Previously we have taken you through the steps involved in producing a sustainable building design from start to finish using an integrative design approach. We have built a business case and have justified the project, have identified and documented the needs, and have appointed a design team, built and moved into our new facility and it is marvelous. There are tools that the design team may use to assist on a sustainable project, the most notable would be LEED or Leadership in Energy Environmental Design.
Tools of the Trade
More encompassing than the definition of green high performance buildings are those for facilities that are not only energy and water efficient but also are people friendly and get high marks for occupancy comfort and well-being. The EPA has revealed that buildings account for approximately 40 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption and residential buildings account for approximately 54 percent of that total, while commercial buildings accounted for the other 46 percent. At home or at work, without a doubt buildings are a big part of our lives. So it is logical that they would account for a large part of the strain on the world’s resources. Since the design and construction industries have influence on both, it follows that those companies bare a sizeable responsibility for the current situation and its possible solutions. If it is the ultimate goal to advance measures in today’s sustainably built environment and actively diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions, then we will need to change society’s behavior. If we start with today’s standards, rules, norms and environmental systems, then we can quickly see that we are already bettering ourselves and our projects.
LEED is a voluntary, market-driven, consensus-based tool that serves as a guideline and assessment mechanism. LEED seeks to optimize the use of natural resources, promote regenerative and restorative strategies, maximize the positive and minimize the negative that buildings have on the environmental and human health that occur in the construction industry, and provide high-quality indoor environments for building occupants. LEED emphasizes integrative design, integration of existing technology, and state-of-the-art strategies to advance expertise in green building. The technical basis for LEED strikes a balance between requiring today’s best practices and encouraging leadership strategies. LEED sets a challenging yet achievable set of benchmarks that define green building for construction projects.
LEED addresses environmental challenges while responding to the needs of a competitive market. Certification demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to immediately improve both building performance and the bottom line while providing healthier indoor spaces for building’s occupants. LEED-certified buildings are designed to deliver lower operating costs and increased asset value, reduced waste sent to landfills, energy and water conservation, more healthful and productive environments for occupants, a reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and may qualification for tax rebates, zoning allowances, and other incentives in many cities.
Many projects are close to achieving their full potential. Some factors can really speed up the process, like smart, engaged and demanding clients, early involvement by stakeholders in the development process and finally partnerships with suppliers. This will help to make the entire life cycle chain, from raw materials to the finished projects, more environmentally sound. Applying this approach to everything we do means that instead of just building a building we make sure it will function as intended while introducing less negative effects on the environment at any time in its existence. The best results come from thinking in new ways, and combining the old with the new.