As fuel and energy costs continue to increase and the United States aims to lessen its dependence on foreign oil, green buildings have begun to sprout in a number of locations across the country. For those in the construction industry, building owners, or others looking to save money and have an energy efficient space, investing in green practices can be beneficial environmentally and financially.
Shel Horowitz, green business and marketing consultant and lead author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, said green buildings are designed and constructed to use the least amount of resources, such as building materials and energy, and create the least amount of waste. Green buildings can be completely new or renovated.
“They are often site-specific rather than cookie-cutter, and typically take conscious involvement on the part of their occupants to maintain the greenness,” he said.
Stan Samuel, Director of Sustainable Construction for the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities, or SERF, said although the prevalence of green buildings has shown significant growth over the past decade, they still constitute less than 1 percent of all buildings. However, the percentage is expected to rise significantly in the near future.
Myrrh Caplan, National Program Manager at Green Construction at Skanska USA, said although renovating an old building may be considered the greenest choice, the variety of existing building types makes it difficult to pinpoint a general greenest construction method.
Instead, the steps involved to remodel a preexisting building must be taken into consideration to determine the best method, she said. One characteristic that makes a big difference is the design of the building envelope, which protects everything inside a building.
“If it is not designed and built appropriately, it allows for inefficiencies in areas such as poor conditioning, intrusion, protection, and solar reflectance,” she said. “The most efficient heating and cooling system in the world would lose its value if the envelope that was intended to support it allowed excess heat or cold air flow.”
Caplan said if new interior and system efficiencies are not be supported by the old building’s envelope or there are potential contaminants in an existing building structure, it is better to start new.
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