made with recycled content.  Of course, the paint is non-VOC, Eco-shield paint (Dunn Edwards).  LPA even provided the Xeriscaped landscaping.  Really, the Heinfelds didn’t hold anything back when putting this green + modern masterpiece together. 

Extra Links:
House of the Month Article and Project Specs [Architectural Record]
LPA, Inc. Website
Cristian Costea Photos

Skyscraper Sunday: Green Landmark Building For Sale (30 St Mary Axe)

Swiss_re_tower_london_2 Call it what you want:  "Gherkin," "The Cigar," "The Towering Innuendo," "30 St Mary Axe," or "Swiss Re Tower;" it looks like the insurance company, Swiss Re, has retained an agent to sell the place.  The 40-story building is one of the most recognizable shapes in London’s financial district.  Wanna guess the price?  600 million pounds ($1.1 billion dollars).  Now, I don’t know real estate values in London, but even for New York or San Francisco office building real estate, I think that’s a high price.  It’s worth it. 

30 St. Mary Axe:
London_swiss_re_tower_long The building was designed by Norman Foster (also architect of WTC 200 Greenwich – the "four diamonds" building) and completed in 2004.  It received the 2004 RIBA Stirling Price for Architecture and was nominated for a Bentley Award of Excellence.  It was the first skyscraper to be built in The City for 25 years and stands tall at 590 feet.  Known for its cylindrical facade and phallic shape, the building is even more revered for its state-of-the-art design features. 

State-of-the-Art Design:
Advanced parametric modeling was used to reduce wind loads + turbulence and maximize natural light + ventilation exposure.  Comparatively speaking, 30 St Mary Axe consumes 50% less energy than a traditional large office building.  The building design allows for natural ventilation (a feature that can be used about 40% of the year). 

Swiss_re_wind_model Swiss_re_color_wind_model Swiss_re_model

Interesting Fact: 
Swiss_re_dome There’s only one piece of curved glass in 30 St Mary Axe…guess where?  The lens at the pinnacle of the structure.  One could go on and on about the various technologies used in this building, but my post would get too long.  For those interested, I’ve attached a list of some sources with more information. 

Extra Links:
30 St Mary Axe [Official Website]
Modeling the Swiss Re Tower [ArchitectureWeek]
London’s ‘Gherkin’ for Sale [Yahoo]
30 St Mary Axe – Norman Foster [GreatBuildings]

Fab-ulous Friday: October 14, 2006 Leo Marmol Lecture on Marmol Radziner + Associates

Marmol_home On October 14, 2006, the DME (Dallas Modern Expo) Modern Lecture Series will host Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner + Associates.  Marmol is set to speak on the following topic:  "From Design-build to Prefab:  The Process of Marmol Radziner + Associates."  This event is on Saturday from 2:00 – 3:00 pm, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum on Lemmon Avenue, and costs a mere $10 to attend.  Tickets can be purchased online, or at the door, but seating is limited.  For those of you that are die hard prefab enthusiasts, you can take a cheap Southwest Airlines flight into Love Field (right next door to the place) and attend the lecture. 

Leo_marmol_lecture_image_1

This is a preview of what Marmol plans to speak about: "Bridging the divide between architecture and construction, Leo Marmol has created a unique design-build practice led by architects that combines innovative design, thorough research, and construction precision into a holistic approach to restore and create meaningful modern spaces. The firm’s multidisciplinary approach combines architecture, landscape, interior design, furniture design, construction, and prefabricated housing to create the ability to manage the execution of designs with the same rigor with which they were designed. Leo will explain how the firm’s experience in restoration of mid-century modern homes has influenced new residential projects as well as the design and fabrication of the firm’s new line of modern prefab homes."

Nevada_house_marmol Utah_house_marmol California_house_marmol

Marmol Radziner + Associates:
Marmol Radziner Prefab website.  As I’m writing this post, a Treehugger feed popped up announcing a Marmol Radziner Factory Tour. Treehugger calls their prefabs "the most beautiful prefab in the world."  In their factory, they produce steel-made homes that are easy to customize to modern + green standards.  Actually, they’ve been designed to achieve LEED certification:  they use structural insulated panels (SIPs), FSC-certified wood, low-VOC green seal paint, solar panels, natural light design, etc.!  These prefabs are the embodiment of everything Jetson Green espouses:  modern architecture + sustainable living.  This will be an awesome lecture event.

September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   

October 7, 2006: National Tour of Solar Homes Day

Asestourlogo119 To kick off the Natural Energy Awareness Month of October, the American Solar Energy Society (www.ases.org) will be sponsoring the National Tour of Solar Homes on October 7, 2006.  A solar home tour will happen in most states on or near this date.  Depending on the state, the tour may (or may not) have modern homes, but this will be an excellent opportunity to get first-hand information on solar energy:  information relevant to the particularities of the state YOU live in. 

Del_junco_solar_residence To find a list of links relevant to the state you live in, click here.  The tour in Texas will be in Houston and costs a nominal $10.  This looks to be an awesome tour, and as of today, there will be 8 homes with various green features.  Here’s a link to the list of homes with pictures and a description of each sustainable home. 

This is an awesome opportunity for anyone thinking about retrofitting their house or building a new sustainable house.  Why not learn from the experiences of others that have already taken the green plunge?  They will be able to talk about solar power, solar heating, cooling, passive cooling, wind power, day lighting, and other various green building technologies.  The Texas tour includes access to all 8 homes, a guide book, and a free energy efficient light bulb.  I’m thinking of taking the 5-hour drive (from Dallas to Houston) just to see some of these places and learn about the tax incentives specific to my state. 

For my Colorado readers (and there’s a lot of you), my friend in the blogosphere, Tom Konrad, Ph.d., has some good info on what’s going on in that state.  Just an FYI…

2006 National Solar Tour Sponsor Links:
U.S. Department of Energy EE/RE
Sunplan.com
Solar Today Magazine
Find Solar
Renewable Energy Access
Fronius

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