By Grainger Editorial Staff 7/1/19
All around the globe, there is a powerful shift towards “green” thinking, made evident by continuous environmental initiatives, programs and regulations. Now increased interest in energy savings, space efficiency and waste reduction has put sustainable building design at the very forefront of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industries. Today’s manufacturers, enterprises and even homeowners are realizing the need to reduce their impact on the environment both today and over the lifecycle of a building or home.
Since 2003, USGBC membership has more than quadrupled in size, and new project registrations for LEED certification have grown by 75% over the past few years.
Added to LEED® are several other local, state and national programs like the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Title 24, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® and the residential market’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index and National Green Building program.
In addition to incentive programs like LEED, standards bodies around the world are now requiring compliance with a variety of energy efficiency and environmental regulations and codes.
The AHSRAE/IESNA energy efficiency code, NFPA 900 Building Energy Code and IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) standards now all provide minimum requirements for the energy-efficient design of commercial buildings. The latest edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) includes new requirements for energy efficiency in one- and two-family dwellings.
In the electronic manufacturing industry, more than 30 states have already adopted or have pending legislation with directives like RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) that ban new electrical and electronic equipment from containing more than specified levels of hazardous substances. NEMA’s (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) “Call to Action” also calls for manufacturers to reduce the content of hazardous substances in all NEMA-covered products by 2014.
These current programs and standards are just a few examples of efforts to improve the environment, and several other initiatives on the horizon will undoubtedly drive companies and individuals to further examine innovative products that optimize sustainable building design.
One of the buzz words that has emanated from the new global environmental initiative is “sustainability,” and while many are promoting it, few truly understand what it means. In the context of building design, sustainability seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of energy, space and materials. Simply put, sustainable building design involves saving energy, using space efficiently and reducing waste over the lifecycle of a building.
Building for sustainability was once considered extremely expensive, but recent technological advancements and increased demand have resulted in a decrease of initial construction costs associated with “going green.” According to recent research, the cost to build a sustainable LEED-certified building is associated with approximately a 1% increase on initial costs at the lower end and 11.5% increase at the higher end. In other words, an initial construction cost of $1M would only cost an additional $10K for the lowest level of LEED certification or an additional $115K for the highest level of LEED certification.
The slight increase in initial construction becomes inconsequential when considering the fact that a sustainable building typically reaches a positive return on investment in the first two years and ultimately offers significantly reduced operating cost over the lifecycle of the building.
Any element that saves energy cuts down on operational costs. Any element that is reusable and reconfigurable, or that matches the lifecycle of a building, cuts down on retrofit costs. Together, operational and retrofit expenses make up 75% of a building’s lifecycle cost over a 40-year period. At the same time, construction only accounts for 11%.It therefore makes more sense to slightly increase construction cost to save more over the long term.
In addition to reducing impact on the environment and decreasing costs over a building’s lifecycle, sustainable building design also improves worker productivity and job satisfaction due to healthier working environments. A recent North American study revealed that brighter office conditions increased performance by more than 10%. Studies show that LEED-certified buildings have a significantly reduced number of missed work days among employees and lower employee turnover. A California-based company actually experienced a 40% drop in absenteeism after deploying skylights and lighting controls. It is also estimated that sustainable buildings generate higher rental rates, lower vacancy rates and higher market values compared to conventional buildings.
Information courtesy of Hubbell Wiring Systems
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.