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Building in Many Shades of Green

Building_in_Many_Shades_of_Green

LEED Platinum Certified airlines office building, Schiphol, Haarlemmermeer, North Holland, the Netherlands, November 2015 (Photo by Jeroen P.M. Meijer) Creative commons license via Flickr

 

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “When you ask me, ‘what is a green building?’ I don’t have a very good answer,” confesses Josefina Lindblom, European Commission Policy Adviser on resource efficiency in the building sector.

Speaking in the second episode of the “Construction Climate Talks” series released on YouTube March 15, Lindblom says, “The building sector is one of the biggest resource users in our society. It uses about 50 percent of our extracted materials and more than 50 percent of our energy. A third of our water use goes to buildings, and more than a third of our waste is construction and demolition waste.”

“A wider approach to the use of buildings is necessary,” says Lindblom. Not only extraction and production of materials, to construction and use of the building, she says, “but also the end of life phase and what happens then.”

The web video series is a project of the Construction Climate Challenge Initiative, hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment.

“We want to promote sustainability throughout the entire construction industry,“ says Niklas Nillroth, vice president, environment and sustainability at Volvo CE. “We are hopeful that our film series will work as a contributing factor in the matter of making people aware and to enhance cross-sector collaboration throughout the construction industry value chain.”

In November 2015, Construction Climate Talks premiered with the first episode, three minutes featuring Professor Johan Rockström. Executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University.

“If we continue with business as usual,” says Rockström on camera, “even a conservative assessment concludes that we are on an average pathway towards a four degree Celsius warming by the end of this century. We would have sea levels irreversibly moving beyond one meter of height, we would have new kinds of pandemics, heat waves, disruptions such as droughts and floods. Unless we have a good, stable planet, everything else would be unachievable anyway.”

But some still have “an obsolete, erroneous logic” that sustainability could threaten the economy,” he said. “Nothing could be more wrong.”

Even though many people still resist change, Rockström is optimistic that “the grand majority” sees that “sustainability is a vehicle for success, not an impediment to success.”

“We should move with the coalitions of the willing,” says Rockström, “and show by doing that this is actually something that benefits business, gets better profit, gets better reputation and is even more attractive.”

While energy use is only part of the green building equation, it’s an important part.

Across the European Union, energy efficiency regulation for greener commercial buildings is fast approaching, in line with the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement reached by 195 governments at the annual United Nations climate conference in December.

“A decree in France is expected in June for commercial buildings. They will be required to reduce their energy use by 25 percent by 2020. No question that most of European countries will follow in the coming years,” wrote Siham Ghalem-Tani, executive assistant and partnership relations officer with the French Institute for Building Efficiency (IFPEB) on March 14. This business-led coalition is intended to implement “an ambitious and efficient energy and environmental transition” in the European real estate and building sectors.

The European energy competition CUBE 2020, now in its third year, is serving as a catalyst for tenants of commercial buildings to meet the EU’s energy reduction objectives. This year, the 123 candidates, located in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, are on track for an expected outcome of 10 percent energy savings from July 2015 to July 2016.

Julien Cottin, manager of the Energy and Environmental Studies Centre of the Bordeaux metropolitan area, said, “Prior to our registration of four buildings in the CUBE 2020 competition, we had prioritized major works on our buildings, such as thermal renovation operations or improving energy efficiency. Our participation afforded us an opportunity to look at the uses of buildings and to adopt a new mindset.”

Cottin said, “The ‘competition’ aspect to CUBE 2020 provides a real dynamic for working on the behavior of the users of a building. The results are conclusive and motivating!”

Green building standards are becoming increasingly important to investors.

GreenUSArmyWorker

Worker installs siding during construction of environmentally-friendly green barracks on Fort Eustis, Virginia, USA. All new construction in the Department of Defense must qualify for Silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, 2009. (U.S. Army Environmental Command photo by Neal Snyder) public domain.

Last week, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey, the first global effort to assess the environmental and social performance of the global property sector, announced the launch of a Health and Well-being Module.

This optional supplement to the GRESB annual survey for institutional investors evaluates and benchmarks actions by property companies and funds to promote the health and well-being of employees, tenants and customers. It features 10 new indicators, including: leadership, needs assessment, implementation and performance monitoring.

“The design, construction and operation of our built environment has a profound impact on individuals and populations,” said Chris Pyke, chief operating officer with GRESB, which has offices in Washington, Amsterdam and Singapore.

The GRESB Health and Well-being Module is now available in pre-release on the GRESB website and will be open for submission starting April 1.

“The GRESB Health and Well-being Module will make real estate companies and funds more transparent and make comparative information more accessible and actionable for investors. This represents an important step toward resolving long-standing market failures and making health an investible attribute of real estate,” says Dr. Matt Trowbridge, associate professor, associate research director, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine.

In the United States, green buildings abound, encouraged by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, co-founded by current CEO Rick Fedrizzi and partners in 1993. Fedrizzi also sits on the GRESB Board.

The U.S. Green Building Council pioneered the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program, now used worldwide.

LEED offers four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These correspond to the number of credits achieved in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

In addition to its many other activities, the U.S. Green Building Council is a contributing partner to the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.

Released in February, the SmartMarket Report, covers nearly 70 countries. It shows that global green building continues to double every three years.

New commercial construction was the top sector for expected green building projects in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, China and India.

The United States shared the lowest expected levels of green commercial building with Australia.

Still, 46 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they expected to embark on new institutional green projects in the next three years.

Across all regions, many survey respondents forecast that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.

“International demand for green building, due in great part to the LEED green building program’s global popularity, has grown steadily over the years,” said Fedrizzi.

“Countries are looking for tools that support stable and sustainable economic growth. International business leaders and policymakers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges,” he said.

The SmartMarket report shows that increasing consumer demand has pushed the world’s green building market to a trillion-dollar industry, a surge that has led to a parallel increase in the scope and size of the green building materials market, now expected to reach $234 billion by 2019.

It appears that the European Commission’s Lindblom is going to get the “wider approach” to green building she has been seeking.


Featured image: BMW Head Office, Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Designed by Hans Hallen, the building has recently been refurbished and modernized, implementing green principles. Thermal comfort and energy efficiency were addressed with lighting, ventilation, hot water supply and back-up solutions which required the construction of a satellite Energy Centre. The building achieved a 5-star As Built Green Star South Africa rating, December 2015. (Photo by Colt Group) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)