It is not a secret for anybody in the design and construction industry that buildings alone are responsible for around 40% of the total energy consumed in the US. However, if such buildings (commercial and governmental ones) are empty for most of the year, how do they manage to consume so much energy when nobody is around?
In fact, around 70% of the time a building is unattended but still consuming energy is related to holidays, weekends, or off hours. Can you imagine that? Can you justify spending almost 3/4 of your operational costs into something that is empty? I can’t.
If you are in charge of the buildings operational costs, you should know that the three main energy spenders during a building’s off hours are heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and plugged-in appliances. Combined, they are responsible for up to 75% of the building’s energy usage. If you lease, you also should know there is a great opportunity for you to move to a better, healthier, and more efficient building. The current the economy has created such a tight competition for commercial tenants, where, in order to stand out from the crowd, they have been forced to offer you spaces that are healthier, brighter, and sustainable.
Here are 10 ways contractors are building with energy efficiency in mind:
- LEED Building — Thanks to a more competitive economy and the increase of sustainability experts, contractors are having a better understating of the benefits of a green building. The result is a project that is more energy efficient.
- Inverting Values – Instead of embracing the old-fashioned culture of cutting down the costs, contractors are now working with architects and designers to understand how much a building actually needs to be operational, eliminating the waste without compromising the building’s performance.
- Funds – With so many incentives available thru federal and local governments to promote green energy usage, building owners are now taking advantage of the extra money to invest in green technology. Consequently, contractors have become aware not only of the incentives but also the benefits of green technology.
- Education — More and more, manufacturers are offering workshops, seminars, and professional training to trade professionals in order to educate them on their green products, and how such products can benefit contractors, end users and the environments.
- Building Codes — With the creation and implementation of Green Building Codes, learning about sustainability became a must instead of an option as many municipalities have started adopting such code as part of their current building codes.
- Pushing the envelope — Green buildings are proven to offer lower operational costs, increased comfort and a healthier environment. In order to achieve such goal, contractors are required to address a variety of home efficiency and maintenance challenges that includes, among other items, lowering energy bills and water conservation.
- Ready for audit — Green building require constant audits, measuring and verification. When you say that by installing a certain HVAC system the building will save you an X amount of money, you need to be able to provide data to support it. Therefore, you need to be not only educated on the actual product pros and cons but also ready for audits to measure and verify the performance of the building with the system installed.
- Understanding Retrofit — As much we love brand new, high efficient buildings, there are plenty of existing buildings that can use a good retrofit to become more energy efficient. Contractors that understand the benefits of a green building have become the go-to person when it comes to retrofitting an existing building.
- Teamwork! — It’s been proven that human behavior has a huge impact on energy efficiency. In fact, various studies suggest people influence building energy consumption between 12-17 percent. Create a green team, attend to networking events, conferences, and market yourself as a green expert.
- Embracing technology — Everything you need is a your fingertips! Since Google became our best friend, the possibilities of exchanging information across oceans in order to develop a better service or product, have become endless. Every day a new technology appears somewhere on earth. By embracing technology you are able to work more efficient.
VK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries. Recently nominated by the Daily Herald Business Ledger as one of the Influential Women in Business 2012 and with articles published across US and Canada since 2009, Ms. Vollf is an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter, with in‐depth knowledge of all aspects of Sustainability – Social, Environmental and Economic. Ms. Vollf is also one of the co-founders of NEW – Networking of Entrepreneurial Women – a networking group that is committed to supporting and promoting entrepreneurial women living and working in the Chicago suburban area.