Newsworthy

11/01/2010 |

What goes into making a green gym? Lighting decision considerations. Bricks made of wool. And more.

Pedaling Their Way to A Greener Workout
What would happen if you could harness all of the energy of a workout and use it to mitigate the power used in the building during that workout? Byron Spratt, co-owner and business manager of the Greenasium, discusses the ideas behind an eco-friendly gym.


Pedaling these bicycles sends generated electricity to the grid – it's called plug-out technology.

BUILDINGS: How did you come up with the concept of a green gym?
Spratt:
The idea was sparked from the three of us who are owners. About two years ago, we were all working out at a bigger, chain fitness facility and thought there has to be a better way to harness some of the energy that was in there. We had been talking and decided that we wanted to start our own company and give back to the community – and do it in an environmentally balanced way.

BUILDINGS: Does your building owner share your same green vision?
Spratt:
When we were looking for spaces, the traditional thinking is "we want to start a green company so let's install solar panels up on the roof." That's just not in the budgets for small businesses that are going to be leasing a space – our money is wrapped up in other places. We were challenged from the beginning to find a place that would allow us to make our additions and follow our business. We lease the space and we want to be able to take as much with us as possible if we're going to move or they decide that they want to go in a different direction.

BUILDINGS: What changes did you have to make to the facility itself, that you wouldn't have had to make if it was going to be a regular gym or office facility, in order to turn it into the green gym?
Spratt:
The interesting thing is that before we moved in, the previous space was a gym, so it was already an open space. We had to replace the carpet – now what we have is recycled rubber. There is also sustainable bamboo flooring. We had to make some modifications to the change facilities, but we used a lot of the shelving and other wood material that was already in the building – we made some sitting areas and our front desk. We repainted and we used zero-VOC paint.

BUILDINGS: How are the cardio machines rigged up to offset the electricity?
Spratt:
We bought the machines – three cycles from Resource Fitness in Seattle. They added a small fly wheel to the larger wheel on the spin bike so that when you get on the bike and pedal, it turns a big wheel on the front, which in turn makes another little wheel spin that generates electricity on a converter. That converter is mounted on the front of the bike and sends electricity out to the grid – they call it plug-out technology.

The theory behind it is that when you're on the bikes, you're pedaling and you're generating electricity. But being a business, you can't rely on everyone being on a bike the whole time because you have the credit card machine, computers, music – all taking power. We try to offset as much of the electricity as we can by the bikes – but at the end of the month, our electricity bill isn't zero. So what we do is we find out a way to balance out our actions somewhere else – like volunteer work and beach cleanups.

BUILDINGS: Do you have any recommendations for others who are wanting to implement your green techniques?
Spratt:
Start with a piece of paper and write down as you walk in your business everything that is generated – whether it's waste or electricity, how much ink you're using on printing, and so forth. Awareness is all it really is. When people understand, it generates awareness and then that flows over into home life and into the community. The biggest thing is to look at where money is going out – lights, water, trash – and start from there to make small changes.

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Floorspace Increases; Ratio Remains Constant


Information courtesy of Building Energy Data Book, DOE

Since the turn of the century, the ratio among uses of commercial floorspace has remained relatively unchanged.

Even as the amount of commercial floorspace is anticipated to increase by 26 billion square feet from 2006 to 2030, the ratio of floorspace among the different uses is expected to remain constant.

In 2006, the commercial sector consumed over 8.25 Quads of delivered energy, which doesn't include energy lost during production, transmission, and distribution to customers. It also excludes the electricity used by the electric generating and distribution companies.

Commercial energy consumption is dependent on building activity and floorspace. The chart to the right displays the breakdown of commercial floorspace usage, by the year and type.

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Lighting Survey Reveals Considerations for Lighting Decisions

Energy efficiency, operating costs, and maintenance are top considerations when making lighting decisions, according to the Commercial Lighting Survey, a recent study by OSRAM SYLVANIA.

The survey revealed the priorities and experiences of more than 350 facilities decision-makers and lighting designers across education, health care, hospitality, office, and retail facilities.

The survey found:

  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of facilities and lighting professionals have evaluated their commercial lighting in the past year, with 53% having evaluated lighting in the past 6 months alone.
  • Most building and lighting professionals (84%) cite energy consumption, operating costs, and maintenance as important factors when making lighting decisions.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) are currently using LEDs or planning to use LED lighting in their commercial spaces.
  • Just over three quarters (76%) believe that it is more important to have lighting that saves money over its lifetime, even if it costs more to purchase and install.
For the full survey results, visit www.sylvania.com/survey.

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Bricks From Sheep and Sea

Spanish and Scottish researchers have added wool fibers and alginate (a natural polymer extracted from seaweed) to the clay materials that are used to make brick. The researchers found that this combination produces a brick that is stronger and more environmentally sound than traditional bricks.

"The objective was to produce bricks reinforced with wool and to obtain a composite that was more sustainable, non-toxic, using abundant local materials, and that would mechanically improve the bricks' strength," explain Carmen Galán and Carlos Rivera, authors of the study and researchers at the Schools of Architecture in the Universities of Seville (Spain) and Strathclyde (United Kingdom).

The study, which is published in Construction and Building Materials, shows these wool bricks are 37% stronger than bricks made using unfired stabilized earth. No firing is required to create the wool bricks, which is good for energy savings and the environment. In addition, the wool bricks have fewer fissures and deformities, reduced drying time, and increased resistance to flexion.

"The aim was to produce a material suitable for adverse climatic conditions," they explain. "This is a more sustainable and healthy alternative to conventional building materials, such as baked earth bricks and concrete blocks."

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New ADA Requirements for 2010

Passed shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the new 2010 ADA standards will go in effect in March 2011. The Department of Justice standards apply to facilities covered by the ADA, including public accommodation, commercial properties, health care facilities, and state or local government facilities.

The updated guidelines clarify wording and specifications under the 2004 version. By 2012, new construction, alterations, and barrier removal will be required to adhere to the 2010 standards. A few highlights of the revision include:

  • Judicial Facilities Accessibility: Jury boxes, witness stands, and jury deliberation areas must be accessible.
  • Reach Range Requirements: The reach range requirements have been changed to provide that the side reach range must be no higher than 48 inches (instead of 54 inches) and no lower than 15 inches (instead of 9 inches).
  • Wheelchair Space for Assembly Areas: Facilities with 501-5,000 seats must provide one additional wheelchair space for each additional 150 seats (or fraction thereof). Facilities with more than 5,001 seats must provide one additional space for each 200 seats over 5,001.
  • Direct Access Entrances from Parking Structures: Where levels in a parking garage have direct entrances to another facility for pedestrians, all of these entrances must be accessible.
  • Van Stalls for Parking Lots: When resurfaced and/or reconfigured after the trigger date, the parking layout has to be modified to meet the new requirement for 1 in 6 van stalls (rather than the 1991 requirement for 1 in 8 van stalls).

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Hotel Floors Affect Rebooking Rates

If you're looking to increase your rebooking rates, look no further than your floors. A recent study, conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by the Cintas Corporation, found that cleanliness in all areas of a hotel influences a consumer's perception of a stay. Hotel guests expect a clean facility regardless of price or chain. Dirty floors and lobby restrooms top the list of offenses that turn people away.

Soiled entryways, grimy lobby floors, and unkempt guest room carpet discouraged 85% of respondents from rebooking with a hotel. Another 80% indicated dirty lobby restrooms were a major detractor, and over 60% flagged wet floors without signage as an issue.

"From restroom cleaning to tile and carpet cleaning services, hotels must have the right programs in place to maintain a safe and clean establishment to ensure guests are satisfied," says Mike Thompson, senior vice president of Cintas Facility Services.

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Mixed-Use Neighborhoods Reduce Crime


Combining business and residential development in the same neighborhood may reduce violent crime, according to a new study by Ohio State University.

Mixed-use neighborhoods that combine business and residential development may lead to lower levels of some types of violent crime, according to a new study.

The study, led by Christopher Browning, a sociology professor at Ohio State University, found that certain types of violent crime decreased in both impoverished neighborhoods and affluent areas.

"A residential neighborhood needs more than the addition of one or two businesses to see any positive impact on violent crime," says Browning. "There needs to be a sufficient density of businesses and residences throughout the community to really see the benefits. You can't develop a mixed-use community in a limited way, with just a few businesses in one corner of a neighborhood. You need enough business and enough housing to have a vibrant pedestrian community, with people walking around and watching what's going on around them."

The impact may not happen immediately, though. In sparsely populated neighborhoods, an increase in business-residential density leads to higher levels of violent crimes for a period of time. But after building density reaches a certain threshold, certain violent crime begins to decline.

The study found that the number of homicides and aggravated assaults increased in low-density mixed-use neighborhoods as the density increased, but began to decline after a threshold of density was met. Robbery levels continued to increase along with commercial-residential density, perhaps because it is a more strategic crime that is easier to hide from potential witnesses and is not as susceptible to control by watchful citizens.

There are two theories about mixed-use neighborhoods and violent crime. Some people have argued that businesses attract more foot traffic to neighborhoods and this increased street activity brings more "eyes on the street," which helps to reduce crime. Other people argue that increasing the number of businesses can cause residents to withdraw into their homes because they see more strangers in the community, making crime more likely. This study is the first to determine which of these theories is correct.

The study's findings are important as cities across the country are considering mixed-use developments as a way to reinvigorate downtowns and blighted neighborhoods. The results are encouraging, as the study found that mixed-use developments could help reduce some violent crimes – in both affluent neighborhoods and disadvantaged neighborhoods.

"If anything, mixed-land use was slightly more effective in preventing crimes in disadvantaged areas," Browning explains. "That suggests there is the possibility of creating more viable streets and public spaces in blighted neighborhoods with properly planned development."

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BIM Tools Driven by Green Building Growth

As green building construction continues to gain momentum, the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is becoming a major factor in achieving sustainability goals. A new report, released by McGraw-Hill Construction, examines the future of green BIM and forecasts how its prominence will increase in the future.

The study finds BIM is beginning to gather steam in green construction and a pronounced increase is expected over the next decade. Currently, 48% of green BIM practitioners use the modeling tool in half of their projects. Of the respondents who have not used BIM, 78% anticipate doing so within three years, with 17% incorporating the tool in the next 12 months. BIM was noted as mostly likely to be used in new design and major retrofits.

Green firms specializing in sustainable projects are more likely to use the full range of benefits BIM offers. A quarter of these eco-friendly firms are able to take advantage of over 75% of BIM's potential for green objectives. Because energy efficiency is a primary building benefit, strong growth is expected from BIM energy performance simulation tools. Over the next two years, firms will increase their use of energy simulations by approximately 20%. Their top 3 uses were for lighting analysis, HVAC, and green building certification.

"Green building is already transforming design and construction in the United States, and BIM has the potential to increase innovation through design and construction efficiency," says Harvey Bernstein, vice president, global thought leadership and business development, McGraw-Hill Construction. "The intersection of BIM tool use with sustainability goals is a powerful practice that can be truly transformative in increasing industry productivity."

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Start with a piece of paper and write down as you walk in your business everything that is generated – whether it's waste or electricity, how much ink you're using on printing, and so forth. Awareness is all it really is. When people understand, it generates awareness and then that flows over into home life and into the community. The biggest thing is to look at where money is going out – lights, water, trash – and start from there to make small changes.

We bought the machines – three cycles from Resource Fitness in Seattle. They added a small fly wheel to the larger wheel on the spin bike so that when you get on the bike and pedal, it turns a big wheel on the front, which in turn makes another little wheel spin that generates electricity on a converter. That converter is mounted on the front of the bike and sends electricity out to the grid – they call it plug-out technology.The theory behind it is that when you're on the bikes, you're pedaling and you're generating electricity. But being a business, you can't rely on everyone being on a bike the whole time because you have the credit card machine, computers, music – all taking power. We try to offset as much of the electricity as we can by the bikes – but at the end of the month, our electricity bill isn't zero. So what we do is we find out a way to balance out our actions somewhere else – like volunteer work and beach cleanups.

The interesting thing is that before we moved in, the previous space was a gym, so it was already an open space. We had to replace the carpet – now what we have is recycled rubber. There is also sustainable bamboo flooring. We had to make some modifications to the change facilities, but we used a lot of the shelving and other wood material that was already in the building – we made some sitting areas and our front desk. We repainted and we used zero-VOC paint.

When we were looking for spaces, the traditional thinking is "we want to start a green company so let's install solar panels up on the roof." That's just not in the budgets for small businesses that are going to be leasing a space – our money is wrapped up in other places. We were challenged from the beginning to find a place that would allow us to make our additions and follow our business. We lease the space and we want to be able to take as much with us as possible if we're going to move or they decide that they want to go in a different direction.

The idea was sparked from the three of us who are owners. About two years ago, we were all working out at a bigger, chain fitness facility and thought there has to be a better way to harness some of the energy that was in there. We had been talking and decided that we wanted to start our own company and give back to the community – and do it in an environmentally balanced way.


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