Resiliency + Why it matters in Green Building Today

What does resiliency have to do with Green Buildings?

It’s a great question… and here is the answer… You have to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Buildings that last have less of an impact on the environment because they deplete less natural resources.  Most buildings have a 20-30 year life span and depending on the use of the building, heavily trafficked materials need replaced every 5-10.  When design/construction teams focus on resiliency, we are looking at not only the long term durability of the building and the materials but also the flexibility of the space over time.  Here are some critical aspects which contribute to the resiliency of the facility.

Green Infrastructure

Solar + Green Roof

The most resilient building is one which does not rely on any outside infrastructure to operate.  In essence, it would be net zero in every aspect.  Net zero energy, water, waste water, storm water, waste, etc.   This means you generate your own energy, manage your own waste water and handle storm water on-site.  Some various techniques are available to handle this tall task.

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Steps to accomplish Net Zero:

1.) Conserve: Reduce overall consumption of the building by maximizing the insulation, fenestration and envelope performance.  Invest heavily in items which conserve energy.

2.) Design: Design/Integrate high efficiency building systems which rely heavily on natural resources such as sunlight, natural airflow, etc.  Limit the amount of artificial lighting, air conditioning and heat supplied to the space.

3.) Construct/Test:   Construct the building to the exact specification of the design.  This includes the exact design for thermal performance (air and heat transfer) of the envelope and the systems inside the building.  Various tests are used for this such as the blower door test.

4.) On-Site Renewable Energy:  Generate on-site renewable energy equal or greater than the amount of energy to be used by the building occupants and operations.

Living Machine handles waste water on-site

(Download their brochure here)

Green Roofs Handle Stormwater Onsite

Resilient Materials

Materials of resilient buildings are not only built to last longer but they can be deconstructed and reused in the event of a catastrophic event.  Fires, Floods, Earthquakes, Hurricanes are all increasing in numbers and causing massive damage in our communities.  Resiliency looks at where and how those communities are built and how they can withstand the most extreme situations.

Some examples of resilient materials & systems are as follows:

  • High performance sprinkler systems
  • Seismic innovations (pendulum powered, shock absorbing, rocking buildings)
  • Concrete
  • Cement coatings
  • Rubber coatings
  • Epoxy coatings

interior-spread

Design for Flexibility

Designing open floor plans with movable walls (aka demountable partitions) and furniture that can adapt over time to various uses and applications is the future of building design.   Creating a floor plan which is essentially open or has areas which are easily converted to meet a multitude of needs.  This could include a large meeting space which can be divided into smaller meetings spaces, work rooms or offices depending on the need at that time.  More schools and places of worship are using these ideas to maximize their facilities year-round.  Some urban apartments are built to be small but extremely flexible with convertible walls, cabinets and spaces.  It is quite remarkable.  See some examples below:

Deconstruction

If and when damage is incurred by a facility, it would be ideal to be able to deconstruct and reuse any materials that can be salvaged.  Detroit is in the midst of a renaissance and a resurgence.  Amidst the massive amounts of redevelopment occurring there, many old, abandoned buildings are being deconstructed in lieu of demolished and sent to landfills.  Many organizations have found that deconstruction can create jobs and cash flow by selling the salvaged materials.

Some FAQ’s from one of Detroit’s deconstruction specialists:  http://reclaimingdetroit.org/faqs/

Weather concerns 

Certain regions have more concerns than others.  For example the western united states have severe drought concerns and water limitations whereas the south east united states have hurricanes to contend with.  Many debates surround what to do in these areas.  Do you leave the area and move to a more suitable environment?  Resiliency in building design can be a key to making the best of these climates.

Rainwater capturing is a great way for a facility to become resilient to periodic drought.

In areas of potential flooding, architects are now designing homes/buildings with:

  • more cementitious materials (concrete, cement siding) which is more weather resistant
  • raised lower levels for parking or limited storage (buildings on stilts)
  • Developments with higher rate of storage of storm run off with emergency

Trade-Offs

With any decision that gets incorporated into a building’s design there are trade offs.  There’s a balance to be found in cost, quality, resiliency and sustainability (impact on the environment).  You could build the most resilient and sustainable building in the world but currently it would cost 10 times the cost of a conventional building.  The next five to ten years, more and more developments in communities will arise with improvements in all of these areas.  Ultimately with hopes that we have safe, resilient, healthy, sustainable communities that last and that are integrated.

As climate change continues to evolve and extreme weather becomes more and more prevalent, resiliency is a major topic which needs to be considered in each and every community across the world.  Please come and join us for GreenCon 2016 to learn more from industry leaders on this topic.

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GreenCon: Building Conference & Expo is coming up on March 17, 2016 at Dickinson College.

If you are interested in Sustainability, Green Buildings or Resiliency, this conference is for you!

The major theme of this years conference will be resiliency.

Register Here For GreenCon 2016
See The Full GreenCon 2016 Program Lineup Here

Leadership in Sustainability – Thank you Leo! #Oscars2016

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar on Sunday… He also displayed great leadership by bringing attention to climate change and the effects on humanity.  Leo has been a long time supporter of LEED/Green Buildings and the environment.

Click here to see his acceptance speech:

attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

If Leo, AN ACTOR, can speak on climate change on one of the worlds largest stages, it begs the question.

  • Are you doing enough to support the planet and future generations?
  • Do you speak up when decisions are on the table which affect the environment?
  • Are you an advocate?  or do you go through the motions?

There are certain levels of advocacy which I have grown accustomed to:

Personal

In our actions, our spending and our relationships… What we do… This is a form of advocacy.  Your dollar can be your vote.  When you support certain organizations or products, you propel their vision and their mission.  This goes for the good and the bad.  I ask that you dig deeper into the background behind where you spend your money.  Does it align with your personal goals and mission?  Put your money where your heart is…

Education

Simply educating others about the importance of the planet and it’s natural resources is a great way to start.  This could be your own children, friends or coworkers.  If you have something to share of value or that matters to you, by all means, pass it on.  This is a wonderful way to advocate for what means the most to you.  I have found that social media has such a small barrier to entry and you can hop on your favorite site and begin sharing articles or products that matter to you… Click, click, you just became an advocate… It’s that easy.

Talk to leaders in your community

Whether it is a face to face visit, phone-call or a letter, you should make your opinion known to those in the community that ACTUALLY make decisions.  I have had the opportunity to join USGBC Central Pa on several legislative initiatives at the capital in Harrisburg, PA.  We collectively sat down with legislators and discussed the issues around building codes, green buildings, conservation and laws in Pennsylvania.  If there are policies which directly correlate to sustainability, let them know they are important to you and your votes will go to those who support the causes you care about.

Here is a current list of Green Building related policies being tracked by USGBC Central Pa: http://usgbc-centralpa.org/Advocacy

Be a stand

People will push back.  People will be oblivious to the facts.  Resistance to change is human nature. Leadership involves keeping your eye on the ultimate goal: improving quality of life for all people and things.  Most people resist speaking up for the fear that they will be met with confrontation, conflict or resistance.  I contend that this exchange and dialog will leave both sides in a better place.  At the end of the day, you will both know where each other stand and quite possibly learn something new.  It’s called growth.

Next time you are in a situation where your voice should be heard or leadership is warranted. Speak up, say what is important to you.  It is called leadership.  Especially in sustainability, we need more leaders.  We need architects, engineers, builders and owners that are willing to speak up and make sustainability a priority.  If we don’t, then who will?  Actors?

2015 ForeverGreen Awards Program

USGBC Central Pennsylvania hosted their 2015 ForeverGreen Awards program on October 22, 2015.  The event was held at The Bond in York, PA.  The Bond is a beautiful old building which has been renovated by Royal Square Development in the art district of York City.  Their philosophy at The Bond is to provide a blank canvas for any event with an incredible backdrop of gorgeous finished atop a rustic, industrial framework of a historic building.

The nights top winners included:

Dickinson College – Field House

Hershey 19 East Project – Next Century 

Penn State Intramural Sports Building  

Connellsville Area Senior High School 

Educational Activities Building – Penn State Harrisburg

Ohiopyle State Park Office Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center

Brook Hill Residence

Indian Valley Intermediate School

Honorable Mentions Included:

Merck KGaA Life Sciences 

The Millworks – Harrisburg 

Prologis/Georgia Pacific – Shippensburg

Cargas Office Building In Lancaster, Pa Achieves LEED Silver

Cargas Systems is a local, family run business in Lancaster that has sustainability woven throughout its culture.  This culture starts from the top down with their innovative founder Chip Cargas.  Chip believes in creating a workplace that is fun, environmentally friendly and is dedicated to customer service.  From the early stages of planning, Chip and his team at Cargas were committed to incorporating sustainability into their office.  Chip was primarily focused on energy savings, daylighting and a minimalist approach with materials.  The envelope was designed to be highly insulated and allow for the maximum amount of daylight through skylights and large windows on the south face of the building.  Also on the south face of the building are solar panel covered sunshades on the exterior and Trombe walls on the interior.  In the winter, these trombe walls act as heat sinks and absorb the winter sun and radiate that heat throughout the interior space, reducing the cost of heating the building.  In the summer months, the solar sunshade absorbs the sun before it enters the building.

 

Cargas Office Building, Lancaster, Pa

Cargas Office Building, Lancaster, Pa

The major design strategy which remained throughout the entire project was sustainability and comfort.  Chip Cargas and his company (National Award Winning Business for Sustainability through the Green Plus Program) were dedicated to this process and implementing green strategies which made sense over the long term.  Another unique aspect of the building which is truly sustainable is that the structure was built to easily add a second story in the future.  The building was completely designed for vertical expansion to limit the impact to the surrounding area which is a fantastic concept.

Early in the design process, a charette was conducted to determine the LEED Credits which were both feasible and necessary to receive the High Performance Building Grant. Through the use of an energy model we were able to determine an approximate payback cost for using a variety of systems. The team compared using water source heat pumps, rooftop VAVs, and geothermal heat pumps. We finalized on using geothermal heat pumps. We submitted for and were approved for the high performance grant, which had us on track for LEED Platinum Certification. During the design-build phase, it became apparent that the cost for achieving the high performance building was more than the grant had to offer. The HVAC system was then revised to a water source heat pump (still highly efficient) with a roof top cooling tower and high efficiency gas boiler. The final outcome was a solid and very energy efficient LEED Silver building (nearing Gold Status) that was built both within budget and on schedule.

Cargas Custom Bike Rack

Cargas Custom Bike Rack

A very important design strategy that was included in the project was the inclusion of a 50 kw Solar Photovoltaic array.  This array provides 20% of the electrical demand for the entire building which coupled with the 40% more efficient HVAC & Lighting system, reduces the overall building energy consumption by over 60%!  This is a remarkable feat for a new building.

The construction process included many different aspects for the subcontractors involved.  Training on LEED, the process, waste management, indoor air quality management and general green building practices.  The end result was a team effort from all parties involved, including the ongoing training and education which is provided by Chip and his staff to various local organizations and schools.

Trombe Walls at Cargas Office

Trombe Walls at Cargas Office

Some Of The Unique Green Aspects Of The Building:

  • 53 kw PV Solar Array which provides close to 20% of their annual energy
  • Water source heat pump system for heating and cooling (Utility bills average $.20-.50/sf)
  • Trombe walls to act as a heat sink inside the main windows of the building
  • Highly Efficient Glazing with sun shades and blinds to control sunlight and heat
  • Lighting control systems to dim entire areas when natural daylight is available
  • Flexible design for vertical expansion in 5-10 years (can add a 2nd story)
  • 100% Low VOC Materials
  • Local materials were a focus
  • Recycled content of materials was high (Over 20%)
  • Custom bike rack and shower facilities (numerous employees bike to work!)
  • Preferential parking for low emitting and high efficiency vehicles

Their new office building is located at the old site of the Lancaster Stockyards (contaminated site).

Check out some of the before photos here : http://www.behance.net/gallery/Lancaster-Stockyards/386610

Cargas is an innovative business focused on custom software and technology for a broad range of industries.

Cargas Celebrates 25 Years!

Cargas Celebrates 25 Years!

Learn more about their company here: http://www.cargas.com

Feel free to share your success stories with me on twitter!

http://www.twitter.com/leed_resource

 

GreenBuild 2013 – Tips for your Philly visit!

This year I will be attending my third GreenBuild Conference & Expo.  With the previous two experiences I have learned a couple of tips & tricks which may make your trip even more memorable!

1.) Schedule some time before or after the conference to take in the local scenery – My last trip to Chicago unfortunately I missed out on this and still regret it to this day.  Philadelphia is full of art, culture and exciting venues to check out – I highly recommend any of the following activities during your visit:

Eagles-Go-Green1

2.) Take advantage of the exclusive tours made available to you through the conference – Yes they may have a fee associated with them but they may be exclusive, once in a lifetime tours that shouldn’t be passed up http://dvgbc.org/greenbuild/2013Tours

Take a half day tour of Philadelphia’s Navy Yard and learn how they are reinventing their campus into a sustainable model for the 21st century

3.) Take the train – There is nothing cooler than the train.  Free wifi, a comfortable seat, great views, food and beverages… Not to mention, it’s about the most sustainable way to travel.  Also, pricing is very reasonable when you compare against driving/parking and flying.  http://www.amtrak.com/home

4.) Enter to win the prizes – At my first GreenBuild Conference I won a TV, the second I won an iPad… Enough Said!  The conference offers a fun scavenger hunt called “Passport to prizes” which I encourage you to try and many of the vendors have great giveaways.  It’s fun, it’s a conference, it’s about the free swag… Enjoy it.

5.) Find a cause – GreenBuild isn’t all about shameless promotion of the vendors.  MANY non-profits and small organizations will be in attendance sharing their mission and their vision and looking for support.  Here is a list of “Partners” who are involved in this years conference http://www.dvgbc.org/our-partners.  Do yourself a favor – Find a cause that resonates with you and get involved.  When you return home, feel free to find your local chapter and volunteer your time or money to helping the cause.

6.) Treat yourself to at least one good meal – If you are in seminars or on your feet on the expo floor all day, the chances are you don’t get to eat very well during the day.  Take the time to research the local scene and find a good restaurant.  Treat yourself to one good meal when your there and make sure to invite some friend you have met at the conference.  Book in advance!  Here are some good spots around the convention center: http://www.urbanspoon.com/ps/21/9019/philadelphia-pennsylvania-convention-center-nearby-restaurants

All in all, I hope that you have a fantastic conference and it leaves you motivated to take what you have learned and your new found connections back with you to propel the movement of sustainability.

Here are some quick stats about this years conference:

Greenbuild-at-a-Glance

Green Apple Day Of Service

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Mark Kurowski (K&W Engineers) and I taking part in the Green Apple Day Of Service

What is the Green Apple Day Of Service?

USGBC and The Center For Green Schools created this annual event to engage people around the world and give them an opportunity to give back to their community.  The goal is to educate children/students about sustainability in their very own backyard.  They have a fantastic website (www.mygreenapple.org) which has tracked, organized and reported on the thousands of service projects that have been going on around the world on September 29, 2012.

Who was involved?

Our local Green Apple Service event was coordinated by The Emerging Professionals Committee of USGBC Central Pennsylvania.  In just a couple of weeks, Sarah Knehr and Justin Kovaleski were able to secure over $1500 in donations for trees/mulch/tools and round up 30+ volunteers to help.  People of all backgrounds came out to chip in… Professional engineers, occupational therapists, construction workers, parents, children and college students.  It was great to see such a positive response to the event and really inspired me to do more projects like this on an ongoing basis.  Penn State Harrisburg and their newly founded USGBC Student Group was there with numerous volunteers.  Penn State Harrisburg also visited with Middletown Area Middle School students this week to teach them about green buildings and the environment.

Penn State Harrisburg USGBC Student Group

What did we accomplish?

We accomplished many things today…  We connected people… We improved City Island by planting 15 trees… We supported a struggling city in need (Harrisburg)… We educated students about giving back… and most of all We Had FUN!  People really do enjoy rolling their sleeves up once in a while and getting dirty.  It was great to see so many smiling faces and people really looking to help each other with this project.  I even got to see a mom teach her two middle school age children how to plant a tree… quite remarkable!

How can you get involved and support future projects like this one?

Become a volunteer with your local chapter of the US Green Building Council… Our website in Central Pennsylvania is www.usgbc-centralpa.org.  Our chapter covers 37 counties throughout Central Pa and includes large areas such as State College, Lancaster, Berks, York, Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg.  We have many great committees doing good work and fun interactive events on a monthly basis.  Check here for upcoming events!

Donate now… Non-profits like USGBC Central Pa need financial resources in order to continue to provide community service projects, educational programs and to advocate for sustainability to local and state government.  Please consider donating today to ensure this organization can continue to support sustainability in your community for years to come.

Zero Energy Buildings: Myth Or Must?

As the immediate needs for more environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings become more and more apparent, a logical question begins to come into focus: Where does it end?

Many in the design and construction community believe the answer is Zero Energy Buildings.  Zero Energy is a term used to describe a building that consumes as much energy as it generates in a given year or net zero.  Conversely, carbon emissions, which are directly related to the energy consumed, are zero. This is not to be confused with the notion that the building consumes zero energy all together.  This would be nearly impossible given all of the HVAC, Lighting, and Life Safety System demands that are needed to operate a building, especially a commercial one.  The key is to reduce the amount of energy consumed to the lowest possible amount and then create that amount of energy on-site by renewable means.

Here is a DOE’s database of Zero Energy Buildings in the US Today: http://zeb.buildinggreen.com/

Science House (Minnesota) is a Net Zero Building Used as A Teaching Tool

It all starts with the building envelope and conservation: 

This encompasses the entire surrounding perimeter of the building including the roof, the walls, fenestration (windows/glass), and the foundation below.  The envelope is the first building system which must be optimized to achieve the most efficient building possible.  Several new building envelope concepts have emerged, most notably the use of air/vapor barriers and insulation on the outside of the building in lieu of the traditional installation on the interior of the building.  Driving this concept is the fact that thermal bridging has been found to drastically reduce the functional R-Value of an exterior wall when substrate and exterior finishes are attached directly to the framing of the building with no layer of thermal protection on the outside.  Not only must a building envelope be well insulated but it must also need to be sealed well enough to prevent air leakage.  Air leakage is one of the top reasons for energy loss in existing buildings today.

Click here for a link to a great resource, the passive haus institute on more information to maximize envelope efficiency: http://www.passivehouse.us/passiveHouse/PassiveHouseInfo.html

System Optimization & Proper Sizing: 

The next step to achieving net zero energy consumption in a building is through the optimization of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that operate the building.  Virtually on a monthly basis new mechanical, electrical, lighting and plumbing equipment are released to the market with increased efficiencies.  Designers are finding new ways to integrate these systems and make them efficient as possible.  Also, these systems need to be engineered to be properly sized and configured based on the envelope and the anticipated demands of the occupants.  After occupancy, the use of building management systems, smart controls and variable settings on equipment have all helped to integrate these systems and provide constant feedback on the amount of energy being used at a given time.  The proper sizing and smart usage can combine to reduce the energy consumption by nearly 50% by using highly efficient systems and equipment.

For more information and great articles on optimizing energy efficiency in buildings:  Check out the M-Files Blog http://blog.mcclureco.com/

Note:
Studies and energy models have shown that maximizing both the envelope and the major building systems can reduce the energy consumption of a building by 70% (over the baseline energy usage established by ASHRAE 90.1).   Where does the remaining 30% come from?

On-Site Energy Generation:

The final step of achieving net zero energy consumption is through the generation of on-site energy for use by the building or the purchase of renewable energy through a green power provider.  The plausibility of generating your own energy or using renewable energy sources has increased recently due to a heightened awareness and a drop in costs (avg solar array runs between $3.50 and $5.00 per watt).  Systems that incorporate energy recovered from these various systems are becoming more of a common place for those planning to construct a new building: Solar, Geothermal, Cogeneration, Energy Recovery, Micro turbines, Wind and hydroelectricity.  Utilizing this energy locally first, at the building location, is where the remaining 30% reduction occurs.

Whether Net Zero is Feasible or Not, Raising the bar is a Must:

Buildings and optimizing their performance must be a focus for the design and construction communities because they have the single largest impact on the environment today (and the costs of operating our buildings).  Our collective commitment to creating buildings that perform optimally from a comfort, consumption and generative stance is imperative.  Finding creative ways to reduce energy (as much as fiscally possible) and then operating these buildings in an optimal manner is a must.  I am confident that the technologies and the strategies will continue to evolve and netzero will eventually become commonplace.

The Living Futures Institute (Creators of the Living Building Challenge) has now implemented a Net Zero Certification Program, for more information, go here: http://living-future.org/netzero/