ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN BUILDINGS

Eight steps towards sustainable construction

#R&D #environmental sustainability

Sustainable architecture promotes efficient energy use in buildings in order to prevent unnecessary energy costs, to take advantage of local resources for system operations, and to ensure that there are no negative environmental impacts. Here are some examples:

Innovative construction methods, new materials, and technological advances are boosting the energy efficiency of new buildings worldwide. Housing that saves 75% on heating costs, hospitals that consume 70% less energy, shopping centres that barely waste any water... How is this possible?

The key lies in the design. First, the design is aligned with nature by choosing the appropriate location and orientation of the structure to take advantage of sunshine for lighting and the breeze for cooling. Construction materials are increasingly recycled and are purchased from local suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint from shipping. Likewise, proper insulation is used to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning as much as possible.

New technologies are essential throughout this entire process: evaporative cooling towers, water recycling systems, solar panels, smart temperature and humidity management, etc. Additionally, sustainable buildings encourage a lifestyle that protects the environment: bike parking, vertical gardens, and rainwater catchment and treatment. All of these elements demonstrate how architecture can help in the fight against climate change.

Certified sustainability

Many organisations have developed seals of excellence over the last 25 years to push the trend towards sustainable construction, promoting innovation, and energy efficiency: LEED, BREEAM, Passive House or Living Building Challenge are some of the most prevalent ones. Companies, public bodies, and architecture firms around the world compete for certification.

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HOW IS BUILDING SUSTAINABILITY MEASURED?
The LEED certification, awarded by the Green Building Council in the United States, scores 8 prerequisites needed for sustainable construction:
1
Location and transportation
(16 points)
  • Avoid building in natural environments
  • Reduce the duration of car trips
  • Encourage public transit and physical activity
2
Sustainable sites
(10 points)
  • Protect or restore
    the local habitat
  • Revitalize abandoned areas
3
Responsible waste management (10 points)
  • Efficient re-use
  • Irrigation system control
  • Moderate consumption
4
Energy and air quality
(35 points)
  • Demonstrate a percentage of energy savings
  • Use clean, renewable energy
5
Materials and inputs
(14 points)
  • Recycled, renewable, or Green Seal-certified materials
6
Interior air quality
(15 points)
  • Ventilation
  • Temperature and acoustic confort
  • Proper lighting
7
Design innovation
(6 points)
  • Proposals for new
    conservation strategies
8
Regional priority
(4 points)
  • Attend to local environmental issues
100
points
10
points
LEED CERTIFICATIONS
Certified
40-49 points
Silver
50-59 points
Gold
60-79 points
Platinum
More than 80 points
1
Location and transportation
(16 points)
  • Evitar edificar en entornos naturales
  • Reduce the duration of car trips
  • Encourage public transit and physical activity
2
Sustainable sites
(10 points)
  • Protect or restore
    the local habitat
  • Revitalize abandoned areas
3
Responsible waste management (10 points)
  • Efficient re-use
  • Irrigation system control
  • Moderate consumption
4
Energy and air quality
(35 points)
  • Demonstrate a percentage of energy savings
  • Use clean, renewable energy
5
Materials and inputs
(14 points)
  • Recycled, renewable,, renovables
    or Green Seal-certified materials
6
Interior air quality
(15 points)
  • Ventilation
  • Temperature and acoustic confort
  • Proper lighting
7
Design innovation
(6 points)
  • Proposals for new
    conservation strategies
8
Regional priority
(4 points)
  • Attend to local environmental issues
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