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?

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

Did you know? Buildings can make us happier and more productive

Did you know that we spend nearly three quarters of our life indoors?  For most of us, nearly half of that time is spent at work.  This is astounding considering the current conditions of the workplace.  An office with poor ventilation, no daylight, bad HVAC and terrible lighting… Sound familiar?  A recent study by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) shows that over time, these conditions start to take a serious toll on both our mental and physical health.

So what do we do about it?  What are the solutions?

Healthy Buildings Are A Basic Necessity

For years we have looked at buildings as a functional necessity to house “components”, when in actuality they are critical environments which can either improve or decline our health.  I am going to dissect for you some areas where we can improve the built environment in terms of wellness and hope that you will consider incorporating some of these into your office or real estate project.  We will also explore emerging design trends for high performing buildings and look at how they can drastically improve our workplace.

Per the WGBC report, here are some areas to focus within your building to maximize worker productivity:

Indoor air quality: A comprehensive body of research suggests that better indoor air quality (low concentrations of CO2 and pollutants and high ventilation rates) can lead to productivity improvements of 8-11%.

Thermal comfort (Does your space feel hot or cold?): Research demonstrates that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction and modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity.

Lighting and views of nature: Several studies have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows, with experts now thinking that views from windows are probably the more significant factor, particularly where the view offers a connection to nature.

Noise and acoustics: Research suggests that being productive in the modern knowledge-based office is practically impossible when noise provides an unwanted distraction. This can be a major cause of dissatisfaction amongst occupants.

Interior layout: The way the interior of an office is configured (including workstation density and configuration of work space, breakout space and social space) has been found to have an impact on concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity.

Active design and exercise: Health can be improved through exercise, and so active design within a building, and access to services and amenities such as gyms, bicycle storage and green space can help to encourage healthier lifestyles of building occupants. An example of active design can be standing desks, collaborative work spaces, a urban/campus environment (encouraging walkability between buildings) or even strategically locating stairs to encourage their use instead of elevators.  More info on Active Design can be found here – http://centerforactivedesign.org/guidelines/

Given these numbers, the total sum of the opportunity for improved productivity is in the 10-20% range which could prove to have large impacts to your company’s bottom line.  This is in addition to ability to gain or retain more talented employees.

Why Green Buildings are the solution:

Green buildings are designed and constructed to limit the amount of energy and natural resources used while at the same time creating the healthiest living environment possible for the occupant.  The term “green” is used because the buildings are better for the environment.  Statistics also show that in addition to these benefits, the buildings can save owners/operators of the buildings a lot of money over the duration of the facility.

Green Buildings Can Reduce

Green Buildings allow for balance within your building.  You can evaluate all of the critical impact areas of your facility:  Site, Energy, Water, Materials and Comfort – And choose what works best for you.  Green Building rating systems such as LEED® can provide you with a road map to create an ideal work environment for you and your business. To learn more about LEED® and the green building rating system, please visit www.usgbc.org.

Emerging design trends are increasingly focused on occupant wellness and healthier environments.  The Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Institute are definitely worth looking into if you are planning a new project.   Their philosophies push the limits past conventional design and force us to be creative in our approach to our buildings and how we interact with them.  Philosophies such as Biophilia (that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems) are now being used to design spaces and Green Buildings are being built to regenerate instead of degenerate our resources.  The hope is that one day all buildings are healthy, interactive, creative, generative and accessible to all people.

Twelve West Office - Portland, OR

Twelve West Office – Portland, OR

Let’s talk ROI:

What is the most expensive “component” within your business?  Is it energy?  Is it the building? Actually, it is the people!  Your employees… Salaries, Healthcare, Benefits… Cost of personnel is 90% of running a business. That means the cost of the building is only 10% of the cost of operating a business but it has the largest opportunity to make a positive impact on the personnel.  It’s time we begin investing more into the comfortability of the workplace and making it healthier for our employees.  Studies prove that the healthier and more comfortable that our employees are, the happier and more productive they become.  This means retaining and growing talented people and creating a work environment which helps them instead of hurts them.

Operational Cost Breakdown

Findings of the WGBC report conclude:

Costs of ill-health vary by sector and country, and are rarely comparable, but the impact is clear:

  • The annual absenteeism rate in the US is 3% per employee in the private sector, and 4% in the public sector, costing employers $2,074 and $2,502 per employee per year respectively.
  • Poor mental health specifically costs UK employers £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence.
  • The aggregate cost to business of ill-health and absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $7 billion per year, while the cost of ‘presenteeism’ (not fully functioning at work because of medical conditions) is estimated to be $26 billion.

How to start… Conduct a workplace survey:

I challenge you to start by creating a simple workplace survey of your employees and get feedback.  The survey will allow you to measure what is working well at your business in terms of the building, comfort, workplace habits, expectations and happiness.  This survey should be confidential and will serve as a baseline.  From here you will be able to target areas that seem to be the largest potential impact for your business and start to slowly make improvements.  Like any system or process improvement, you must track the impact, report back to the group and continue to monitor these improvements until you receive the desired outcomes.  It may be a good exercise for your leadership to reexamine your company philosophy and goals around employee happiness and productivity.

Areas of focus for the survey may include:

  • General information about the employee (age, sex, department, distance from work)
  • Impressions of the building/company in general
  • The role of sustainability
  • Building fabric and systems
  • Office Design/Layout
  • Location/Amenities
  • The workplace and me
  • Employee engagement
  • Move-in questions after occupancy

For more resources, please visit:

World Green Building Council – www.worldgbc.org

Whole Building Design Guide – www.wbdg.org

International Well Building Institute – www.wellcertified.com

Living Building Challenge – www.living-future.org/lbc