Engineering A Green Building for a Green World
We’re going to take a break from our regularly scheduled Energy Efficiency tips to applaud the places that have gone Green in the right way. Some people think that “Going Green” is a simple pipe-dream, but it’s not. It’s more than that – it can be a reality for us all. And sustainable building practices doesn’t just benefit homes. Huge commercial or industrial spaces can benefit from going green; it’s an investment that can cut long term costs, reduce waste and be more respectful to our planet. Whether it’s being more efficient with fossil fuels, or better using renewables, Green is something we can all achieve. Just look at some of these examples below.
The Crystal, London
Engineered and opened by Siemens in 2012, the Crystal is a sustainable office space meant to be a realistic vision for what the future of efficiency could be in a business environment. According to Siemens, the Crystal has only 30% of the CO2 emissions of offices of a same size, spends 0 pounds/year on heating and uses 100% recycled water in all toilets in the building. The building uses specialized glazed windows which allow in 70% of visible light, but only 30% of solar radiation, ensuring that the building remains comfortable and never overheats. This curbs cooling costs in the summer, and since the building is almost entirely glass, allows for more efficient natural heating in the winter months. Even cooler though, is the fact that all of the building’s water is collected and treated via rain runoff, and 80% of the building’s hot water is naturally heated by a geothermal heater. All of the water used in the toilets come from non-potable sources, meaning that no drinkable water is ever wasted.
The Edge, Amsterdam
The Edge in Amsterdam may be the most energy efficient building in the world. The Edge is a hyper intelligent office space made to be smart and efficient. It syncs up with an app running on all employees phones, learns their schedules, room temperature preferences, clients and even directs your car to a parking spot when you arrive. Not only that, it scores an astronomical 98.4 sustainability score from BREEAM, which is a British firm dedicated to ranking sustainable architecture. The building is equipped with almost 30,000 sensors that understand where employees are and are not, meaning that unoccupied or under occupied rooms are always powered down and not wasting any energy. The building is almost entirely powered by it’s own array of solar panels, which are cleverly hidden in blindspots so as not to obstruct the Edge’s all-glass atrium.
One Bryant Park, NYC
One Bryant Park, maybe better known as “The Bank of America” tower, is a really fantastic skyscraper built with the intention of being more sustainable. Built in 2010, 1BP was the first Skyscraper in the US to achieve LEED Platinum status, the building includes an urban garden room, a 4.6 megawatt combined heat and power plant, an ice cooling system, a building-wide water reclamation system, green roofs that utilize compost from tenant cafeteria waste, state-of- the-art advanced air filtration for exceptional indoor air quality, destination dispatch elevator control, and dedicated backup emergency generators. The building is reportedly made of reclaimed, recycled and recyclable materials. Uniquely, not only is intake air filtered, but so it exhausted air, making sure that emissions leaving the building actually have a lower carbon footprint. Even the cement used to build parts of the tower was mixed with a specific process that had half the CO2 emissions that normal cement manufacturing has. Now that’s green dedication.
Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver
Vancouver is a metropolis already known for its commitment to sustainability. The Vancouver Convention Center increases that commitment as a truly massive megaplex with a LEED Platinum certification. One of the building’s wings, actually has a “living roof” that grows 400,000 grasses and plants. This roof better prevents heat loss in the winter and heat infiltration in Vancouver’s admittedly mild summers. The roof also is home to four major beehives which pollinate the entire roof’s flora. The foundation of the building also houses a restored marine habitat which has helped the Vancouver Bay area’s maritime ecosystem flourish. The building’s heating and forced air systems are at least partially powered by a seawater system that uses the power of the bay currents and the ocean temperature to naturally heat and cool the building. The entire building’s janitorial staff is outfitted with GreenSeal products, created as eco-friendly alternatives to traditional cleaning products. The Vancouver Convention Center still stands as an environmental champion, despite it being one of the oldest on the list.
Manitoba Hydro Place, Winnipeg
The Manitoba Hydro Place is one of the most impressive feats of sustainable engineering on this list. A green architect’s dream project, the unique look of this building is a deliberate effect of its sustainable design. The lower part of the building includes numerous green roofs, reducing water runoff damage and creating a negative CO2 footprint. The building’s most prominent feature is a solar chimney, which juts outwards from the face of the tower and naturally aerates the entire interior with fresh air. The fresh air dispensed from this solar chimney is dehumidified by several waterfalls in the building’s multi-story atria. The Hydro Place’s building envelope is mostly windows comprised of triple glazed glass, with automated motorized glass panels to maximize natural light and heat gain. As the headquarters of Manitoba’s Electric Utility (which includes a Hydro division, unsurprisingly) the Hydro Place’s devotion to sustainable architecture paints a very positive picture for the future of Manitoba’s power grid.
Bahrain World Trade Center, Manama
Not only is the Bahrain WTC an incredibly attractive feat of engineering, it’s also a very efficient one. Built in 2008, it was the first skyscraper to integrate wind power into its design. The twin towers are linked by three skybridges, each one holding a 225kW 95-foot long wind turbine which provides 675kW of power for the whole building. The sail shape of the buildings helps to funnel wind into the turbines at an accelerated velocity, acting as a wind tunnel to help spool up the turbines. 11-15% of the tower’s total energy consumption is paid for by the natural wind power of the installed wind turbines.
Bullitt Center, Seattle
The Bullitt Center was designed from the get-go to be a sustainable long-lifespan commercial office and living space. Opened on Earth Day, 2013, the Bullitt Center is classified as a “living structure.” Built by the Bullitt Foundation, which is a non-profit that focuses on urban ecological development. Initially designed to be carbon neutral, with a waste water and sewage processing system that allows the building to exist independently from municipal systems. The building is primarily powered by a large solar array on the top of the building, and it remains energy neutral by smart conservation measures built into the building, that cuts the building’s energy footprint to 1/3 of what a typical office of that size would produce. While the Bullitt Center is still connected to the power grid, it is actually a net producer of energy most of the year, which it sells back to the utility company. The foundation of the building includes 26 geothermal vents that help to heat the living space in the winter, and the wood used in the framework of the building was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a group dedicated to sustainable logging practices.
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