Importance of Building Sustainable or Green Buildings
Over 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, Yet, with urban areas occupying over 3% of the planet’s surface, excessive industrialization and urbanization has resulted in climate change, air pollution, solid-waste pollution and light pollution. The United Nations (UN) stated urban areas will consume 78% of the world’s energy and release 60% of greenhouse gasses by 2050.
One solution that can reduce environmental impacts caused by excessive urbanization is the construction of green buildings.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “a green building is a structure that follows environmentally responsible and resource-efficient processes throughout its lifecycle – from design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” Green buildings are also called “sustainable buildings” because they preserve natural resources.
- The green building market in the United States was valued at $81.3 billion in 2021.
- The number of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified projects has increased from 296 in 2006 to 69,066 in 2019 (LEED is a green building rating system in the United States).
Considering the growing interest towards sustainable development, we put together this guide to explain the benefits and key characteristics of green buildings.
Rising Energy Costs
Energy costs in the United States are rising due to reliance on natural gas, inflation and lack of government policies to scale up clean energy sources.
The impact of rising energy costs on businesses is twofold: one, they increase the expenses that occur in the form of building operations; second, they result in a partial decline of consumer spending due to household’s increased energy expenses.
Seventy-five percent of all U.S. electricity or 40% of primary energy is used to provide lighting, air conditioning and space conditioning for residential, industrial and commercial buildings. Property teams can cut the building energy use by more than 20% using cost-effective sustainable construction and green building technologies such as solar power, cool roofs, green insulation, energy harvesting sensors, high-efficiency lights and energy analytics tools.
Looking to cut down on energy costs? Genea’s energy analytics help property teams and enterprises stay on top of energy usage and pinpoint issues.
Long-term Building Sustainability
Durability is the key component of sustainable buildings and LEED certification. The rating system asks builders to provide a detailed presentation on the durability of the structure. Sustainable designs meet the criteria of durability by addressing issues related to moisture, heat, natural light, material failure and style.
According to the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), moisture is the reason for mold growth, poor indoor air quality and unhealthy buildings. Sustainable buildings aim to reduce moisture issues from the design stage itself. Material durability and low maintenance cost are major determinants of product selection. A high maintenance product leads to environmental degradation and economic burden even if it lasts long. Aware of this fact, designers of sustainable buildings purchase materials and products that are more durable and need low maintenance.
Achieve your long-term building sustainability goals with Genea energy analytics. Learn more about tracking your building’s energy usage today.
5 Key Characteristics of Sustainable Buildings
Sustainable buildings differ from conventional buildings in several ways, including:
- Use of renewable energy.
- Efficient use of water, energy, and other resources.
- Pollution and water reduction measures.
- Indoor environmental quality.
- Design innovation.
Let’s take an in-depth look into these five key characteristics.
Use of Renewable Energy
A sustainable building makes use of renewable sources of energy, such as solar energy, wind energy and hydrogen energy for its energy needs. For example, a green building incorporates active or passive solar systems to convert the sun’s energy into a usable form. Passive systems are structures where materials are arranged in a way to optimize the heat naturally. Active systems use specially designed solar panels that collect heat energy and convert it into electricity.
The use of renewable sources help green buildings minimize the emission of greenhouse gasses and reduce utility costs.
- According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, (IRENA), renewable sources and energy efficiency tools can provide over 90% of reductions in energy-related carbon emissions.
- Green buildings yield 30-80% lower utility costs compared to conventional buildings partially because of renewable energy sources.
Efficient Use of Water, Energy and Other Resources
Sustainable buildings incorporate techniques such as water-conserving irrigation systems, low water-use landscaping, evaporative cooling systems and well-designed water harvesting systems to minimize water usage or conserve water. Sustainable buildings would also use cloud-based submeter billing software to track the water usage and alert tenants on high water consumption. These techniques can reduce water consumption by up to 80%.
Green buildings incorporate innovative solutions for the efficient use of energy. For instance, solutions like on-demand HVAC and Energy Analytics help property teams ensure their buildings use the energy efficiently:
- On-demand HVAC: It increases energy efficiency by running HVAC only when a tenant needs it most. This solution also allows tenants to automate HVAC operations by making recurring weekly or monthly HVAC schedules.
- Energy Analytics: It gathers real-time data about the building’s energy usage and helps tenants monitor their energy consumption on a day-to-day basis.
Learn how Genea’s cloud-based Overtime HVAC can automate HVAC services and billing for property management teams today.
Pollution and Waste Reduction Measures
The construction industry generates a lot of waste that disturbs the ecosystem of the natural environment. Construction waste appears in the form of unwanted materials generated during the process of constructing a new building and demolishing an existing building.
Sustainable architectures aim to reduce waste from the design stage itself. Designers of green buildings take the following waste reduction measures as part of the project sustainability agenda:
- Preventing the usage of materials that produce construction waste.
- Using sustainable materials that can be recycled and reused to reduce waste.
- Creating an appropriate storage space or disposing of the waste in landfills that only accept construction debris.
Pollution from buildings may also arise from air and wastewater. Green buildings attempt to reduce pollution by creating appropriate plumbing mechanisms and selecting materials manufactured by environmentally responsible companies.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
IEQ refers to the quality of the indoor environment of a building concerning the quality of life, health and wellbeing of the people who occupy it. Several factors, including air quality, natural ventilation, thermal conditions and damp conditions influence the IEQ of a building. Property teams may need to continuously track carbon dioxide, humidity, indoor temperature, organic compounds, PM2.5 and PM10 particles and biological pollutants to measure the IEQ of buildings.
Green buildings improve IEQ by incorporating strategies such as:
- Designing the building structure to receive better daylighting.
- Installing operable windows.
- Adopting appropriate acoustic design.
- Eliminating indoor pollutants at the sources.
- Installing green roofs.
In the 21st century, design innovations of green buildings are going beyond sustainable building materials that architects commonly use. The following are a few notable innovations aimed at improving air quality, reducing energy usage, providing better ventilation and reducing waste.
- Closed cavity facades: These facades are known for their excellent thermal performance, appropriate acoustics, lower maintenance costs, and a high degree of solar protection.
- Radiant heating and cooling system: This innovative technology makes use of thermal exchange methods to deliver optimal cooling and heating. The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building project in Portland, Oregon is a perfect case study of how a building can incorporate a radiant ceiling system and receive LEED gold certification.
Reduce Your Building’s Energy Consumption with Genea
Green buildings are becoming increasingly popular, mainly because of their ability to use energy, water and other resources efficiently. Property teams can incorporate technological solutions like on-demand or overtime HVAC and Energy Analytics to optimize energy usage within green buildings.
Genea is a technology leader that helps property teams automate HVAC operations and reduce energy consumption with its innovative tools: Overtime HVAC, Submeter Billing and Energy Analytics.
Overtime HVAC solution of Genea automates after-hours HVAC and on-demand HVAC requests from tenants. The solution enables tenants to schedule their after-hours or on-demand HVAC services from a user-friendly mobile application. Property teams can eliminate inefficiencies that lead to wasted energy by automating these HVAC requests from tenants.
Genea Energy Analytics comes with features such as hourly consumption graphs, greenhouse gas reports, KPI charts and precision budgeting tools that help sustainability managers track energy usage and identify utility leaks:
- Hourly consumption graphs: It enables users to visualize hourly consumption data on a centralized dashboard. This allows users to analyze reasons for high energy consumption in a particular hour and take appropriate actions.
- KPI charts: It enables property teams to set performance benchmarks and implement targeted strategies to improve energy efficiencies.
- Greenhouse gas reports: The solution provides detailed greenhouse gas emissions reports that help make informed decisions to reduce carbon footprint.
Learn how Genea’s innovative technologies can help you improve energy efficiency and reduce utility bills.