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

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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?

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:

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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