What Factors Contribute to a Sustainable Building?
Residential and commercial properties around the globe are adopting sustainable features. When you drive through suburban neighborhoods, you may notice solar panels mounted on rooftops. These green devices and other energy- and water-efficient technologies benefit building owners and the planet.
Installing sustainable features on a building increases its value, lowers utility costs and shrinks its carbon footprint. Additionally, companies calling these places home have higher sales rates due to the eco-conscious consumer movement. Adding these elements to your home or workplace can do a world of good.
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability signifies maintenance. When it comes to the planet, we hope to maintain the necessary resources for global ecological survival. A sustainable lifestyle meets one’s present needs without compromising others’ future requirements.
Features of sustainability integrate environmental health, economic vitality and social equality. When combined, we can develop an ecologically supportive, natural resource-conserving environment where people can thrive. These current practices should carry into future generations, ensuring their access to the same resources we have.
In understanding sustainability, you must recognize natural resources are finite. We must conserve Earth’s elements, maintaining its natural equilibrium. Architects and engineers recognize the benefits of sustainability and develop green devices and structures to preserve the environment.
One may evaluate the sustainability of a building by checking its LEED rating. A point-based grading scale determines the eco-efficiency of a structure. Companies with energy- and water-efficient features earn the LEED certification.
When evaluating a building for eco-efficiency, LEED professionals consider its location and energy usage. They will look at water efficiency, materials and resources used, indoor environmental quality and design.
Another type of sustainable structure is a net-zero building. These function through a closed-loop system to maximize efficiency. Net-zero properties produce as much energy as they consume, utilizing all renewable energy sources. Their sustainable design, optimal insulation and eco-conscious maintenance limit electricity use and eliminate carbon emissions.
The main factors that define a generally sustainable building are its indoor eco-atmosphere, energy efficiency, water efficiency and carbon emissions.
Indoor Air Quality
Sustainable buildings have an airtight seal, optimizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. If a sealed building lacks proper ventilation, contaminants may invade the space. Mold, bacteria, microorganisms, COVID-19 virus and more can affect the occupants’ health.
The Joyce Center for Partnership and Innovation is a net-zero university building in Canada. Engineers designed the building with an airtight seal, ensuring conditioned air remains inside. The building contains an efficient ventilation system to filter clean air and remove toxins. It runs on renewable energy from solar power and a geothermal system.
Additionally, the system minimizes heating and air conditioning with its cool roof. The plant-covered rooftop reflects heat from the sun, keeping the building cool in the summer. It also restricts heat from rising and leaving the building in the winter.
Energy efficiency is arguably the most significant factor in a sustainable building. Net-zero buildings must produce as much energy as they use. Meeting this demand requires optimal renewable energy production and power conservation.
The Joyce Center for Partnership and Innovation utilizes 1,980 on-site solar panels to generate 730,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. It also has a sensor-controlled light system to maximize natural lighting. When the device detects low sun exposure, it turns on LED lights throughout the building.
LED lighting is a staple feature of sustainable buildings. The bulbs use 75% less electricity than conventional lights. They also last 25 times longer than incandescents, generating less landfill waste over time.
The BedZED carbon-neutral building in south London utilizes energy-efficient lighting in its south-facing apartment buildings. Natural sunlight provides illumination to reduce electricity consumption. Another carbon-neutral building takes the game up a notch with its light-efficient design.
The Pixel Building in Melbourne, Australia, has a unique exterior design. An array of colors and shapes cover the outside of the building, enhancing its aesthetic appeal. The technique functions strategically, optimizing sunlight in the building. Each form reflects or shades a certain amount of light, offering illumination throughout the day.
Similar to energy production, sustainable buildings eliminate their reliance on the city water supply. Instead, they receive their water from natural sources, conserving the global supply. All of the sustainable buildings mentioned above utilize rainwater harvesting systems.
Rainwater harvesting systems range from old-school rain barrels to elaborate purification systems. Buildings that rely on regenerated rainwater have more advanced devices to generate potable water. The device collects, pumps, purifies and distributes the water throughout the structure based on its demand.
Buildings can use this water for cleaning, drinking, bathing, flushing toilets, irrigation and more. These systems enhance the sustainability of a building by reducing water scarcity. Some properties also utilize smart sprinklers to increase their efficiency further.
Individuals use up to 60% of the urban freshwater supply to water their plants and lawn. They often waste the water due to poor timing and application. A smart sprinkler system can calculate the temperature, time of day and weather patterns, automatically watering your property and reducing waste.
All factors contributing to the sustainability of a building affect its carbon emissions. These structures aim to generate zero greenhouse gases. When conventional buildings source electricity from the city’s grid, they contribute to environmentally degrading air pollution.
Human-induced air pollution fuels the enhanced greenhouse effect. The Earth uses a natural process to maintain life-sufficient temperatures, keeping a chemically balanced atmosphere. When we emit greenhouse gases into the air, we interfere with this balance.
The Earth naturally absorbs the sun’s energy, converts it to heat, sends it to the surface, reabsorbs excess warmth and releases it to space. Air pollutants convert radiation into heat more efficiently and have a difficult time removing it from the planet.
The entrapment of warmth raises the global temperature over time. When the planet warms, the climate changes and the ecosystem suffers. We can adopt renewable energy sources to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and boost sustainability.
Sustainable buildings eliminate their air pollution emissions to protect the atmosphere and Earth’s ecology. Solar panels, geothermal systems and wind turbines generate clean electricity to fuel their electricity needs. The less air pollution a structure produces, the higher the sustainability rate it receives.
Sustainable Features: One Step at a Time
Environmental engineers construct net-zero buildings for optimal efficiency. We can evaluate their sustainable features when increasing the efficiency of commercial or residential structures. It is important to note, carbon neutrality doesn’t happen overnight. You may need to work with your roommates or peers to alter things over time, but it will be well worth it.