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Green Building

April 18, 2011


Green building could be defined as “the practice of

  1. increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials, and
  2. reducing building impacts on human health by providing better indoor environment (IEQ).

With progressive economy, new building technologies began to transform the urban landscape. The advent of air conditioning, low-wattage fluorescent lighting, structural steel, and reflective glass made possible enclosed glass-and-steel structures that could be heated and cooled with massive HVAC systems, thanks to the availability of cheap fossil fuels. The economic boom accelerated the pace of this phenomenon, to the point where the International Style “glass box” became the design icon of cities and rapidly growing suburbs.

However, a small group of forward thinking architects, environmentalists, and ecologists, began to question the advisability of building in this manner.

Global warming and the growing awareness of the same led to the nascent “environmental movement” capturing the attention of the public at large. As fossil fuel prices spiked upward and lines at fuel stations stretched for blocks, everyone started to wonder about the wisdom of relying so heavily on fossil fuels for transportation and buildings.

Besides the media buzz about building eco-friendly, builders are becoming more educated on long-term cost reductions created by more efficient energy usage and the reduction or even outright elimination of toxins in building materials. Up until recently, however, building green usually meant building at a higher cost. But even those premiums are beginning to drop. USGBC or US Green building council than came up with the concept of LEED rating system to establish a method to identify and quantify the green content of the building.

The Basic of LEED

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating Program is, in the words of the U.S. Green Building Council, “a national consensus-based, market-driven building rating system designed to accelerate the development and implementation of green building practices.

LEED is divided into five categories related to siting, water conservation, energy, materials, and indoor
environmental quality, plus an innovation and design category. Each category contains a specific number of credits; each credit carries one or more possible points. A project that earns enough points (26) can become “LEED Certified,” on up the ladder to Silver (33), Gold (39), and Platinum (52 or more). Some categories have prerequisites that must be met or points cannot be earned in that category.

The LEED brand has already become a marketing distinction for a number of certified projects, especially those with Silver or Gold ratings. Like the catalytic agent that speeds up a chemical reaction without itself being consumed, LEED has precipitated enormous activity in the real estate community without losing any of its potency. LEED has certainly lived up to its goal to “accelerate the development and implementation of green building practices.

Some of the main reasons of green buildings are becoming preferred options are:

Operational Savings: Green buildings may consume upto 40% less energy and 20-30 % less water vis-a-vis a conventional building. This comes at an incremental cost of about 5-8 %, The incremental cost gets paid back in 3-5 years time.

Daylights & Views: Working in environment with access to daylight and views provides connection to the exterior environment. This has a soothing effect on the mind. Various studies prove that the productivity of people who have access to day lighting and views is atleast 12-15 % higher.

Air Quality: Green buildings are always fresh and healthy. Every green building will have to purge continuous fresh air to meet the ASHRAE 62 requirements. The green buildings use interior materials with low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. A typical office building would require purging of fresh air of about 15 cfm/person which provides a fresh ambiance inside the building.

Energy Saving in Green Buildings

Energy conservation in buildings can be ideally achieved by designing building envelopes to reduce heat transfer by conduction and solar radiation and with the correct building orientation and use of natural ventilation, as far as possible.

However, as all buildings need outside air for ventilation which increases the air-conditioning load and thus energy costs. Incorporation of energy recovery systems like Treated Fresh Air (TFAs) units and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) incorporating Heat/Energy Recovery Wheels provides considerable energy savings.

The heart of the Treated Fresh Air Units / Energy Recovery Ventilator is the desiccant coated energy recovery wheel, which slowly rotates between its two sections. In one section, the stale, conditioned air is passed through the wheel, and exhausted in the atmosphere.

During this process, the wheel absorbs sensible and latent energy from the conditioned air, which is used to condition (cool /heat) the incoming Fresh Air in the other section, during the second half of its rotation cycle. Thus, one can have more fresh air at lower energy costs inside conditioned space.

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