A ‘green‘ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life, resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.
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On Earth Day this year, The Bullitt Center opened its doors in Seattle, Washington. The six-story building is being hailed as the greenest commercial building in the world. Its specs are very impressive indeed, including:
- 56,000-gallon cistern for rainwater collection;
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof that are estimated to generate 230,000 kilowatt-hours per year;
- Glass panels to showcase the engineering, including quick response codes to allow visitors to use their smartphones to find out more;
- Real-time measurements of the building’s indoor air quality, energy conservation, PV production and water levels;
- A mini-weather station that sends data to the building so that it can make adjustments to maximize tenant comfort and energy conservation; and
- Measurement of energy use down to the individual socket.
The Bullitt Center aims to be certified through the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous set of standards that requires the building to meet complete water and energy self-sufficiency. The Living Building Challenge has registered nearly 150 projects in 10 countries, but only three buildings have been certified in the US (in Missouri, New York and Hawaii). It has been endorsed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), originator of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, and is not meant to be a competition, rather a challenge to architects and engineers to aim even higher in their sustainable design efforts.
The Bullitt Center is a project of the Bullitt Foundation, and its leaders state that if the building is still the highest-performing office building in ten years, then they have failed. They want to demonstrate that a building can be both self-sustaining and commercially viable and to serve as an example for others to learn and innovate beyond what they’ve done.
This, I think, is the message we need to take away. Dreaming big inspires others to achieve success beyond today’s standards. The goal of putting a man on the moon and then allowing the scientists and thinkers to figure out how to do it may be an old example, but it’s a salient one. Now we face a new goal: how to sustain our water resources, reduce harmful global warming pollution and accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy future for us and future generations. And EDF is thinking big.
Imagine a community with solar panels on every home, an electric car charging in the garage and smart appliances that are working to reduce energy use and lower electric bills without sacrificing comfort. This type of “living smart grid laboratory” is alive and well in Austin, Texas today through Pecan Street Inc. EDF helped create and is supporting and collaborating with Pecan Street to build an energy system that is cleaner, more reliable and less expensive than anything we’ve seen before. Through Pecan Street’s research, more than 500 homes in Austin – and soon hundreds more in other cities – are participating in the country’s most advanced and detailed research on consumer energy use.
We must set our own goals high in order to inspire others to not only meet expectations, but also to exceed conventional measures. Pecan Street is setting a high bar for neighborhoods across the US. And, much like what the architects of the Bullitt Center and the astronauts of Apollo 11 have taught us, these types of ground-breaking innovations require big ideas and a perseverance to succeed.
When one considers the potentially biggest “bang for the buck” we can get in terms of energy cost savings and pollution reductions, the building sector certainly ranks high on the list. According to the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. building sector “alone accounted for 8% of global primary energy consumption in 2008,” with nearly 40% of U.S. energy consumed – and carbon dioxide emitted – by buildings. Thus, as the EPA’s “Green Building” website points out, building green comes with enormous benefits – environmental, economic, and social. In addition, although green building “may cost more up front, [it] can save money over the life of the building through lower operating costs.” That’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at it.
Fortunately, the trend towards green building is growing rapidly in the United States and worldwide. According to a recent press release by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), for instance, “LEED-certified existing buildings are outpacing their newly built counterparts,” with “square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpass[ing] LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis” in the United States as of December 2011. As Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, of the USGBC, points out:
The U.S. is home to more than 60 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves…Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs especially for construction workers. Making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building’s cost of operations. And the indoor air quality improvements that go with less toxic cleaning solutions and better filtration create healthier places to live, work and learn.
Green building success stories include not just new construction, but also retrofits, like the Empire State Building earning a LEED Gold rating, which will “reduce energy use by more than $4.4 million annually, cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over a 15-year period and provide a payback in slightly more than three years.” Not too shabby. Another green building success story is the U.S. Treasury Department building, certified in December 2011 as LEED Gold – “the oldest building in the world ever to have gotten any type of LEED certification.”
Then there’s the U.S. military, which a little over a year ago adopted “ASHRAE Standard 189.1, a standard for green building and sustainability” that “requires that facility construction projects follow specified requirements and guidance” in terms of “siting, energy efficiency, cool roofs, metering, storm water management and indoor and outdoor water consumption.” With more than 954 million square feet of Army buildings and structures worldwide, the impact of this policy change could be huge in terms of energy and cost savings, as well as in terms of pollution reductions. At the same time, the military is also helping to jumpstart rooftop solar, with the recent announcement of “SolarStrong, an audacious, $1 billion project that aims to double the number of residential photovoltaic systems across the U.S. through the installation of rooftop solar arrays on 160,000 homes and other buildings like community centers and administrative buildings on the country’s military bases.”
Given the importance and progress being made in the green building sector in recent years, we were pleased to see global green building consultant Jerry Yudelson’s optimistic outlook on green building trends for 2012. Yudelson certainly should know what he’s talking about, as he is a “registered professional engineer” who “holds degrees in civil and environmental engineering from Caltech and Harvard,” and who “has worked as a management/marketing consultant for more than 200 state government, utilities, local governments, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, engineering firms and product manufacturers during the past 25 years.” According to Yudelson, the outlook for green building in 2012 is bright, despite ongoing economic problems. For instance, Yudelson predicts:
- “The global green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and developing their own Green Building Councils. More than 90 countries with incipient or established green building organizations, on all continents, will drive considerable green building growth in 2012.”
- “The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new building design and construction to greening existing buildings.”
- “Zero-net-energy buildings will become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners.”
- “Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 new cities with commercial sector green building mandates…”
- “Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow with the prospect of increasing utility focus on aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems such as on warehouses and big box retail stores.”
One of Yudelson’s points bears additional emphasis: the need for local and state governments – and, we’d add, the federal government – to require that buildings achieve higher and higher levels of energy efficiency, just as with appliances, and that they provide consumers and others with transparent information about how much energy they consume. As Stephen Lacey of Climate Progress pointed out when he spoke as part of our “Communicating Energy” Lecture Series last November, energy efficiency may not be as “sexy” as “big, first-of-a-kind projects or sexy, innovative technologies,” but it’s extremely important nonetheless. Just in the U.S. education sector alone, for example, it’s been estimated that more energy efficient school buildings “could save $20 billion in energy costs alone over the next 10 years.” That’s money that we’re currently throwing out the window, almost literally, which could be saved for use in actually educating kids in a healthy environment, not burning dirty fossil fuels in order to heat and cooling the leaky, uncomfortable spaces they’re attempting to learn in now.
The bottom line of all this is clearcut: green building, both new and retrofit, is crucial if we’re going to meet our energy, economic, and environmental objectives for the 21st century. It’s also a huge business opportunity you certainly won’t want to miss.
Dubai,the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates, has recently servedarchitects as a unique canvas where their dreams can be painted toperfection. Be it the Burj Al Arab, The Palm Island or The WorldIslands, the fantastic dreams of extraordinary architecture has alwaysfound place in Dubai. With many dreams already realized or taking finalshape, architects are also envisioning next-gen green structures thatwill not only make Dubai a loved tourist destination, but will alsomake it a leading example in green design. Here is a list of 15 suchecofriendly structures envisioned for Dubai:
• O-14 by RUR Architecture:
The22-story 300,000 square-foot development, dubbed O-14 is designed to beperched on a two-story podium in Dubai’s Business Bay. The architecturewill consist of a exoskeleton composed of more than 1000 holes, whichwill allow the façade to deliver shade, light and air apart from thestunning views on the outside. The holes will be built using advancedcomputers that will numerically cut polystyrene forms into a reinforcedsteel mesh matrix. The holes are modulated according to sun exposureand luminosity. These precisely cut holes will let in light during mostparts of the day but block heat during the hottest times.
• Food City by GCLA Architects:
TheFood City is an off-the-grid structure designed to make people live thegreenest possible life. Taking modern architecture to its utmostlimits, the Food City is designed to feature green walls, aquaticfarms, artificial roof landscapes and renewable energy generation at ascale no one has ever tried before. The metropolis will generate allthe electricity it needs using concentrated solar collectors, towersdraped in photovoltaic modules and piezoelectric pads in all pedestrianareas. Additionally, the complex will extract methane from sewage tanksfor days when the sun isn’t shining.
• Vertical Farm by Studiomobile:
Thisvertical farm design will make use of seawater to cool and humidifygreenhouses and convert the humidity back to freshwater to irrigate thecrops. The air going in the greenhouse is first cooled and humidifiedwith seawater, providing necessary conditions for plant growth. As thisair leaves the growing area it is mixed with warm dry air, making itmore humid and hotter. This warm and humid air is then condensed, againusing sweater, until condensed drops of fresh water appear. These dropsare then collected in a tank and used to irrigate the crops.
• Rotating Tower by Dynamic Architecture:
Designedby Dr. David Fisher, the Rotating Tower design will harness wind energyas it rotates, thereby producing 10 times more energy that it uses.Each floor of Dynamic Architecture’s wind-powered rotating skyscraperis a single apartment with the ability to rotate independently, givingresidents the ability to choose a new view at the touch of a button -quite a party trick. Wind turbines between each floor will generate avast surplus of electricity capable of powering the whole surroundingneighborhood.
• Palm Tower by Sybarite UK:
Thistower design boasts 60,000-square-meter of usable space ranging fromoffices to restaurants, gardens, cinemas and luxury. The windows aretriple-glazed, heat reflective and constructed from solar electricglass (BIPV-building integrated solar photovoltaic), making the edificeextremely energy efficient. The centrally located vertical circulationand services core results in completely uninterrupted floor plates,allowing great flexibility in the floor-plans and use of space.
• Anara Tower by Atkins:
This125-story building will stand about 700 m tall and will be ranked asone of the tallest man-made structures on the planet. Apart from skygardens after every 27 floors, the building will have offices, shops, aluxury hotel with 250 rooms, 300 residential apartments, and a placefor exhibitions and auctions. The apartments, which are expected to bethe most expensive in Dubai, will have luxuries like exclusive swimmingpools, exclusive elevators and views of the beautiful coastline ofDubai. This tower will conform to LEED certification requirements of atleast silver rating, by maximizing water and energy efficiency and willalso include some form of renewable energy generators for its monstrouspower needs.
• ZPO Tower by XTEN Architecture:
TheZPO (Za’abeel Park Observation) Tower is designed to showcase therichness of Islamic art in a form that is suitable for the environmentas well. Apart from serving the purpose it is actually designed for,the base of the tower carries four distinct landforms that providespace for parking, conference center, children’s library and serviceareas. The architects envisioned the observation tower to be built withzero-energy characteristics, which was accomplished by installingseveral hundred square meters of photovoltaic systems that convert thetop of the tower into a renewable energy powerhouse.
• Ziggurat by TimeLinks:
Covering2.3 square kilometers, this enormous structure by design firm TimeLinkswill cater to the requirements of 1 million inhabitants. Thepyramid-shaped structure will have a resourceful public transportationsystem running horizontally and vertically, and have its own ability togenerate power by utilizing wind, steam and other natural resources forthe necessary energy to run it.
• Michael Schumacher World Champion Tower by LAVA:
Thetower will be 59 stories high and draws its inspiration from theconsistent and accurate lines that Schumacher’s Ferrari took in hisacclaimed career. While the tower sports a unique design with a basethat is wide to ensure stability, its lavish and luxurious interiorsare built for the select few. The structure, though, incorporates a fewgreen features with ample natural lighting, good air circulation and awonderful water management structure.
• Waterfront City by Rem Koolhaas:
Thisecological masterpiece is the 1.5-billion-square-foot Waterfront Citydesigned by Rem Koolhaas, an entire self-contained city resting atop anartificial island that mixes inspirations from ninth-century mosques toKoolhaas’s own ideas about the THX 1138-esque generic city. The tallesttowers are concentrated along the project’s southern edge to shield theinterior blocks from the blazing sun. The gigantic sphere is placedprecariously at the water’s edge, setting the entire ensemble artfullyoff balance. The spiraling tower stands just across from it, on anarrow spit of land that forms a barrier between the island and thegulf.
• Utopia One by Cesar Bobonis-zequeira, Ivan Perez-rossello and Teresita del Valle:
TheUtopia One is an elevated tower that not just presents a unique designbut also uses the similar materials employed in a smooth sculptural,erected earlier in the park. The structure makes use of Nano-celltechnology in the exterior skin of the building provide (a portion ofthe) energy to run the elevator systems, HVAC systems and electricalsystems. The ‘Utopia One’ also includes heat sensitive glass to controlthe heat in the glassed surfaces, while making use of recycled greywater for irrigation and the HVAC systems, courtesy advanced watermanagement.
• Wave Tower by Studio A-Cero:
Theproject is designed to be built in the Madinat Al Arab District, a zoneunder development that is expected to become the new downtown andcentral business district of Dubai. When built, the Wave Tower willbecome the highest tower designed by Spanish architects. Theskyscraper’s silk-screened glass skin helps in solar control, itcomprises of a double skin facade made of silk screened glass. Theskyscraper houses a water purification plant, which will desalinate andpurify the surrounding sea water, which will be used for landscapingand sewage.
• Burj Al-Taqa by Eckhard Gerber:
TheBurj Al- Taqa will stand a whopping 322 meter high and will producezero emissions and use the natural source of sun, wind and water tocreate its own energy. The 68-story structure will use natural airconditioning which is based on Iranian wind towers. The utility ofthese wind towers is to bring in wind into the cool interiors of thestructure. Gerber’s intricate cylindrical design sees the involvementof this principle to ventilate the tower. The overall structure alsoincludes a central atrium which will help provide the tower with freshair flow. This inflow of air will be pre-cooled with the seawater,dispersed throughout the exterior of the building and ventilatedthrough a double-skin glass facade.
• Almeisan Tower by Robert Ferry:
Thetower design was submitted in a recent competition to design a tallemblem structure for Za’abeel Park, in Dubai. The structure is capableof generating a whopping 600KW of solar power using 224 largeheliostatic mirrors that track the position of the sun throughout theday. The energy generated by the solar array is used to power thebuilding and the neighboring Za’abeel Park.
• Aerohotel by Alexander Asadov:
Designedby Alexander Asadov, the Aerohotel features an elegant floating islandthat sits atop an equally stunning support system. The support systemof the structure ensures that tons of gravel doesn’t disrupt thepeaceful aquatic sea life. The 200 meter wide circular island is heldin the air by three arms that are tethered to the bottom of the site.Apart from a hotel the Aerohotel will also house restaurants, cafes andwinter gardens. The Aerohotel will be made from transparent materialsto ensure maximum natural lighting and minimum environmental impact.
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