One of the most common requests we have from all of the sectors we work in is, “How can we incorporate sustainable design into our project?”
The best way this is done is through planning in the framework of green building principles. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is one organization that provides strategies and practices for green building and sustainable design. LEED is the most popular green building rating system used in the world. This rating system is used by millions of square feet of properties across the globe to benefit from green building design.
LEED’s current rating system has nine categories for new construction – each with a myriad of options that can help increase sustainability. We will look at the categories of Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environment Quality for some of the more practical items that can be applied to your next building project:
Energy & Atmosphere:
- LED fixtures are getting more cost-effective every day and can help with energy consumption. We see many organizations looking to retrofit their existing lights for more energy-efficient LED fixtures.
- Using smart thermostats controlled with your smartphone allows organizations to not just set advanced scheduling options but also to remotely control when the system is in use.
- Installing occupant sensors on lights also limits energy consumption by restricting usage to when needed.
Materials & Resources:
- To reduce materials, reusing an existing building and making renovation modifications to meet your current needs is always efficient. This also includes balancing new editions with just updating your existing space. Many times the issue is not square footage but instead misused and misaligned existing square footage.
- Recycling building materials during construction reduces the burden on landfills, and would be waste is reused in new ways. Also related to construction recycling, implementing a recycling program after construction can help control where waste goes.
- Using locally sourced materials helps with your carbon footprint by cutting down on the distance materials must travel to your project site.
- Using materials in the building that have a high post-consumer recycled content. Post-consumer means the material has already been used for one purpose and is being reused for another application. There are a lot of building products that have post-consumer recycles content. A few good sources are paints, floorings, ceiling materials, and some insulations.
Indoor Environment Quality:
- Using low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) materials is better for those installing the material and the occupants of the building. VOCs are gases that are emitted (off-gassing) from materials such as paints and solvent. VOCs can have both short- and long-term effects on the health of the people exposed to them. That new car smell is actually VOCs.
As our environment continues to change around us, responsibly using our resources is helpful now and for future generations to come. Along with that, some of these examples help control dollars needs for construction and operational cost of running your building.
If you are thinking about planning for some of these strategies in your next project or want your building to become LEED certified, our team is ready and able to help you build sustainability into your next project.