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How green is your building?

15/02/2011

Making a building environmentally sustainable involves looking at the big picture - not just installing a new whiz-bang energy-saving device, writes Paul Winfindale, Divisional Technology Manager, Haden.

If you are thinking about ‘greening’ an existing building, obviously reducing energy consumption will be at the forefront of your mind. following a goal-setting approach to achieve an improved NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) rating is a commendable way to do this. You may well decide to start with heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems—after all, they are a major source of energy consumption for all facilities.

Truly green buildings merge the building envelope (its outer shell) with its services systems to ensure they are fully integrated and work seamlessly together. They maximise daylight, reduce waste, and promote a general feeling of well-being through the quality and performance of the internal environment. Merely installing an energy-saving device in a poorly performing building will not always make it green or increase the building’s attractiveness.

Green buildings are at the forefront of a transforming and transitional property market. An extra push is coming from government and NGO initiatives. One example is the Green Building Fund, which provides grants to assist in developing solutions in commercial office buildings according to particular merit criteria. Typically the criteria will include:

  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Demonstration potential; and
  • Excellent project design and management.

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will be subject to an analysis, by an accredited assessor, of baseline emissions for a building under NABERS. Given that the merits of one project will be weighed against another, it is not only essential that your project gets across the baseline, but that it does so by a considerable distance.

‘Demonstration potential’ means that the funder will be looking for projects that can foster knowledge sharing and education, as well as exemplary efforts that break new ground, so don’t be afraid to push some boundaries.

The project management and design of any solution will need to be cost-effective and carried out by an experienced team of consultants and contractors. In other words, pick a team with a track record.

For instance, a poorly thought through solution (without real environmental or economic benefit) is unlikely to be attractive to a grant provider or savvy tenant.

Greening a building is about finding synergies between its different elements. Often these won’t be apparent at first sight. Start by looking for passive measures to reduce energy consumption. There are many positive changes that can be made on an existing building before a wrench is turned. For example you might put solar film on your windows or install fabric insulation before raising considerable money on an entire building upgrade. By spending time on a holistic approach, modifications to HVAC systems are likely to produce outstanding results at less cost.

A key factor in the success of any green master plan will be a comprehensive study of the interaction of the building with its surrounding physical and climatic conditions. Computer simulation is a great way to help optimise the sustainability of the design in a scientific manner and it will assist in reducing time between draft iterations.

Following this workflow will help you get a really effective outcome:

Audit ? fix the basics ?iterate additional solutions ?install and optimize through increased level of control and automation ? monitor and seek continuous improvement after installation.

By using this systematic approach, you will ensure that the most basic elements are addressed first, and that nothing is omitted.

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