Thursday, May 23, 2013

Retrofitting Historic Buildings

Old historic buildings such as this one in Charlestown, South Carolina can be retrofitted to become a green building. Image Credit: Public domain.

There is a lot of talk going on about new green residential and industrial buildings in Canada, but what about the older buildings that have remarkable historic and cultural value? Retrofitting historic buildings requires special attention because unlike other buildings, they can only be modified in certain ways. Modifying them solely for the sake of environmental sustainability may cause damage to its immense architectural value.  

So what are the aspects that you have to pay careful attention to when retrofitting historic buildings

In terms of the sustainability of the site, the local government and building owner have to address heat island reduction and the control of storm water runoff. 

Water efficiency is another concern. Water used cannot be drastically reduced, because it might disrupt the careful ecological balance of the greenery. At this point, architects and engineers must carefully survey the “cultural landscape”. Native species must be carefully protected, because they form part of the heritage of the historic property. Take advantage of the cisterns and irrigation system of the original property, making only changes that will not negatively affect how the property looks.

A third concern is the energy and atmosphere. Something as simple as making sure the shutters work can positively impact the building’s energy efficiency. Awnings, as long as they work and fit the architectural design, can reduce the influx of heat by as much as 65%. The high ceilings must be preserved to allow the optimum circulation of light and air, and windows must be kept in good condition to reduce demand heating and cooling demands. The courtyards and fountains can also provide comfort during the warm months.

One thing you should think of is the on-site renewable energy. Net zero buildings are making quite an impression in the industry, and there are several options for you: solar, wind, geo-thermal, and bio-gas are some of them.

These are, of course, only some of the environmentally sustainable ways of making a historic building as green as possible, without sacrificing its cultural value. This just shows that environmental sustainability does not have to come for a culture price, while historical artifacts can be brought up to 21st century environmental standards.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Green Building Programs Abound in Canada

One of the many reasons why you should finally consider going green is to benefit from extensive lists of government tax rebates and incentives. Both businesses and homeowners stand to benefit many tax breaks from green construction. In Canada, the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada has a laundry list of incentives for green upgrades. In fact, there are more than 200 green programs - both private and public sector - across Canada through national or provincial governments that will help you maximize the potential of your green home.

The agency also pioneered the High Efficiency Home Heating System Cost Relief program, where as much as $300 will be given to homeowners who replace their gas furnace with a high-efficiency model. Another program is the federal financial assistance for low-income households who retrofit their homes. 

One program, the Commercial Retrofit program, is administered by Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. and concerned with helping commercial, multi-residential, and institutional customers maximize their operations and identify high-return efficiency investments. 

Provinces also have green programs. In Ontario, the saveONenergy HIGH PERFORMANCE NEW CONSTRUCTION can give grants of up to 100% or $10,000 of modeling cost for approved projects. Office buildings, industrial buildings, colleges, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, and data centers can benefit from this program.

In Nova Scotia, there is the Commercial and Industrial New Construction (CINC) program, which will provide both technical assistance and technical assistance for commercial and industrial customers who are planning to build or retrofit a non-residential building. The program also has Core Performance Guide, a convenient tool that defines the criteria for a high-performance, green building.

These are only a handful of the green programs that unfortunately not a lot of homeowners and businesses know of. In fact, you can consult this map to know programs within your province or territory in Canada that can assist you to go green.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Compelling Case for Green School Construction

Harrison Middle School LEED Cafeteria in Albuquerque, NM. Image Credit:
Is it finally time for schools in Canada to turn to green construction? As staunch believers in green construction, we at Norsteel have talked at length about the benefits of green construction for commercial, industrial, and home buildings. But there is one more category we have not covered: schools.

People have been talking about green schools for quite a while now. Even green certification body LEED has released a LEED for Schools protocol. There are a number of organizations that support the idea of putting up more green schools as well, like the Alliance to Save Energy, the Green Schools Alliance, and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.

So, why should we divert our attention to green schools? There are several benefits that stakeholders—from the students to government officials—stand to gain by converting to green construction. As early as in 2006, a report entitled “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits” has outlined the positive benefits of green schools.

1. Energy and Water Savings

Just like commercial and industrial buildings, green schools will result in huge energy savings. In fact, the report showed that as much as 33.4% annual energy savings were gained from 30 green schools as compared to conventional schools. The same goes for water savings, where there was a reduction of water usage by as much as 32.1%.

2. Health Benefits to the Students, Faculty, and the Staff

The most compelling benefits, perhaps, are health improvements. According to case studies, there was as much as 15% reduction on common illnesses like asthma, colds, and flu. This is particularly beneficial for children, as roughly 1 in 10 children suffer from asthma.

3. Productivity Benefits to Occupants

The benefits to the occupants are not only limited to health benefits. Even their productivity will be improved. Case studies in Oregon and Washington showed that there was as much as a 15% improvement in test scores! These findings are not remote because the same have been reported in places like Washington, DC (4%) and Cearview, Pennsylvania (19%).

Obviously, these benefits are too hard to dismiss. Without a doubt in our minds, green school construction is a definite must!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Green Construction will Continue to Grow

LEED Building: Fort Belvoir Hospital. Image Credit: Public Domain.

Green construction is certainly making waves in the industry, with a recent report entitled “Materials in Green Buildings” by Navigant Research stating that the market for green building materials is set to reach $254 billion USD by 2020—a massive growth from USD $116 billion USD at the moment. The report mentions that the demand for green buildings is steadily increasing despite the economic downturn in recent times. 

But there is much more to green construction than viable materials and environmental sustainability. A recent forum, the RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition, discussed the various standards, rating systems, and compliance with different construction codes. 

Several green rating systems are currently in effect, including the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), which defines the optimum standards for green construction. Another rating system, the ASHRAE, which stands for American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, emphasizes the importance of ventilation.

Perhaps the most popular, both in Canada and in the US, is the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which focuses on sustainability, energy efficiency, conservative use of materials, indoor environmental quality, and innovative operational mechanisms. There are four levels of certification with LEED: platinum, gold, silver, and certified. One of the reasons why LEED has managed to gain worldwide popularity is its flexibility; the points are allocated based on compliance with several measures. 

Green buildings are known for their many benefits, but can be summed up into four basic categories: high productivity, better health for the occupants, increased economic value, and tax credits provided by the government. The goal of green buildings has gone from being energy efficient to energy producing structures. 

However, this is not to say that green buildings are risk-free. Granted that green building technology is fairly new so certain issues can arise such material longevity or even finding experience green building personnel. 

At the end of the day, you should trust a brand that knows exactly what they are doing and will deliver the promises that green building holds. With that, Norsteel is the brand to trust.