Three Sustainable Design Strategies
Taking a Sustainable Engineering approach to building construction can have massive long-term benefits. By synergizing the functions of lighting, heating, cooling, and electrical systems, buildings can operate more efficiently. Efficiency translates to drastically lowered operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Increased property value is another bonus. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has set forth a rating system for the construction, operation, and maintenance of environmentally responsible buildings. While cutting-edge green design technologies can include automation and nanotechnology, there are many tested, cost-effective methods in use now. Three methods that are effective for both new and existing buildings are daylighting, high-performance insulation, and thermal storage. Read more to learn about each strategy.
Daylighting design techniques optimize access to natural light. Doing this minimizes the need for artificial lighting. Ideally, daylighting techniques incorporate direct sunlight into the mix of a building’s lighting. This produces a net gain in energy savings. Daylighting also lowers internal heat gain from electric lighting and lowers energy output for cooling. Skylights, skydomes, and reflective devices are one set of tools that aid daylighting. Occupancy sensors and electronic dimmers sensors are another commonly used tool. Occupancy sensors and electronic dimmers can be programmed to accommodate both changes in occupancy inside a building and the light levels outside. By themselves, occupancy sensors are ideal for low use areas. Besides net operational savings, studies have found that access to more natural light can improve productivity and health inside schools and offices.
Thermal storage techniques can work in tandem with daylighting and other building efficiency solutions. Thermal storage techniques aid the performance of HVAC and electric grid systems by introducing materials that control heat gain and heat loss. Strategic window placement, glazing, and shading is one common strategy. Painting and building with light colors to reflect light is another. Finally, appropriate landscaping utilizing trees and vegetation for shade is effective as well. Thermal storage can also be combined with passive solar heating systems in a building. This aids the slow warming of buildings without expending energy on conventional devices.
High-performance Insulation and Reusable Materials
Ineffective heating and cooling is a major cause of energy over-consumption and high operating costs. Insulation is one of the very first considerations in any green design project. New construction and retrofits both benefit from excellent insulation. Before proceeding with the project, the amount of insulation needed must be calculated. Then the insulation must be properly installed in walls, ceilings, floors, and foundational structures. These efforts make buildings more economical and comfortable. Using insulation to create a sealed, air-tight interior will allow heating and cooling machinery to operate much more effectively. This extends the life cycle of HVAC systems and reduces maintenance, repair, and replacement costs. Energy-efficient insulation materials range from advanced polymers and glass fibers to mineral wool and recycled, shredded jeans.
In 2006 the United States architecture industry launched a green design initiative called the 2030 Challenge. The 2030 Challenge is a global initiative urging all new buildings and major renovations to reduce their environmental footprints by 2010. The 2030 goal is to have all buildings meet the benchmark of zero net energy consumption. While not every new or renovated commercial building may be able to meet zero net energy consumption standards in 2018, Brandt can help you meet your unique energy efficiency goals. Our team of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers has already mastered a holistic approach geared toward green design. If you’re interested in learning more about lowering your carbon footprint and energy costs, reach out to Brandt.