Making the Case for Green Building

To those of us entrenched in the green building world the benefits seem obvious. Why would anyone choose to build in a way that isn’t comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient? In the process of designing and building green, however, we keep running into others who are not yet as convinced. For those situations, it’s useful to be able to spell out the benefits.

The building owner ultimately calls the shots, so getting that person or group on board early is essential. But not every owner will find the same arguments compelling: a hospital board may opt for green because certain green features promote healing, a commercial office property holding company may incorporate green features to speed the lease-out and thus lower carrying costs, a federal agency may desire green features to improve employee morale and increase job retention.

Even within a single project, different team members often have different reasons for promoting a green agenda. The architect may promote environmental measures because she feels it’s the right thing to do. The facilities manager who will take care of a building may recognize inherent durability and maintenance advantages. And the owner may look strictly at bottom-line financial benefits of green.

Note that while a green building might theoretically be able to achieve all of these benefits, most green buildings do not. For any specific project, it is important that any claims about the benefits are associated with green strategies that are actually being implemented—or at least considered—for that project. Further, there are green buildings in which benefits that are not achieved—such as durability—may render other benefits irrelevant. If poor moisture control results in premature building failure and the growth of mold, those problems could undo key benefits of the building, such as providing a healthy indoor environment. Green building is not only about adding together different green features—and green benefits—it is about how these systems fit together to create a building that works.

There are lots of reasons for building green­, none necessarily better than others. This article examines the spectrum of reasons, providing short explanations for 46 benefits. Even if many of these items are already familiar, this list may provide some new insights and help you convince your next clients to pursue an even deeper shade of green.... (continued)

How Green Is My School? Conducting an Energy Audit


Overview How can new buildings be designed in ways that minimize their energy use? How can energy be used more efficiently in existing buildings? In this lesson, students learn about green building design, perform energy audits of their schools and then develop proposals for making their schools more energy efficient.
Materials Computers with Internet access or research resources, copies of a sketch of your classroom or common space in the school, student notebooks

Warm-up Before class, draw up and photocopy a simple sketch of your classroom or a common space in the school, like the library, the cafeteria, the auditorium or the student center, detailing the location of doors, windows, outlets and walls.

At the start of class, have the students form three groups, and assign each group one of the following prompts:

1.What are all the ways in which our school uses energy?
2.How would you figure out how much energy our school uses every day?
3.How could our school conserve energy or use it more efficiently?
Have the groups brainstorm for several minutes, then ask students to give their ideas. Clarify as needed.....



Some local schools going greener

At a new eco-friendly school in DeKalb County, recycle bins sprout along walkways like wild flowers, fuel efficient cars get premium parking and cameos by deer, birds and snakes are highly anticipated.

At a Gwinnett County private school, 2,700 tons of asphalt and concrete have been replaced by grass and trees. Now the squeals of students playing on swings can be heard in the afternoon instead of the sputter of cars waiting in the pick-up lane.

As thousands of metro Atlanta students returned to school Monday, some are now learning on “green” campuses.

Students at the new Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia – one of the the state’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver-certified “green” high school, came prepared to talk about their summer outdoor adventures. On Tuesday, they must make class presentations about a visit to a state, local or national park.

“I went to places I’ve never been before,” said Michael Lee Jr., 15, of Stone Mountain, who is considering a career in environmental law. “It was actually pretty fun.”


Q. and A.: PCBs in School Classrooms


As I reported last week, many parents in New York City are worried about the presence of the chemicals known as PCBs in light fixtures and caulking in school buildings. The latest spot inspection by the federal Environmental Protection Agency — on Jan. 29 at Public School 68 in the Bronx –- turned up lighting ballasts that were leaking PCBs above the regulatory level of 50 parts per million in 10 of 13 samples taken, the agency announced Monday. Over the past several weeks, the E.P.A. found similar contamination at all three other city schools that it inspected, too.

Environmental Protection Agency

A ballast for a fluorescent lighting fixture that burst unexpectedly.For our Green blog readers, we submitted written questions to two experts at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan about any health risks faced by students and teachers.

The following responses, edited for brevity, were provided by Dr. Maida P. Galvez, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics and the director of the hospital’s Region 2 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics who is chairman of community medicine and the Department of Preventive Medicine as well as the school’s dean of global health.

Q.When did doctors awaken to the dangers of PCBs, or ploychlorinated biphenyls?

A. Medical and environmental concern about the long environmental persistence and possible effects on human health of PCBs first arose in the 1960s and 1970s and led to a federal ban on the manufacture of PCBs that was imposed in 1976 under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately, PCBs had already become widespread in the environment by that time, and they remain with us today...continue...

School's Solar Wall Provides Valuable Renewable-resource Lessons

Nick Martin , Winnipeg Free Press
January 20, 2011

ONTARIO, CANADA: Even when we all wake up to minus-34 temperatures, the sun rules at Carpathia School. The River Heights elementary school is the latest to get heat from a solar wall, a black contraption on the south side of the gymnasium that's now providing half the gym's heating needs.

But the kids can explain it so much better. "That black thing on the edge of the building is the solar wall," Grade 5 student Tannis Hydesmith told a media briefing. "The heat rises and goes into the ducts." The solar power, explained Logan Currie in terms that non-scientific adults could understand, covers about half the gym's heating needs, with the rest coming from natural gas from the school's boiler. "It costs less and it doesn't create any carbon dioxide," Logan said. Said Tyler Cassidy: "It's more efficient than heating with anything else. It costs less." Thus, Tyler said, it uses renewable resources.

About 20 Winnipeg School Division buildings have had environmental upgrades, but there's more to this green chapter. There will be another project involving 20 schools in the division that will include solar walls, said George Andrich, technical analyst with NRG Management, which is the division's energy management co-ordinator. The solar wall at Carpathia is approximately three metres tall and 12 metres wide and costs about $20,000, which the school is expected to recover in five to 10 years through reduced heating bills, said Dave Peacock, project manager with MCW Custom Energy Solutions Ltd.


President Obama's Better Buildings Initiative

In his State of the Union, President Obama laid out his vision for winning the future by investing in innovative clean energy technologies and doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Alongside that effort, the President is proposing new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings across the country. Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all energy in the U.S. economy. Improving energy efficiency in our buildings can create jobs, save money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and make our air cleaner. The President’s Better Buildings Initiative will make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. This initiative builds on our investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and our continued commitment to passing the President’s proposed “HOMESTAR” legislation to encourage American families to make energy saving upgrades in their homes.

Parents Seek More Action on PCBs in Schools

As the father of an 8-year-old attending Public School 36 on Staten Island, Richard P. Ghiraldi was alarmed to learn that students were being exposed to a known carcinogen.

Last month, Mr. Ghiraldi and hundreds of other parents kept their children home from school for four days after tests showed that lighting ballasts — the devices that regulate electric current for fluorescent lights — were leaking the highly toxic chemical compounds known as PCBs onto the light fixtures and floor tiles. “I was surprised they still had these old ballasts in schools,” said Mr. Ghiraldi, a paralegal. “You’d think the custodians and the teachers would think it’d be a danger.”

Yet as he and other parents in New York City press doctors and government officials on the risks from the aging classroom fixtures, which remain in some 800 of 1,200 city school buildings, the answers have been frustratingly vague. Adding to the parental stress, the Bloomberg administration has disputed the urgency of replacing all of the T-12-style fluorescent lighting, estimating it would cost about $1 billion. Its negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency continue.

New York Times, Mireya Navarro, February 3, 2011

Heschong Mahone Daylighting Study

The Heschong Mahone Daylighting Study of more than 21,000 students showed a dramatic correlation between daylit school environments and student performance, including:
  • 20% faster progression in math.
  • 26% faster progression in reading.
  • Views out of windows increased performance by 5-10%.

2007 The Cost of Green Revisited

Revisiting the question of the cost of incorporating sustainable design features into projects, this paper builds on the work undertaken in the earlier paper "Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budget Methodology," released in 2004, and looks at the developments that have occurred over the past three years, as sustainable design has become more widely accepted and used.

In 2004, Davis Langdon examined the cost of green from three perspectives: the cost of incorporating individual sustainable elements, the cost of green buildings compared to their original budget. This paper provides an updated look at the cost of green by examining a larger sampling of buildings and looking at additional building types. In both this and the earlier paper, the USGBC's LEED rating system is used as a parameter for determining level of sustainable design.

The 2006 study shows essentially the same results as 2004: there is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. Many project teams are building green buildings with little or no added cost, and with budgets well within the cost range of non-green buildings with similar programs.  We have also found that, in many areas of the country, the contracting community has embraced sustainable design, and no longer sees sustainable design requirements as additional burdens to be priced in their bids. Data from this study shows that many projects are achieving certification through pursuit of the same lower cost strategies, and that more advanced, or more expensive strategies are often avoided. Most notably, few projects attempt to reach higher levels of energy reduction beyond what is required by local ordinances, or beyond what can be achieved with a minimum of cost impact.