Building it Green
The most exciting houses being built today are energy-efficient, sustainable, and thoroughly green. From solar-powered dwellings to homes underground, some of these new houses are entirely “off the grid,” generating more power than they actually use. But even if you aren’t ready for a radical new house, McNamee Construction Inc. can help you slash your utility bills and do something great for the environment through energy-efficient building and remodeling.
Energy-efficient houses function like living things. They are designed to capitalize on the local environment and to respond to the climate.
What Makes a Building Green?
A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment.
What Are the Elements of Green Buildings?
Below is a sampling of green building practices.
- Start by selecting a site well suited to take advantage of mass transit.
- Protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features. Select plants that have low water and pesticide needs, and generate minimum plant trimmings. Use compost and mulches. This will save water and time.
- Recycled content paving materials, furnishings, and mulches help close the recycling loop.
- Passive design strategies can dramatically affect building energy performance. These measures include building shape and orientation, passive solar design, and the use of natural lighting.
- Develop strategies to provide natural lighting. Studies have shown that it has a positive impact on productivity and well being.
- Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls. Include motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls. Task lighting reduces general overhead light levels.
- Use a properly sized and energy-efficient heat/cooling system in conjunction with a thermally efficient building shell. Maximize light colors for roofing and wall finish materials; install high R-value wall and ceiling insulation; and use minimal glass on east and west exposures.
- Minimize the electric loads from lighting, equipment, and appliances.
- Consider alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics and fuel cells that are now available in new products and applications. Renewable energy sources provide a great symbol of emerging technologies for the future.
- Computer modeling is an extremely useful tool in optimizing design of electrical and mechanical systems and the building shell.
- Select sustainable construction materials and products by evaluating several characteristics such as reused and recycled content, zero or low off gassing of harmful air emissions, zero or low toxicity, sustainably harvested materials, high recyclability, durability, longevity, and local production. Such products promote resource conservation and efficiency. Using recycled-content products also helps develop markets for recycled materials that are being diverted from California’s landfills, as mandated by the Integrated Waste Management Act.
- Use dimensional planning and other material efficiency strategies. These strategies reduce the amount of building materials needed and cut construction costs. For example, design rooms on 4-foot multiples to conform to standard-sized wallboard and plywood sheets.
- Reuse and recycle construction and demolition materials. For example, using inert demolition materials as a base course for a parking lot keeps materials out of landfills and costs less.
- Require plans for managing materials through deconstruction, demolition, and construction.
- Design with adequate space to facilitate recycling collection and to incorporate a solid waste management program that prevents waste generation.
- Design for dual plumbing to use recycled water for toilet flushing or a gray water system that recovers rainwater or other nonpotable water for site irrigation.
- Minimize wastewater by using ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures.
- Use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution.
- Install point-of-use hot water heating systems for more distant locations.
- Use a water budget approach that schedules irrigation using the California Irrigation Management Information System data for landscaping.
- Meter the landscape separately from buildings. Use micro-irrigation (which excludes sprinklers and high-pressure sprayers) to supply water in nonturf areas.
- Use state-of-the-art irrigation controllers and self-closing nozzles on hoses.
Occupant Health and Safety
Recent studies reveal that buildings with good overall environmental quality can reduce the rate of respiratory disease, allergy, asthma, sick building symptoms, and enhance worker performance. The potential financial benefits of improving indoor environments exceed costs by a factor of 8 and 14 (Fisk and Rosenfeld, 1998).
Choose construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low emissions to improve indoor air quality. Many building materials and cleaning/maintenance products emit toxic gases, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde. These gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants’ health and productivity.
Provide adequate ventilation and a high-efficiency, in-duct filtration system. Heating and cooling systems that ensure adequate ventilation and proper filtration can have a dramatic and positive impact on indoor air quality.
Prevent indoor microbial contamination through selection of materials resistant to microbial growth, provide effective drainage from the roof and surrounding landscape, install adequate ventilation in bathrooms, allow proper drainage of air-conditioning coils, and design other building systems to control humidity.
Building Operation and Maintenance
Green building measures cannot achieve their goals unless they work as intended. Building commissioning includes testing and adjusting the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to ensure that all equipment meets design criteria. It also includes instructing the staff on the operation and maintenance of equipment.
Over time, building performance can be assured through measurement, adjustment, and upgrading. Proper maintenance ensures that a building continues to perform as designed and commissioned.
Steps to Ensure Success
- Establish a vision that embraces sustainable principles and an integrated design approach.
- Develop a clear statement of the project’s vision, goals, design criteria, and priorities.
- Develop a project budget that covers green building measures. Allocate contingencies for additional research and analysis of specific options. Seek sponsorship or grant opportunities.
- Seek advice of a design professional with green building experience.
- Select a design and construction team that is committed to the project vision. Modify the RFQ/RFP selection process to ensure the contractors have appropriate qualifications to identify, select, and implement an integrated system of green building measures.
- Develop a project schedule that allows for systems testing and commissioning.
- Develop contract plans and specifications to ensure that the building design is at a suitable level of building performance.
- Create effective incentives and oversight.
For more information, contact us.