Climate change, global warming, and their adverse effects are no far-off reality. The rapidly increasing number of buildings built has been one of the main contributors to this situation. Therefore, it’s only fitting that these structures’ energy consumption is optimized for everyone’s benefit.
Here are eight ways that green buildings save energy:
- Generate their own electricity.
- Optimize building design and features.
- Maximize and improve lighting.
- Employ water recycling systems.
- Incorporate gardens.
- Improve insulation.
- Use eco-friendly materials.
- Regulate temperature.
I’ll be explaining the energy-saving impact and benefits of green buildings on us and the environment below. Learn more about these buildings through this article and find out how they are one of the keys to our sustainable future.
1. Generate Their Own Electricity
One of the most common and best ways to save energy is to generate our electricity from renewable sources. Besides saving energy, the practice also reduces long-term costs and harmful gas emissions.
Over the years, many green buildings have relied on renewable resources to produce their water and energy. Common renewable energy sources are wind, solar, bio-energy, and water.
Energy, and thereby electricity, can be generated by harnessing the sun’s power. Solar energy is generated using photovoltaic (PV) systems. Many green buildings use their roofs or other available spaces for these PV systems.
Some famous examples of green buildings that use solar energy are:
- Suzlon One Earth in India
- Bullitt Center in the USA
- Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil
- The Crystal in the UK
- Pearl River Tower in China
- Vanke Center in China
- CIS Tower in the UK
- Micro Emission Sun-Moon Mansion in China
It’s exciting to note that some of these buildings, specifically the Bullitt Center, can consume less energy than they make. It just shows how reliable, clean solar energy is and the potential it holds.
Wind-generated electricity is also a common renewable energy source utilized by green buildings. They use wind turbines placed on roofs or other areas where strong winds are often present.
These are most well-known green buildings that use wind energy:
- Pixel Building in Australia
- Bahrain World Trade Centers
- Shanghai Tower in China
- Suzlon One Earth in India
- Pearl River Tower in China
- CIS Tower in the UK
Energy From Waste
People have been looking for many ways to recycle waste. A particular green building has taken the challenge up a notch, as it found a way to transform waste into electricity.
CopenHill or Amager Bakke is a green power plant in Denmark that burns 440,000 tons of waste to generate electricity for more than 100,000 homes. It was opened in 2017 and is multi-purpose: the place serves as a sports facility as well.
Energy From Plant Oil
Plants can also be used to provide energy. The One Angel Square has proved this in the UK. The building uses rapeseed oil to provide energy using its Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system. The plants are grown on the company’s own farms, making the system convenient and practical for them.
2. Optimize Building Design and Features
Another way green buildings contribute to preserving energy is by featuring innovative, extremely efficient designs.
Vancouver Convention Center
For instance, the Vancouver Convention Center West in Canada was designed to have an inclined roof. This helps drain water effectively and distribute the plant seeds on the top. The plants play essential roles in regulating heat, which then helps preserve energy.
Marco Polo Tower
Another well-designed building is the Marco Polo Tower in Germany. Instead of being one straight infrastructure, the building is designed to have turns. The structure helps create areas away from direct sunlight, keeping them cool and preventing the need for air conditioning. Air conditioning is a high-energy consumer; thus, the design helps preserve electricity.
The Eastgate Center in Zimbabwe also deserves mention for its impeccable design. The Center was modeled after termite mounds.
Termite mounds are built to maintain constant temperatures, thus reducing the need for ventilation or temperature regulation systems like air conditioning.
The facility in Zimbabwe was able to pattern after such natural wonders; therefore, residents do not need to use excessive amounts of energy.
How Green Building Designs Are Optimized
Green building designs are optimized by achieving any or all of the following:
- Improved ventilation. The Torre Reforma Tower in Mexico was designed to have automatic windows that open when great weather allows for natural ventilation.
- Regulated temperature. Temperature regulation can be achieved in various ways – installing gardens, heat exchanger systems, geothermal systems, water systems, etc. Regulation systems that don’t rely on electricity are best for saving energy.
- Maximized roof space. Equipment for renewable energy systems like PV systems or gardens can be placed on roofs. It can also house heat exchanger systems, like the one in the Marco Polo Tower, to help regulate temperature.
3. Maximize and Improve Lighting
Lighting requires energy, and the bigger a building is, the more lights it would need, especially if it were closed. For this reason, many developers have designed their facilities not to be reliant on electric lights or, at the very least, reduce the energy used by such lighting systems.
Maximize Natural Lighting
Many green buildings are designed to have large and open windows. This allows more sunlight to stream in, removing or reducing the need to switch on electric lights. An excellent example of a green building that maximizes natural light is the Robinson Tower in Singapore.
Improve Lighting System Using Sensors
Meanwhile, some buildings cannot avoid using artificial lighting systems. However, that does not mean they cannot save energy. There are ways to improve the system so it won’t have to be as energy-consuming as it usually is.
For instance, some green buildings use sensors to detect if there’s minimal activity or few people. If so, the lights would automatically adjust. As a result, instead of the lights having a constant, harsh, and energy-consuming intensity, they can tone down and save electricity.
A green building that had its lighting system improved is The Edge in the Netherlands. It features a “digital ceiling” equipped with sensors that would adjust its lights based on current needs. The building is estimated to save 80% compared to those that use usual artificial lighting.
4. Employ Water Recycling Systems
Water systems are one of the biggest energy consumers.According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water plants use up to 30-40% of the total energy consumed in a municipality.
Moreover, potable water is a finite resource. Sea, rain, and waste waters need to be processed first to be used.
Thus, green buildings have found ways to improve water systems and recycle this precious resource. Some excellent examples include the Pixel Building and The Crystal, which recycle rainwater and wastewater.
How To Recycle Water
There are many water recycling systems available. In the following sections, I’ll discuss some of the most common ones.
The Bullitt Center makes use of a greywater recycling system. However, the system is not limited to green buildings. Many establishments, such as hotels and universities use greywater recycling. It can be considered a form of wastewater treatment.
In this system, used water is collected, treated until clean, and returned for use by toilets, washing machines, etc. Various chemicals and methods, like ultraviolet (UV), are used to treat the water.
Rainwater is collected from rooftops. Then it gets filtered, treated, and pumped back to the toilet, irrigation, or other water systems where it will be used.
The extent of the treatment would depend on the type of water needed. A potable end product would require additional steps. However, extra measures may not be necessary if the resource you’re recycling is intended for irrigation.
5. Incorporate Gardens
As urbanized areas expand, there is a growing demand to incorporate nature into our living spaces. For this reason, you’ll often see many green buildings that stand as artificial jungles amidst a sea of skyscrapers and concrete.
Many of these gardens are also self-sustainable. For instance, the gardens of Vancouver Convention Center West have honey bees that pollinate the plants. These allow the plants not just to grow but also to multiply. Moreover, they are placed on the roof, thus, giving easy access to water and sunlight.
Moreover, the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall in Japan was built because locals wanted to preserve their last green spaces. This shows that with collective action, change can be made.
Green Buildings With Gardens
Here are some green buildings that feature gorgeous gardens:
- One Central Park in Australia
- Vancouver Convention Center West in Canada
- Bosco Verticale in Italy
- ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall in Japan
- PARKROYAL Collection Pickering in Singapore
- Robinson Tower in Singapore
- Manitoba Hydro Place in Canada
Benefits of Green Building Gardens
Here are some benefits of incorporating gardens into green buildings:
- Aesthetics and messaging. A pop of green and color amidst a concrete jungle is truly a sight to behold. Aside from that, green building gardens can also convey that incorporating nature into building designs is possible.
- Regulated temperature. Gardens lead to cool environments because of the shade they provide, which helps in naturally regulating temperature. Cooler places mean less need for air conditioning or other ventilation systems.
- Improved air quality. The photosynthesis reaction in plants uses carbon dioxide, a pollutant, and releases oxygen, an essential gas. Because a gas cycle is promoted, air quality is improved.
- Help with ventilation. The clean air that gardens provide aid in ventilation.
- Supported wildlife. Some gardens can host flora and fauna. For instance, the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall garden terraces now serve as homes to animals like birds.
6. Improve Insulation
Air or heat escaping a building equates to energy loss. By improving insulation, green buildings prevent air from escaping the building.
Better insulation keeps the building at a more or less constant temperature, which would reduce the need for energy-costing climate control.
How To Improve Insulation
Choosing a suitable material and sealant for the building helps improve insulation. For instance, the US Department of Defense opted to use spray polyurethane foam as an insulating material for tents, which allowed them to save more than $1 billion.
In green buildings, plastic materials are highly suggested to improve insulation and reduce energy costs.
Examples of plastics used in these infrastructures are:
- Spray polyurethane foam. Effective in filling gaps or holes that may lead to energy loss.
- Rigid polyurethane foam. Rigid foam can form an air barrier.
- Extruded polystyrene. It can be sandwiched between boards to create an air barrier.
- Expanded polystyrene. Similar to extruded polystyrene.
- Polyisocyanurate. The insulation version is produced as strong, rigid boards.
7. Use Eco-Friendly Materials
Here are some eco-friendly materials widely used for green buildings:
- Bamboo. Bamboo is the primary eco-friendly material used in constructing green buildings such as the Vanke Center in China. The building’s doors, furniture, and floors are all made from bamboo.
- Cork. Cork is an eco-friendly and renewable source because, just like bamboo, it proliferates. The material is also resilient, great for absorbing noise and impact but not water. The Cork House in the UK is an impressive structure made from cork.
- Stone. If sourced correctly (e.g., no illegal mining or quarrying) is an eco-friendly and sustainable material used for green buildings. The Lefrak Center in the USA is an example of a green building that uses stone during construction.
8. Regulate Temperature
Many green buildings have developed systems to help them regulate their temperature. Some of the approaches I’ve discussed include the use of gardens and optimizing building designs and features.
Here are ways green buildings regulate their temperature:
- Incorporating gardens. Gardens provide shade and cool air that helps regulate temperature.
- Optimizing building designs. Buildings are designed to include areas that avoid direct sunlight, thus maintaining cool temperatures.
- Geothermal system. In Canada, the Manitoba Hydro Place uses water passing through a geothermal system to cool or warm up the building.
Buildings might contribute a lot to pollution and gas emissions, but the introduction of green buildings is changing that paradigm. They prove that modernity and environmental awareness can go hand-in-hand, and there is a way to include nature in artificial works.
- Polycor: THE ORIGINAL GREEN BUILDING MATERIAL, JUST HOW SUSTAINABLE IS NATURAL STONE?
- RIBA Architecture: Cork House
- Conserve Energy Future: 15 Sustainable and Green Building Construction Materials
- Green Building Solutions: Continuous Insulation
- US Green Building Council: Building green with energy-efficient materials: Insulation
- Energy: Water-Efficient Technology Opportunity: Rainwater Harvesting Systems
- The Guardian: Greywater systems: can they really reduce your bills?
- VIP Structures: 5 Examples of Green Building in Engineering
- CNN: Green buildings: 18 examples of sustainable architecture around the world
- US EPA: Energy Efficiency for Water Utilities
- CNBC: Ten of the world’s most sustainable buildings
- National Geographic: Green Buildings Could Save Our Cities