4 FM quick reads on Green
1. Is Your Building Green, Sustainable, High-Performance, or All of the Above?
You've just received the good news that your building has earned LEED certification. Congratulations! You officially have a green building. Or is it a sustainable building? Maybe you think of it as high-performance? Does it even matter?
At the risk of arguing over semantics, some would say it does — that while each really does have a particular definition, each can be used effectively in different situations to talk about buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally responsible.
"Green" may be the buzzword, but if upper managers still don't care about green, or don't believe in "green for the sake of green," try a different approach. Talk about the building as sustainable - that it'll prevent the need for future resources (and money). Or define it is high-performance, and talk about your energy-efficient systems and how those systems functioning together as a unit (as opposed to the old, piecemeal way) will save lots and lots of money on utility costs. Indeed, it's often this last one - tangible savings due to efficiency - that gets you the most attention from both upper managers and occupants.
2. Ceilings Can Help with Green Efforts
The ceiling isn't the first place most facility managers look for energy savings, but it can play a role in making a space more energy efficient. A ceiling with a high light reflectance will bounce a higher percentage of the light that strikes it back into the space below. That's important whether the light source is a fixture or the sun. Either way, a more light-reflective ceiling can help reduce the amount of electricity used to illuminate a space.
Ceiling system manufacturers are branching out to make related products. For example, Hunter Douglas has created a light shelf that works hand in hand with the ceiling to distribute daylight into the interior of a space. A traditional light shelf, a horizontal, reflecting surface, is placed in the window plane, and has a wave-like design that is intended to spread and diffuse light over a larger ceiling surface.
Acoustical design is an element in an overall green design, and acoustic properties of tiles are an important piece in controlling noise in a building — one element of indoor environmental quality. But green interior designs can sometimes create additional problems for acoustical engineers as they try to control sound.
The problem comes when ceilings are eliminated in favor of an open-plenum approach. While that strategy does reduce the use of materials, it also introduces acoustical problems.
In the ABC equation for improving acoustics — absorb sound, block sound, and cover sound — ceiling tiles play the largest role in absorbing sound. Green design isn't the only reason that office spaces are more acoustically challenging than in the past. Design strategies like lower partitions between workers, less space between workers and open work areas with conference tables,
A ceiling also plays a role in hiding speakers and wires. If there is no ceiling, the appearance of sound masking speakers and electronic components becomes a consideration. Ceiling companies have developed products to help absorb sound in open-plenum offices. These products, which are available in a variety of shapes, may be suspended ceiling products designed to be installed over parts of a space or may be mounted directly on the deck.
3. Sustainability Factors in Students College Decisions
Today's tip is about sustainability on campus as a factor in students' college decisions.
In the next few months, thousands of high school seniors all over the country will decide where to spend the next four (or five or seven or ten) years of their life. Increasingly, college and university sustainability initiatives factor into that decision.
According The Center for Green Schools at USGBC, 69 percent of high school seniors factor in “greenness” into their campus selection criteria. So, all that noise you heard about the soft benefits of green — that it's a good recruiter? Here's evidence that your greening efforts will certainly be noticed.
The Princeton Review and USGBC recently released The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges. The free download gives users a complete listing of college's and university's green initiatives, like whether the institution has a formal sustainability committee and whether LEED is required for new buildings.
Facility managers would be well advised to take a look at how their organization fares. There's little question anymore that your prospective students are.
4. What Will 2013 Bring For "Red List" Chemicals?
Today's tip is about what to watch for in 2013 regarding the debate over "red list" chemicals in green building products.
Each year, green building consultant Jerry Yudelson puts out a fascinating list of his Top 10 Megatrends for the green building industry. Of particular interest this year is #8 on the list: "Red list" chemicals will become an increasing source of contention in the industry.
It's hard to imagine this issue being any MORE contentious than it already is, but I think Yudelson is right. In 2013, the stakes will be raised. As you may know, the new LEEDv4 rating system is due out this full (assuming the rating system is approved by USGBC membership this summer), complete with new credits (MRc2 and MRc3) for "building product disclosure and optimization - sourcing of raw materials" and "building product disclosure and optimization - material ingredients." Each of these credits is intended "to encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts."
That may seem like a broad definition for product selection or for avoiding certain materials, but when you get into the nitty-gritty, what it actually means was odious enough to several industry trade groups - including the American Chemistry Council - that they decided to start their own organization. The American High-Performance Building Coalition is dedicated to "the development of green building standards through consensus-based processes derived from data and performance-driven criteria." So far, however, there hasn't been much activity beyond the group's founding and initial PR push. There is a good chance that'll change dramatically in 2013.
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