Green Trends in 2010

Nov. 18, 2009

There are a variety of green alternatives that will be popular next year to easily implement into existing facilities

Next year will be marked by a continued emphasis on green construction and building material alternatives. Even if new construction isn’t on the horizon for you, there are a variety of effective green alternatives that can easily be implemented into existing facilities.

Sub-metering systems are inexpensive and can be used to monitor utilities. The meters are installed near electrical panels and water mains, and can identify the locations and sources of the biggest energy users in a building. By placing meters to track individual systems, including HVAC and lighting, energy use for each can be easily monitored. They can also be utilized to monitor multiple areas of a building and identify which spaces are the least energy or water efficient. This allows you to identify problem areas, including leaky faucets or computers left on at night, and repair or adjust accordingly. Unlike more elaborate and expensive systems, sub-metering systems can be installed by any electricity contractor and are simple to read.

Control Systems
Building controls take sub-metering to a greater degree by controlling the utilities that use the most energy. Control packages exist historically for HVAC systems, allowing you to set occupancy times, temperature ranges, humidity, and outside air. They also can monitor and control temperatures in multiple areas of a building to create a more balanced and comfortable environment, and to avoid energy waste that results from heating and cooling unnecessary spaces. In addition, these systems monitor CO2 and humidity, making the air more comfortable and healthy. These systems can be used on most any utilities. Lighting-control systems can use sensors, occupancy timers, dimming controls, and sunlight sensors to gauge necessary levels of artificial light. System-controlled window shades can be added to control the amount of heat gain.

Low-Flow Fixtures and Reclaimed Water Sources
Using low-flow or ultra-low-flow fixtures can greatly reduce water use and utilities cost. Low-flow fixtures can save an average of 40-percent more than standard fixtures, and ultra-low-flow fixture savings are even higher. These fixtures, in combination with motion-activated faucets, dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals, will lead to even more dramatic savings. To further reduce water use, wastewater (grey water) can be recycled, and rainwater can be diverted from the storm system. With these additions, you can nearly negate the amount of potable water used for non-potable functions in a building, as well as greatly reduce potable water use. Some municipalities even offer grey water for use in irrigation.

High-Performance Glazing
A large portion of heat loss and gain occurs through the windows and doors, which means that making improvements to these areas can result in notable energy-use reductions. High-performance glazing on doors and windows will supply more insulation than standard glass or tinted options because its internal properties better reflect the infrared and ultraviolet rays that enter and heat a building. High-performance glazing is minimally invasive to install, and the new glazings can reduce annual energy costs by up to 5 percent or more; however, upfront costs can be higher than standard tinted alternatives because of the newness of the technology.

Pervious Pavement
Pervious pavement can be installed in any parking lot or hardscape for a number of environmentally friendly, cost-effective benefits. Its use is recommended by the U.S. EPA. Because water can pass directly through the pavement rather than remain stagnant on its surface, municipal stormwater treatment needs are reduced, and smaller stormwater retention areas can be used. Pervious pavement also lowers contributions to the heat island effect because the lower mass of the paving allows it to radiate less heat from the sun. Another environmental benefit of the pavement is its contribution to more rapid groundwater replenishment. Compared to standard concrete, pervious pavement is only slightly more expensive, though replacing asphalt with the pavement can represent a 40- to 50-percent cost increase.

Through use of these green construction alternatives, greater sustainability and reduced utilities costs can be achieved without major financial investments. These strategies will also help businesses take steps toward meeting LEED requirements.

Aaron Schreiber, LEED AP, is an interior designer at Jacksonville, FL-based Stellar.

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