Environmental Building and Design
Environmental building and design has been gaining immense popularity among architects and civil engineers around the globe. It is now not uncommon to hear of buildings deigned to be “green”, or of older buildings being retrofitted to be more efficient. Green, or environmental building, is the practice of deigning a structure to be as efficient as possible in a variety of ways.
These include but are not limited to lighting, heating, sewage control, indoor air quality, and waste management. The principles of green building were designed to make buildings more environmentally friendly, as indicated by the title “green”. But often these changes also prove to be economically beneficial as well.
The United States General Services Administration(GSA) recently designed an educational website about green building- in the form of a game. Green the Building is an interactive game designed to encourage the played to add environmentally and socially beneficial changes to their many virtual buildings. When a building was more efficient, it received a high score and more money. When a building was less efficient, it received a low or sometimes even negative score, and less money. Though playing a game such as Green the Building might be more time consuming than simply reading an article on environmental design, the game is able to hold the attention of younger children very effectively, making it ideal for classroom use. It also serves as a comprehensive introduction to environmentally positive (and environmentally negative) ways in which to design a building.
Many iconic buildings are now making the transition to be greener. Though the Empire State building was never originally marketed or designed as a “green” building, it has taken on quite a few of the qualities of one through a groundbreaking renovation. In 2009, the iconic Empire State Building underwent a 13.2 million dollar renovation, largely invisible from the outside to help it cut energy costs. Leaders if the project said it was meant to serve as a model for how buildings should be run, so they did a very comprehensive job. This included installing 6,000 reflective panels on radiators, adding a second pane to the windows of the building, and closer metering of the energy use of individual tenants. This allows spaces to be heated more efficiently, and for individual tenants to monitor their own energy use. The building was also fitted with new controls for some of its building-wide systems, such as the refrigeration plant building management system, exhaust fans, and electrical services monitoring system. These changes will allow building staff to know when a system is being used unnecessarily, who will in turn have the ability to tweak its settings so that is does not waste copious amounts of energy.
The monetary savings as a result of this project have been extraordinary. It has saved 7.5 million dollar in energy costs just in the first three years, and is on track to save up to 4.4 million per year once all renovations are complete. This kind of return on environmental renovations is practically unheard of, ensuring that other penny-pinching business owners will be sure not to ignore the achievements in the Empire State.
Green building is blooming into our lives at a surprising rate. It is taught in classrooms through a hands on game, and arguably the most famous building in the United States is seeing handsome returns on its own environmental design project. In MSEL engineering, we want to be a pat of this movement and have taken steps to ensure that our current projects are as environmentally harmless as possible. We hope to see this example, and those of others, change the face of the modern building forever.