Green Building is good PR for the masses

  • Building Design Expert
  • 5 years ago

It’s official, Green is the new Black. More sustainable construction has attained a kudos level to set it apart from the rest, and that’s a good thing in more ways than the simple obvious. With the hand of highly sustainable construction comes the well fitted gloves of zero waste to land fill, and state of the art energy management for the building in use. It seems that this formulae is a hit with end users. Who, whilst they are not exactly queuing to the end of the street, are showing their appreciation by signing up occupancy deals that show a distinct preference for warm, comfortable buildings over the apparently cheaper alternatives.

Intrinsic to the formula is what has become good sound green based construction: – Highly insulated, air-tight, with an eco-compatible materials specification. We are talking ‘new build’ – naturally. Retro-fit / refurbishment projects store up their own problems, with a degree of difficulty that would make Tom Daly wince. Although it can be done, it takes an incredible will and is so much more dependent on the building owners particular investment model.

So back to new build. Having framed the architecture, and the associated technology, along come the building infrastructure engineers. ‘Smart BMS’ (Building Management System) provides a key that will unlock a long term future to a financially stable building occupancy, and that is a significant attraction.

Let’s be clear this not simply a building management system that senses when someone enters or leaves the toilets, and switches the lights on and off accordingly, although that still plays its part. This is a system that might start with the security circuit monitoring who has swipe carded into the building, giving a heads-up to the air conditioning control circuit, which knows which part of the building the are being occupied from motion sensor feedback. The phone and PC circuits are powered up, and the LED lighting levels are set according to the ambient light entering any given room, providing a uniform lux level at desk height whether the desk is by a window, or in the otherwise darkest room corner. Just for starters!

Currently BMS is generally commissioned prior to building hand-over. So just the once then. How often should we commission a building management system? answer: All the time, in response to a constantly changing environment. There’s no rocket science to the thinking here, but there might just be some built into the systems monitoring software that will optimise energy use in infrastructure function. But lets not forget ‘simplicity’ either. Building owners / occupiers are not engineers and have every right to expect to control their ‘space rockets’ with something no more sophisticated than an iPad App. Control systems will continue to become more complex, as technology develops increased levels of sophistication. But if they are to be effective the user interface must remain ‘childs-play’ – a tech iceberg, with the least amount of tech at the surface.

Energy prices to the consumer have doubled since 2005, and this is a curve that has every chance of going exponential. The larger new builds are a useful test bed for energy systems management. The smaller new builds; housing in particular, present a slightly different problem, having less to control, but there are different technologies that may be applied in district heating and, or combined heat and power.

So smart systems need to get smarter, the baseline being real time monitoring and control of energy consumption. The technology is there, that is not the issue. There is perhaps a cost issue that holds back a large number of developers, and only attrition is wearing them down to adopt a mindset that a major capex investment today will return much larger dividends tomorrow and in the future. Saving money through superficial specification is so last year.

For the moment this all remains an option in building development. Economics will render it mandatory one day very soon.