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Greening on a Shoestring Budget
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: The Business Case For Green BuildingsPt. 2: LEED, ENERGY STAR, And Existing BuildingsPt. 3: This Page
There are many simple, economical opportunities to implement new green strategies within a new or existing facility. A 2005 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that commissioning was one of the most cost-effective means of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
Retrocommissioning can often resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, or address problems that have developed throughout the building’s life. The process identifies low-cost operational and maintenance improvements in existing buildings and brings the buildings up to the design intentions of its current usage.
Making the most of natural daylight is one of the simplest and most underutilized strategies for reducing energy use. At a recent ASHRAE Net Zero Energy Buildings Conference, Paul Torcellini of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) surmised that 80 percent of existing commercial floor area in the U.S. could function with daylighting during the day. That’s because the workspaces are within 15 feet of windows and skylights.
Similarly, in buildings with operable windows located in certain dry climates, a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation (mixed-mode) is highly preferred by occupants. According to studies by Prof. Gail Brager at the Center for the Built Environment at UC Berkeley, buildings with operational ceiling fans can set target temperatures 4 degrees warmer in the summer and still maintain thermal comfort for occupants.
Here are some other low-cost green strategies to consider:
- Optimize ventilation rates and the conditioned air distribution system, calibrate thermostats and sensors, and perform periodic maintenance of all building systems.
- Install a monitoring system and record daily energy use by category, comparing it to regional or national energy use benchmarks for similar buildings.
- Install water-saving fixtures.
- Look for opportunities to “turn down” the building’s lighting and HVAC systems after hours, or during times when the building isn’t fully occupied.
- Install occupancy sensors, time clocks or automatic controls to power down office equipment and lighting after hours and on weekends. Ask people to turn off their computers and task lights when they are out of the office.
- Implement green housekeeping services.
- Conduct a waste audit to assess current waste volume and issue a challenge or in-office competition for reducing waste.
- Begin a robust recycling and composting program. Eliminate bottled water, disposable cups and plastic silverware.
- Purchase renewable energy credits to offset power consumption.
Mary Ann Lazarus, AIA, LEED AP, is firmwide sustainable design director of HOK, a global architectural design and services firm.
Anica Landreneau, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is sustainable design practice leader of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.