The Role of Technology in the Future of Green Buildings

With the world becoming increasingly concerned with the worrying state of health of the planet, individuals and companies alike are making a conscious effort to go green and as a result have turned their focus on green buildings. All around the world, a noticeable and conscious effort for ecological improvement is being made and green buildings show real promise.

In Europe alone, buildings use around 40 percent of the total energy output. That is more than the transport industry – 28% and the industrial sector – 32%. The energy they consume equates to an estimated equivalent of 3.5 billion barrels of oil. In other words, the buildings of the European continent are accountable for 36% of its carbon emissions.1

The LEED Green Building Standard has created a set of guidelines that designers, architects, construction companies and developers are adhering to and as a result, a fresh market has been established. Green buildings are on the rise and a growing number of building technologies are finding their way to the forefront of innovation in our swing towards sustainability. A survey conducted by the World Green Building Trends claims that 51% of the companies that responded to their study stated they would incorporate sustainability into over 50% of their projects by 2015.2

An exciting array of building technologies is helping keep pace with the shift towards sustainability. Whether companies are harnessing the full power of renewable resources, ecologically enhancing surviving structures or simply trying to minimize their carbon footprint, they are making progressive moves in the right direction

Methods:

1. Sustainable and Smart Materials The use of smart, sustainable and salvaged materials are making a noticeable difference. Huge amounts of resources are used in the construction of new buildings, including harmful substances such as paints containing volatile organic compounds. Green substitutes are a great way to ease the depletion of already dwindling natural resources.For example, an innovative creation known as low-emittance windows is a greener alternative to traditionally windows. They are glazed with metallic oxide to deter the sun’s rays during the height of summer whilst also helping the conduction of heat in the cooler months. This alleviates HVAC expenditure.3

2. Green architecture with cross-ventilation Companies and countries across the globe are coming up with innovative way to go green. Alterations to a building’s construction to harness natural light and air can have huge benefit to the inhabitants. The Philippines has provided a bright spark of ecological brilliance. A new architectural stratagem called Lumiventt Technology3 facilitates the natural flow of light and air into multi-story buildings. Garden atriums that measure three storeys have been added to the buildings at regular intervals of five levels as well as air vents on the flanks of the building. This creates a breathable building design and maximizes the airflow.

3. Self-Sufficient Structures Another resourceful (still in the process of being mastered) feat of engineering is that of zero-energy buildings. These are structures that solely rely on plentiful renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. The use of solar panels and cells, biofuels and wind turbines fuel the electrical and HVAC requirements of the building. The roofs of skyscrapers are near perfect locations for wind turbines due to the powerful airflow that exists at such altitudes. Photovoltaic cells are also fitted onto rooftops and are often used as windows and skylights. An example of this is the revamped CIS Tower in Manchester, England, which generates 180,000 kilowatts of electricity per year as well as 24 wind turbines that generate one tenth of its required energy.1 Although the costs of these buildings are very expensive to begin with, the returns on investments are substantial, both in environmental and economic terms.

Impact So Far:

The results from Green Building Impact Report show the impact of these environmental strategies.

  1. The water savings that LEED saved in 2008 would fill enough 32-ounce water bottles to loop round the earth 300 times.4

  2. Buildings that adhere to LEED guidelines use expend 25% less energy than normal commercial buildings. In 2020, this will equate to a yearly reduction of 78 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.4

  3. LEED has created a green building material industry, with projects so far having spent more that $10 billion on green materials. This is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020.4

The scientific community recognizes the fact that there needs to be vast improvements in greenhouse gas reductions. The required reduction is 80% by 2050. This means that every single newly built structure must adhere to LEED ideals. The efforts that have gone into green buildings and technologies are impressive, resulting in an impressive 25% reduction in energy expenditure.4 However, does this mean we can rest on our laurels? Out of all the new buildings that are constructed, only 6% of them qualify as green.1 The good news is that over the recent years, more and more new construction projects are engaging in greener practices.

References:

1European Patent Office: https://www.epo.org/news-issues/technology/sustainable-technologies/green-construction.html

2Envirocities eMagazine: http://en.envirocitiesmag.com/articles/issue-10/Art6.pdf

3Triple Pundit: http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/04/7-green-building-trends-watch-2015/

4Green Biz: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2008/11/19/environmental-impacts-green-buildings

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