Green Building Advisor: High Performance Buildings

Green Buildings: Examples and Ideas

A high performance building is a building that is ecologically responsible and efficient at the use of its resources.  The process of turning a traditional building into a high performance building requires sharp building systems integration and great coordination between the building owner, architects, engineers, energy modelers, and contractors during all phases of the project.

New technological innovations are regularly being developed to enhance current methods in design and construction of these buildings. They are developed to reduce the overall impact and cost of the construction industry on the environment and human health. A high performance building can achieve this by reducing waste, pollution and ecological degradation, improving building indoor air quality, improving building landscape, taking advantage of free natural renewable resources and using water and energy as efficient as possible.

Sustainable Measures for High Performance Buildings

The following is a list of measures and strategies that are used when developing high performance buildings. They can be used as general design guidelines.

  • Use an open office architectural design with workstations to decrease the need for artificial lighting.
  • Include renewable energy sources like solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar water heaters or geothermal HVAC equipment.
  • Take advantage of daylight modeling inside office areas to optimize workstation partitions’ height and glass thickness.       Another daylighting strategy includes using skylight or light tubes on roofs.
  • Incorporate fluorescent and LED lights, and use motion sensors, daylight sensors and dimming ballasts where appropriate.       Potential daylight control strategies include daylight-responsive dimming and daylight-harvesting sunscreens.
  • Use insulation on roofs and walls in cold climates
  • Run the building along an east-west axis with a shallow north-south depth to provide solar orientation. Do this to take advantage of the more controllable north and south daylight exposures, and to reduce solar heat gain in the building from the eastern and western façades. Place overhangs over building windows facing west.
  • Use high performance windows with low solar heat gain coefficients and low U-Factors. Consider using fritted windows to minimize glare and provide more shading.
  • Use high reflective paint on rooftops to reject solar radiation heat or use a green roof to absorb solar heat.
  • Design energy efficient mechanical systems.  Use established international standards as guides.
  • Incorporate variable frequency pumps, variable frequency air handlers, variable frequency fans and variable frequency chillers when practical.
  • Specify premium efficiency motors for pumps and air handlers.
  • Use a building energy-management system for monitoring and controlling mechanical systems, electrical systems and building environment behavior.
  • Use an energy-recovery enthalpy wheel to transfer cooling energy from the exhaust air into hot and humid ventilation air supplied to the building.
  • Monitor and control the ventilation air supplied to the building.  Place carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors in densely occupied spaces, and a demand control sequence to move ventilation air to the rest of the building versus empty rooms.
  • Include low flush bathroom fixtures and faucets with automatic sensors
  • Consider getting Energy Star appliances or better for kitchens, coffee rooms, and lounges.  You can also use Energy Star labeled computer, monitors, printers, laptops and small servers, which are all very easy to get.
  • Purchase carpets, paints and adhesives that contain no volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
  • Plant trees for natural shading around parking lots and exterior walkways.
  • Promote recycling habits and use recycled materials for office supplies in the building.

Example Model of a Green Building

A simple but certain example of a green building would be a high-rise building that has solar PV panels, a lighting design with motion and daylight sensors, and a mechanical design with air side economizers, evaporative cooling, water-cooled chillers, variable frequency drive pumps and variable air volume air handlers.  The building would have designated parking spots for electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and for people who ride their bike to work.

The integration of these strategies that take into account the building envelope, air conditioning, lighting, shading, water usage, landscape, occupant health and material resources will allow the owner and design team to not only reach, but surpass what is defined as a high performance building.

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