In 1998, the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC) created the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system to serve as an international standard for the growing trends in sustainable architecture and building practices. The LEED point system challenges designers and engineers to carefully consider water usage, carbon production, impact of construction on local environments, and energy efficiency, encouraging creative innovation for more than a decade. In this article, we round up some of the best recent advances in green building that are helping project teams everywhere reach Platinum certification.
When founder John Van Dine was working in the solar industry in the late 1980’s, he had an epiphany – foot for foot, energy efficient glass could save more electricity than solar panels could produce. This led the inception of the SAGE company and the pursuit of the ultimate energy saving building glass. Today, SAGE offers a line of electrochromic glass that can boost energy savings by up to 25 percent. The unique glass is coated with a microscopically thin layer of metal oxides that can be activated by the flip of a switch, dimming the windows by up to 98 percent – built in blinds that don’t obstruct the view. A large system of windows (a glass office building, for example) can be controlled remotely or placed on an automatic schedule. By controlling the visible light and solar heat entering a room, energy savings can be dramatically increased.
DC power distribution standards
An open association of industry leaders, Emerge Alliance is trail-blazing new standards for DC power use in commercial offices and other buildings. As more and more technologies run on DC power (LED lighting, electronics, etc.), the nearly hundred year old model for power distribution is ready for an overhaul. Currently, DC power must be converted to AC before use, requiring transformers and extensive copper wiring. But Emerge Alliance hopes to change all that, incorporating on-site DC power generation (through solar panels, for example) and a microgrid platform to cut down losses due to conversions and unnecessary infrastructure. The consortium is also pursuing standards for data centers, which could potentially lead to enormous energy savings (Google, to give some reference, uses about .01 percent of the world’s energy supply to run its servers).
High-efficiency, glass-free insulation
Rarely does a green innovation combine materials that are easier on the environment and increase overall efficiency, but EnGuard did just that. Created from recycled plastic bottles, Enguard GlassFree insulation technology has none of the harmful environmental and health effects as fiberglass insulation, with that added bonus of off-setting a growing plastic bottle carbon footprint. The recycled material is bonded in a high-temperature furnace, resulting in a robust material that won’t degrade over time, unlike fiberglass material. The insulation is also hypoallergenic and hydrophobic, which means less mold between the walls. And with no respiratory issues or skin irritation, insulation installation just got a bit more user-friendly.
Composite copper paneling
The forward-thinking metal supplier Luvata launched a new series of composite panels earlier this year, boasting 97 percent recycled materials. By bonding two copper sheets with a thermoplastic resin, Lavata is able to produce a panel with unmatched strength and resilience, yet flexibility and versatility for any project requirement. The material is easy to work with, keeping on-site costs low, and can be easily shaped and cut into any form needed. Copper paneling allows eco-conscious projects to show some green pride, as its stylish and iconic look is fast becoming a symbol for progressive building practices.
Cloud-based green building analysis
Recently awarded the Green Building Innovation of the Year award at the Ecobuild 2011 expo in London, Sefaira is a world leader in providing cloud-based analysis and consultation tools for architects, builders, and engineers looking to go greener. Their top of the line web-application suite allows professionals to compare building designs and strategies, receive guided support, and maximize sustainability while staying under budget. The company was founded in 2009, and quickly rose to be an industry leader. Today, Sefaira is poised to help the green movement in design and construction become even more mainstream.