Tips to Design and Maintain a Green Building

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Now more than ever, individuals and businesses alike recognize the importance of reducing the amount of energy we consume on a daily basis in order to better maintain our global environment. Engineers and researchers have discovered that one of the most effective ways to do so is by changing the way we construct our indoor environments. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, our everyday use of buildings accounts for 39% of total U.S. energy consumption and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions.

To combat the tremendous amount of energy exploited by buildings each day, engineers and architects have developed the practice of green building. Several green building techniques focus on particular aspects of energy conservation, including water preservation, resource and supplies conservation, as well as overall reduced energy consumption. Through the use of specific construction materials and processes, the practice of green building can significantly reduce the impact humans have on the environment.

Eco-Efficient Design with Structural Insulated Panels

One such method used by engineers to reduce environmental impact is constructing buildings with structural insulated panels, rather than with traditional wooden latticework frames. These structural insulated panels, or SIPs for short, contain a layer of foam insulation sandwiched between two panels made of metal, cement, or plywood. Whereas a traditional frame allows for many permeable seams in the structure of a building, SIPs create an airtight, thermally-efficient environment that resists moisture and requires far less energy to heat and cool. In fact, the owner of a building constructed with SIPs can expect to save as much as 50 percent of energy costs.

In addition, the process of utilizing SIPs to assemble a building is much more streamlined and less wasteful than traditional building construction. Most SIPs are customized to each project in order to reduce on-the-job waste – the panels are shipped by the manufacturer to the construction site, where each wall is raised as a whole. Also, some SIPs do not contain HCFCs and CFCs, which are harmful chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. Furthermore, numerous SIP manufacturers either make their products recyclable or create them with recycled materials.

Resource Conservation through Eco-Friendly Equipment

Once a building contains a thermally-efficient, high-performance indoor environment thanks to the use of SIPs, there are still several green building techniques that can be used to reduce energy costs and overall environmental impact. For instance, photovoltaic arrays (more commonly known as a system of solar panels) can serve as a highly-efficient and eco-friendly source of electricity. Installing a building-integrated photovoltaic system has become an increasingly common practice in the construction of large structures due to the panels’ electricity-producing capabilities and because the system can replace other building materials, reducing construction costs as well as the need for resources. To determine the amount of energy a solar panel system will save, many factors must be taken into account, such as the building’s location, climate and the system’s ratings. However, any structure that receives at least part of its electricity use from solar power is undoubtedly benefiting the environment.

To further conserve natural resources, there are many specific appliances and fixtures in which building owners can invest to reduce the amount of water consumed on a daily basis. For instance, low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets will reduce superfluous water consumption. Additionally, building owners should regularly check for leaks, and caulk around pipes and plumbing fixtures to eliminate the possibility of unnecessary water waste. Installing low-flow appliances and an efficient system of solar panels reduces the need for natural resources and contributes to the effectiveness of green building.

Maintaining Energy Efficiency

Constructing an energy-efficient structure using green building materials, such as SIPs, solar panels, and low-flow fixtures, will effectively reduce a building’s impact on the environment. However, to maintain efficiency, building owners should perform energy audits each year to determine how energy is being consumed and to find out if unnecessary waste is occurring. Each individual associated with the construction of a building, whether a designer, engineer or proprietor, can help reduce the ecological impact produced each day as a result. As we further refine and perfect green building practices, we help to maintain a stable global environment.

Article by Ken Madren, Chief Executive Officer at PermaTherm, Inc., appearing courtesy 2GreenEnergy.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • Tom G.

    Well using steel skinned Structural Insulated Panels [SIP’s} is certainly a good start, don’t forget to include the following for residential applications.

    1. Where air source heat pumps are used for heating and cooling, make sure the minimum SEER rating is at least 16. Better yet use ground source units whenever possible. Also encourage every HVAC manufacturers you know to provide units which are “inverter” style that vary output depending on demand.

    2. Ensure the building and/or site design includes provisions for the installation of split style Heat Pump condensing units on the shaded side of the building in the afternoon.

    3. Make sure the building design has provisions for the installation of all air handling units to be installed INSIDE the building envelope. Never allow packaged HVAC units to be mounted on a roof.

    4. Eliminate to the maximum extent possible, the use of flexible R-5/6 insulated air ducts. Regardless of the type and installation quality they degrade over time.

    5. Use programmable thermostats on any building regardless if it is occupied 24/7 or not. Quite simply; people sometimes forget.

    That’s it, getting down off my soapbox now. This company should certainly consider expanding their business to include a desert Southwest division. We still use typical 2″ X 6″ wall framing and roof trusses for residential construction.

  • http://www.novelremodeling.com novel remodeling – Solar Installer

    Insulation i believe is the key for efficient solar panel systems. if you have a house that lets out heat and cool air, then your solar panels are absolutely useless. You are burning more and more energy and you are not receiving the full value of your system.