Everyone’s talking about building green, but you can’t fake it. Dumping some solar panels on your roof or a recycling bin in the break room doesn’t make your building green. In fact, this phenomenon of trying to fake green for the cachet of it even has a name, Eco-bling!
Fortunately, in the U.S. we have standards that dictate true green buildings. It’s a rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). A building owner must follow a formalized application process for their building to be LEED certified.
Green Building Techniques to Consider
- Green Roofs and Living Walls
A garden system installed on the outside of building can insulate it and reduce heating and cooling costs. This is one way to go green without a huge investment. Living walls — also known as biowalls — reflect solar radiation, improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, and absorb rainwater that would otherwise be runoff. They can also be watered with greywater (water that’s been used for bathing, dishwashing or laundry). Living walls applied inside a building can purify the air and also provide a way to recycle greywater.
- Passive Solar Building Design
The sun is free! Tap it and make it part of your green building design. Passive solar building design cuts down on the energy used for lighting, heating and cooling the building. A lot of things need to be considered to make passive solar work—everything from the location, size, and type of windows and walls to the shade plants around the building.
- Dual Plumbing Systems
Go beyond federally mandated low-flow toilets and install a dual plumbing system. It’s designed to conserve water by separating water into two types: potable and reclaimed. While reclaimed water isn’t drinking water it can be used for landscape irrigation or flushing toilets.
- Recycled and Sustainable Insulation
Building insulation has come a long way from that pink, itchy fiberglass. Energy efficient options include insulation made from recycled denim, prefab panels containing straw, hemp or flax.
- Electrochromic Glass
Electrochromic glass uses electricity to change the glass from opaque to translucent. With the push of a button or programmed by software, It can change over the course of a day as the sun moves reducing the load on an HVAC system and saving energy.
- Building-integrated Photovoltaics
The latest in solar panel technology is called photovoltaics, and they’ve come much further than just a few panels on the roof. These panels actually replace traditional structures, making them more cost-efficient from the start. They can even be semi-transparent, replacing windows and skylights. The term “photovoltaic” means that electric current is immediately generated in the panels when they’re exposed to sunlight.
- DC Power
Thomas Edison developed DC, direct current, in the 1880s. But Nicola Tesla’s AC, alternating current, became the standard because its higher voltage meant it could travel further without loss of power. Green builders are looking at DC today because it uses power more efficiently.
- Mycoform Technology
We’ve mentioned living walls and plant materials like hemp and straw for insulation. But what if the very walls themselves were made of plant material? Researchers have found that they could fill a form, such as a large block, with an agricultural product that would otherwise be waste material, such as buckwheat husks.
Help in Going Green
The LEED Green Interior and Construction Guide is hundreds of pages long. Fortunately, collaborative green design software has been developed to help make it easier to compare and contrast all of the different green building options available.
If you can’t make a commercial building green from the start, you can always take steps to retrofit an existing building. This includes things like updating the HVAC and plumbing systems, switching to a green energy source like solar power, replacing older windows with more energy-efficient ones, or even something as simple as fixing or plugging up any leaks. There are financial incentives for retrofitting just like there are for building green from the ground up.
We Make it Easy Being Green
As a LEED experienced commercial contractor in South Florida, we have literally grown up with the green building industry. We have built commissioned LEED certified properties as well as some simply adhering to green environmentally friendly practices as well as other green building techniques over the years. If you are interested in going green, whether with a new build or a retrofit, we are qualified to help you understand your options. Visit us online or call us at 954.961.4222.