What is a sustainable building?
For your building to be sustainable, many factors need to be considered. These include air quality, energy
efficiency, and the use of ‘green’ materials among others. This document focuses on 1) building a sustainable building 2) retrofitting and 3) certification.
Why should I make my buildings sustainable?
Apart from the environmental benefits, a sustainable building can reduce your operational costs by as much as 30-50% on your energy usage and 40-50% on your water usage.
Depending on the type of manufacturing and the machinery and equipment you use, you can reduce your
factory’s carbon footprint by as much as 80%. Your factory can even be almost carbon neutral through
renewable energy and carbon offsetting.
Sustainable factories also have better indoor environments, lower maintenance costs and are better prepared for future government regulations. And, your stakeholders will recognize your efforts.
How do I build a green building?
If you are constructing a green building, you can consider the following:
General Always involve green building architects and engineers at the early stages of the project
(ask for references).
When choosing the site for your building, consider the natural surroundings to see what can be done to reduce energy usage (e.g. passive solar design, the use of natural lighting and natural ventilation). You should also consider logistical connections to primary transportation networks to reduce your logistics costs as well as transport emissions.
Consider the interests of residents (reduction of noise, odors, traffic, etc.).
Remember that some equipment and structures (e.g. compressor air inlet, illumination and cooling
towers) operate better when kept cool. You should make an effort to keep them in the shade and out of
At the same time, some equipment and structures (e.g. solar panels) need to be kept in the sun and
should be installed in areas of your building that have the most exposure to direct sunlight.
You should reuse and recycle construction and demolition materials (e.g. use inert demolition material as a foundation for parking areas).
You should proactively select sustainable, healthy construction and building materials
and products including:
– Reused and recycled building materials
– Zero or low emission paints
– Zero or low toxicity adhesives and paints
– Sustainably-harvested materials and products with high durability, longevity, and recyclability.
You should consider the use of geothermal energy exchange (pre-cooling in the hot season; preheating in
cold season) as this will save you costs on both heating and cooling bills.
You should always consider the end of life of the building and try to use recyclable materials. Make appropriate waste disposal arrangements and supply enough recycling and waste containers.
– Energy consumption can be lowered by using sheds and green roofs.
– The building should be as air-tight as possible.
– Build natural rainwater collection points. You can use rainwater for garden irrigation, technical uses, or as water for toilet flushing and reduce your freshwater usage.
– All ventilation should use heat recovery.
– Include dormitories with sufficient space, natural light, ventilation (mosquito nets), and emergency exits.
– Place green plants inside the building to help manage the humidity of the air.
– Separate waste water and clean surface water flows.
– Plan areas for the separate collection of recyclables and waste.
How do I make my existing buildings green?
For your existing buildings, it is possible to retrofit them. There are some fixtures and items which can be easily replaced at a low cost. The savings you gain from these retrofits often pay for the initial costs very quickly.
Some simple items which you can consider are:
- Discuss retrofitting options with energy experts, designers, construction contractors and other building experts to explore what improvements could be made.
- Selecting sustainable construction materials.
- Installing insulation into building walls, especially on the shady side.
- Replacing old windows with new ones which have better insulation and adding sun shades.
- Making the building shell as air tight as possible to avoid seepage of cool or warm air outside.
- Using passive cooling and heating (e.g. shadings, reflectors, identifying natural “cold” spots).
- Replacing current lighting with energy-efficient lighting such as T8 to T5 bulbs, LED and CFLs.
How do I certify my building as green?
Two of the most widely used green building rating systems are the LEED and BREEM standards.
LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is run by the U.S. Green Building Council and is a
certification program applicable for both new and existing buildings.
BREEAM or the BRE Environmental Assessment Method was created by the Building Research
Establishment in the UK.
Both support “green” building design, construction, and operations by recognizing performance in
1) sustainable site development,
2) water savings,
3) energy efficiency,
4) materials selection,
5) indoor air quality, and
6) innovation in design. For more information, visit the LEED and BREEAM websites. [Links]
To obtain a green building accreditation, you must involve an experienced sustainable design and building
the company from the start.
Sites we found useful
- Building Green LLC This web-based company provides green building case studies and over 2,000 green building products organized by standard CSI ivisions.http://www.buildinggreen.com/menus/divisions.cfm
- Environmental Construction + Design – Green Book Environmental Construction + Design offers a print magazine and an online green product and resource guide. http://www.edcmag.com/greenbook
- LEEDuser This website provides step-by-step guidance to earning LEED credits while achieving the best possible environmental benefit. It is published by BuildingGreen and supported by the U.S. Green Building Council. http://www.leeduser.com/
- Whole Building Design Guide – Life Cycle Tools The Whole Building Design Guide, developed by the
National Institute of Building Sciences, provides a variety of life cycle cost and assessment tools.
- U. S. Green Building Council – LEED Completed LEED point checklists for numerous certified projects,
including several detailed case studies. http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19
BREEAM –The website provides information on the BREEAM ratings and certification system.