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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home Colleges & Universities 12 Steps toward Sustainability New Construction

New Construction
New construction projects are excellent opportunities to address sustainability on a college campus. An academic building's working life runs some fifty years or more. Buildings designed to higher standards of energy efficiency and lower emissions make long-term contributions towards sustainable living on the planet. Conversely, inefficient buildings are environmentally and economically burdensome long into the future. By constructing sustainable buildings, a campus lessens its environmental impact, but environmental improvements also enhance campus image, demonstrating a commitment to ecological education. Additionally, efficient buildings lower operating costs, and conserve campus resources in the long run.
    Eastern Connecticut State University's new LEED-silver Science Center utilizes resource-efficient strategies such as windows placed for natural lighting, combined with energy-efficient appliances and electronics, and a state-of-the-art HVAC system. It was built using local materials, captures rainwater with a graywater system, and uses wind power to generate electricity.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Do Not Oversize or Overbuild
    Reducing operating costs before ground is even broken can lead to payoffs in the long run. Design buildings that are high efficiency from the start. First, do not build a structure that is bigger than is necessary. Over-sizing and over-building is inherently wasteful. Heating, cooling, ventilating, and lighting spaces that are not being used is simply a waste of energy. Make appropriate sizing part of your design philosophy. Architects sometimes oversize boilers and furnaces in order to ensure that their clients are sufficiently warm. However, running an unnecessarily large boiler is less efficient than using a boiler that is adequately sized for a building. Lastly, do not install more light fixtures than are necessary to make a work-space usable and comfortable.
  • Use High Performance Building Standards
    When considering designing high performance buildings, use existing standards. Several organizations have developed standards for high performance buildings that comprehensively address environmental impact and energy efficiency. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for new commercial and industrial construction with pilot guidelines for renovation of existing buildings and residential construction. LEED uses a 69-point evaluation with four tiers of recognition: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. The system is intended to allow a builder to work from his/her own unique situation. The standard encourages the creative use of resources available to produce sustainable buildings. Another high performance building standard is CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools). CHPS is a code originating from the state of California but is now being utilized nationally. This system is specifically designed for school buildings. CHPS integrates sustainability and classroom comfort and incorporates lighting, acoustics, and air quality as factors into the design to ensure optimal student and teacher performance. EPA Energy Star Benchmarking has a category for residential buildings. The 25% most energy-efficient buildings in the country receive Energy Star recognition. Designing a building to one or more of these standards ensures a building is energy efficient and has low emissions.
    Each design standard recommends basic techniques to design more efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings. Recommendations about building envelope, lighting, and HVAC all pertain to the reduction of local impact, and incorporate Renewables which are all part of the CHPS and LEED code.
    Another thing to consider when looking at these standards is ensuring that building envelope is properly insulated to keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in winter months.
    In addition, use building materials with a high thermal mass. This will store heat energy better during the winter, and will moderate the effect of higher exterior temperatures in the summer. Additionally, use energy efficient windows and incorporate airlocks into building entrances. These will reduce air exchange between the interior and the exterior of building. Integrate ENERGY STAR certified equipment into designs. Every building must be properly ventilated for occupant comfort, but this does not mean that air blown outside needs to be a total waste of heating or cooling. Use heat exchangers to use heated or cooled air in order to preheat or pre-cool air coming in from the outside.
  • Use Natural Systems
    Construction of a new building should take the surrounding environment into consideration. Using nature as a means to help regulate building functions means that artificial systems do not have to be used as heavily, if at all.
    Roofs with plants on them, called "green roofs", can moderate the effects of solar radiation on roofs during summer months by providing added insulation on the roof. Deciduous trees on the south side of buildings help seasonally regulate temperatures. The trees shade the building in the summer and allow sunlight to pass through them into the house in the winter. Sky lights are another example of natural systems. Every day that sunlight can be used to light a room, that much less light is required from manmade sources. Rain water can be captured in systems and then used to flush toilets and water lawns. In breezy climates, wind can be circulated through a building as part of that building's ventilation and temperature control.
  • Incorporate Renewable Sources of Energy
    Despite the availability of other technologies, the most common form of electrical generation in the United States is still coal-fired power plants. No matter how allegedly clean coal technology becomes, there is still a release of carbon dioxide into the environment, and the sulfur from coal plants causes acid rain. All fossil fuels ultimately produce green house gas (GHG) and contribute to climate change.
    Electrical power and heating can both be accomplished through the use of renewable technology. Depending on climate and terrain, the use of photovoltaics power systems – systems which convert sunlight into electricity - is a viable way to reduce consumption from the power grid. Photovoltaics have the virtue of being most effective in times of highest sunlight, which usually correspond with summer peak loads due to air conditioning usage. PV does not need to be refueled and is GHG-free energy. Wind power can be used in regions of high wind or in microclimates on campus. Generators range from 400 watts to four megawatts of capacity, though most universities would likely be best served by systems in the 10 -1000 kilowatt range, though larger systems may be viable.
    Heating can also be accomplished with renewables. Methods of renewable heating often yield faster paybacks than photovoltaics or wind. Solar hot water is an effective way to replace or augment existing conventional heating systems. In addition, it is possible to utilize the sun itself as a renewable heating source through several methods. Solar domestic hot water and space heating systems are either active or passive. Active systems use pumps to circulate a heating medium (such as water) through the system in order to transfer thermal energy. Passive systems do not require any pumps to achieve heating and are a product of proper building orientation and architecture. Active systems are generally more effective in performing their function, but passive systems are the most cost effective initially as they only require properly orienting a building and ensuring that a building is constructed to properly utilize this orientation.
    Geothermal is another possible form of heating. This system harnesses the Earth's natural heat. In open-loop geothermal systems groundwater is pumped into the building and used for heating and cooling functions. In closed-loop systems a heat transfer medium (generally water) is pumped deep into the ground and circulated in areas of higher or lower temperature. This medium is then brought back into the building to heat or cool the building, depending on the time of year.
  • Use Environmentally-Friendly Materials
    Consider using recycled materials. In projects in which a new building is constructed shortly after another has been demolished, investigate whether it is possible to use portions of the old building shell in the construction of the new building or buildings. Ensure that interiors use paints and flooring materials that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Also try to use building materials that are quickly renewing. Wood and especially wheat-board are viable options that are environmentally friendly, since, while growing, they sequester carbon dioxide and help reduce green house gasses in the atmosphere.
  • Life Cycle Cost Analysis
    Life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) should be done on all construction plans before ground is broken. LCCA evaluates building design by estimating the inputs necessary for a structure’s operation throughout its working life. The scope of LCCA is variable, and can include: electrical costs, maintenance costs, offset by Renewables, total green house gas emissions and other areas pertaining to cost or environmental impact. Life cycle models allow architects and building owners to determine the effectiveness of their design in the long-term. Higher construction costs can be justified as investments in energy savings, reduced maintenance expenses, and increased campus prestige resulting from reduced environmental impact. Also, in many cases LCCA can demonstrate which design elements are not cost effective for reaching desired economic or environmental savings targets. LCCA can therefore reduce future operating costs..
  • The Department of Energy’s Building Toolkit aids planners in energy efficient design as part of the department’s Building Technologies program.
  • LEED-NC (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design-New Construction) is a nationally distinguished high performance building standard in the United States. The standard is set by the Green Building Council. LEED certified buildings are rated on a 69 point system.  Buildings that meet the standard are then awarded one of four rankings: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.  Platinum buildings represent the cutting edge in green building design. LEED encourages a plethora of high- and low-tech strategies in sustainable design. The multitude of ways to gain LEED points allow a building designer to work from their own unique situation in design process.  An architect can integrate several design specifications to produce buildings which are more energy efficient and lower impact as compared to baseline standards.
  • BuildingGreen.com maintains a website with case studies of LEED buildings.  Articles document specific design details which earned LEED points. The case studies can serve as templates for architects and designers attempting to win LEED points, but can also serve to further demonstrate how LEED specifications are judged off of paper in an actual structure.
  • CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) is a building standard initiated in the state of California.  It is becoming one of the most recognized standards in school design.  “High Performance” is not limited to just the environmental dimension.  CHPS considers occupant comfort in addition to environmental impact.  CHPS design standards promote optimal learning environments by considering lighting and acoustics as part of an integrated design. 
  • The EPA awards Energy Star recognition to the buildings which rate in the top 25% in energy efficiency in each category.  Office and residential buildings can be benchmarked and potentially earn energy star rating.  The tool is also useful to determine how energy efficient an older building is in comparison to similar structures. EPA benchmarking can set a baseline from which to make energy efficiency improvements.
  • The Whole Building Design guide is an extensive source on the contruction of the sustainable buildings including Life Cycle Analyisis. A green roof is multifunctional green design component.  Green roofs mitigate the “heat island” effect by dispersing rather than absorbing solar radiation. Similarly these function to shade the building reducing cooling load, act as carbon sheds, and are aethetically pleasing. Greenroofs.com proclaims itself as “The Greenroof Industry Resource Portal.”  Green Roofs for Healthy Citiesis a non-profit organization which promotes green roof development in urban areas.
  • Daylighting is also an effective natural system The Department of Energy maintains a web page on day lighting as part of its Building Technologies program.
  • The Daylighting Cooperative provides the rationale behind incorporation of daylighting in to building design and technical schemes which make daylighting successful. The Whole Building Guide Design has a section on daylighting.
  • DSIRE is the most comprehensive database of federal and state incentives for renewable energy on the web. The user can click directly on their state to find their own local incentives.
  • The Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site has a deep well of information on energy sources and efficiency improvements.  The Building Technologies Program specifically addresses construction and renovation projects.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is the federal government's premiere research institution in alternative energy. The Laboratory was founded as the Solar Research Institute in 1974. Since that time its role has expanded into all the major areas of renewable energy research. NREL also maintains a website specifically for buildings.
  • Building Green.com maintains a section on the use of environmentally friendly material.
  • Green Building Supply markets and sells environmentally friendly materials for the construction of Green Buildings.
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