Taking the “LEED” in Green Buildings
As Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green;” especially in the construction of ‘green’ buildings.
In 2000, the Albanese Organization was chosen to develop the first “green” high-rise residential tower in the United States. Called The Solaire, it was the first high-rise residential project to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certifications is a widely recognized third-party verification that a building is environmentally friendly. Subsequently, Albanese developed three more LEED Certified buildings in Manhattan, The Visionaire, The Verdesian, and The Vanguard Chelsea.
Now comes The Living Building Challenge (LBC). The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification program that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today. Projects that achieve this level of performance can claim to be the ‘greenest’ anywhere. The LBC requirements go beyond those of a LEED certification. The LBC uses a vetting process to avoid some of the pitfalls suffered by various LEED certified buildings, where “efficient” structures have proven to be less than advertised after completion and energy audits.
One building that is attempting to qualify for the LBC is the newly constructed Bullit Center in Seattle, WA. Qualifying is no small feat: The Living Building Challenge has 143 registered projects in 10 countries, but only three buildings in the United States have been fully certified so far; the largest of those is an eighth the size of the Bullitt Center.
The Living Building Challenge requires a project to meet 20 specific imperatives within seven performance areas (or “Petals”). For the Bullitt Center, meeting the imperatives will include the following:
The location will support a pedestrian-, bicycle-, and transit-friendly lifestyle. Rainwater will be collected on the roof, stored in an underground cistern and used throughout the building. A solar array will generate as much electricity as the building uses. The building will not contain any “Red List” hazardous materials, including PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury and hormone-mimicking substances, all commonly found in building components. The lifespan of The Bullit Center is projected to be 250 years. The building officially opens on April 22; Earth Day.
Dennis Hays, the president of The Bullitt Foundation, said “The Bullitt Center will be the first office building in the United States to capture rain water, store it and purify it, and then use it for potable drinking water. We will use rain water in our coffee, our dishwaters, our showers, and for everything else. We will filter the resulting gray water and infiltrate it into rain gardens full of vegetation in front of our building. We will make no use of Seattle public water supply.” To help protect Puget Sound, rainwater will be retained on site and “grey water” from sinks in the building will be filtered through a green roof.”
Other Green initiatives
The University of North Texas built a state-of-the-art Zero Energy Research Laboratory, where students and faculty will get first-hand experience with sustainable energy technologies. The facility is designed to test emerging technologies that allow building systems to have a net-zero consumption of energy. The UNT ‘Zero House’ uses Benchmark wall panels because they cut the electric load by one half to two thirds. Initially, the facility was powered by solar energy.
“Two faculty members, 6 graduate students and one post-doctoral research associate are working in ZØE research group at UNT,” explained Rambod Rayegan, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the mechanical and energy engineering department. “The research group is currently focused on integrated simulation and verification of the building and its sub systems, air flow and heat transfer analysis of solar chimney, human behavior factors sensitivity and uncertainty in energy modeling of the building, multiyear modeling of the ground loop heat exchanger, and design a novel thermal energy storage system to achieve the maximum utilization of solar power.”
Dr. Yong Tao, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering and PACCAR Professor of Engineering at UNT, and a committee of experts oversaw the design of the lab. Tao is an internationally known researcher in fundamentals of thermal sciences, refrigeration system performance and renewable energy applications in buildings. He joined the UNT faculty in the fall of 2010. Tao also served as the director of the Future House USA project, an initiative that brought together academics, builders, industry sponsors and lobbyists to create a 3,200 square-foot zero-net energy house that was built in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Steve Viuker is a Brooklyn, New York business journalist. He has covered real estate, small business and banking for numerous national online and print media.