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Posts Tagged ‘green design’

Occupant-aware buildings or building-aware occupants?

Published on 1 Mar 2017 Written by Tom Marseille Posted in Industry

 Efficiency is in the occupant’s hands

At one end of the spectrum, effectively leveraging passive design and daylighting usually depends on occupants changing the indoor environment to fit their needs (e.g., opening and closing windows or raising and lowering blinds). Essentially, occupants are asked to become more aware and more educated about how their buildings are meant to operate to provide the most benefit.

Buildings that are designed and built to current market standards increasingly include more indoor sensors to control mechanical HVAC or artificial lighting. But occupants can easily manipulate these tools, and do so frequently, typically in response to a lack of control over the space. Occupant education can help in setting expectations and encouraging behavioral changes, but it is challenging to execute, and the knowledge does not stay constant during inevitable staff turnover.

Customizing building information, and making it accessible via individual workstations or smartphones, is a reality today. But it remains to be seen whether occupant interest and active engagement can be sustained in the long term. Early findings are not particularly encouraging except in cases where there is a strong motivating factor. Does this mean having effective building-aware occupants is an aspiration that may not be achievable?

 Your building can sense you

Everyone, from tech developers to futurists to politicos, have latched onto the idea of smart buildings within smart cities, of making sense of big data collected from new information conduits available through the internet of things and new sensory technology. Smart buildings stand to benefit the broad spectrum of building stakeholders.

Developers looking for a quick and profitable sale can tout the latest approach to building technology and use it as a lever to fulfill energy efficiency code mandates. Building owners could enjoy lower operating costs through a fully and continually tuned, optimized building, and be poised to better track and retain tenants. Tenants may see improved productivity from employees through a healthier, more comfortable environment, which could contribute in turn to reduced staff turnover. Smart sensors gathering data on occupancy trends may inform future workplace strategies, enabling planning for reduced leased space requirements without compromising employee comfort and productivity.

It is a powerful idea, but it raises some questions, because—if we are willing—buildings will soon know our preferences, where we are and when they can expect us to arrive or depart. Buildings can potentially make choices for us to optimize (based on the trended algorithms) occupant experience and performance.

Does this mean that eventually, your building may know more about you than you are comfortable with, even though you are more comfortable in your building? Is the next generation of high performance for building stock only possible at the expense of personal privacy? And can we truly rely on this additional layer of systems complexity to be reliable, affordable, maintainable and secure?

For now, we can still consider the other option of educating people to “do it themselves,” to emphasize and enable the building-aware occupant in a simpler building, arming them with information that helps them consume less and enjoy an admittedly lower tech building more.



The unlikely relationship between Kentucky’s horse-racing tradition and Urban Growth Boundaries (USGBC Kentucky)

Published on 3 Aug 2016 Written by David Heyburn Posted in Community

As Metro Louisville begins the process to update its Comprehensive Plan, Cornerstone 2020, there is an interesting historic and strategic juxtaposition in Kentucky’s next largest city, Lexington.

Embedded within the richness of Kentucky’s horse-racing tradition, showcased every first Saturday in May, is a celebration of a land in which the urban city is but the urban city, and the rural countryside is but the rural countryside.

While the world descends on Churchill Downs in Louisville for one weekend a year for the Run for the Roses, a lesser-known, yet arguably more quintessentially Kentucky racing experience and center of horse racing industry is Keeneland Racecourse, about one hour east of Louisville in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky’s horse economy, primarily centered around Lexington, creates serious economic value—approximately $4 billion annually. Furthermore, world-class horse farms require a lot of land. However, the Bluegrass farmlands also have a qualitative value that mutually supports their economic value. While sitting in Keeneland’s clubhouse, you are treated to an unobstructed view of Kentucky’s natural beauty for as far as the eye can see; farmland that is meant to be farmland.

 Urban Growth Boundaries preserve rural farm land by focusing urban development 

The land beyond the far turn has been intentionally conserved. In 1958, with the purpose of protecting the area’s lucrative, beautiful, and signature Bluegrass farmland from being threatened and fragmented by an incremental dissolution of urban development into the surrounding rural areas, Lexington adopted an urban service boundary within their comprehensive plan.

An urban service boundary is one of many strategies utilized by the public sector to set limits on development in rural areas by restricting the limit to which costly urban services will be built and maintained. In Lexington, the minimum lot size for residential development outside the service boundary is 40 acres, and most commercial development is prohibited.

As of 2011, Lexington had 6,700 acres of vacant land within the urban service boundary, of which 4,500 acres was designated for residential growth, according to Jim Duncan, the city’s director of long-range planning. By agreeing to keep the existing boundary in the 2011 Comprehensive Plan, the community recognizes that “building our brand and our economy means that first we preserve what is special and unique about Lexington — our Bluegrass landscape,” according to Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.




Green infrastructure: Back to basics

Published on 9 Aug 2016 Written by Hannah Jane Brown Posted in Industry

The “Emerald Necklace” park network in Massachusetts is a perfect example of how to build green infrastructure in an urban area.

“Imagine this design assignment: Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, makes complex sugars and foods, changes colors with the seasons, and self-replicates.” —William McDonough, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Any technology that satisfied this design assignment would amaze us. We would praise it as the latest and greatest advancement toward a sustainable future. Fortunately for us, this assignment has already been satisfied. This quote refers, quite simply, to a tree. We often talk about new discoveries and technologies when we talk about climate action.

A prime example of this is the Emerald Necklace in Massachusetts, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Emerald Necklace is a linear network of parks and open spaces connecting Boston to Brookline. It is praised for giving city dwellers a chance to enjoy a connection to nature, and of course, for its aesthetic beauty.

Green infrastructure basics and benefits

Green infrastructure is any practice that uses or replicates natural systems to achieve a desired outcome. This includes green roofsbioswales and rain gardens. Green roofs replicate meadows to retain water and restore habitats on the top of buildings. Green infrastructure does not exclusively mean vegetation. Permeable surfaces are considered green infrastructure as well, because they handle rainfall the same way natural landscapes do. Green infrastructure looks to nature for advice, restoring and replicating ecological systems to create human benefits.

Green infrastructure helps solve city challenges:

When it’s hot, we can rely on green infrastructure to reduce the urban heat island. Plants absorb solar energy for photosynthesis and provide cooling through evapotranspiration. Vegetation can also shade buildings and nearby surfaces, which decreases the demand for cooling.

When it rains, we can retain and infiltrate water where it falls with green infrastructure. The retained rainfall infiltrates the ground, increasing the groundwater supply. This reduces runoff, which limits the pollution of waterways and prevents combined sewer overflows.

When we need a dose of nature, we can seek out green infrastructure projects that remediate unused urban areas. These spaces provide habitats for native species, as well as relaxation and recreation opportunities for people.

When greenhouse gas emissions are high, we can sequester emissions with green infrastructure. Plant matter and soil media use and store carbon dioxide. Green infrastructure improves energy efficiency and reduces cooling loads, driving down emissions created by energy production.



A look inside a green home’s clockwork

Published on 2 Dec 2015Written by Christina Huynh Posted in Education

The home is the most important space in our lives. At USGBC they believe all buildings should be designed and developed with human health and the environment at the forefront—but especially homes.

Environmentally responsible homes cost less to operate, use water and energy efficiently, and minimize exposure to harmful toxins and pollutants for residents. Here’s a list of key green features in a sustainable residence that are better for you, your wallet and the environment.

From the inside out: materials

A benchmark of green homes is the widespread use of nontoxic, low- to zero-VOC and recyclable materials, in everything from the furnishings to the flooring.

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can cause headaches; nausea; and irritation to the respiratory system, skin and eyes, among other ailments. Healthy homes use paints, sealants and other materials that have low or zero VOC content.

Rapidly renewable resources, such as bamboo or cork, are great, eco-friendly materials for flooring, while natural fibers made of wool or containing a high proportion of recycled synthetics are excellent selections for carpets.

 Lighting the way to a healthier home

Green homes are brightened more with sunlight and less with artificial light, thanks to thoughtful positioning of skylights, clerestories, light shelves and other windows. More than half of the home should be illuminated with daylight.

Filling the home with natural lighting is significant in helping to reduce utility costs, but blocking the sun is equally important, too. Staples of green homes that regulate indoor temperature are shading devices such as sunshades, canopies and—the best option of all—deciduous trees in the yard.

 Reduce energy and water use, reduce costs 

A home that’s energy-efficient will have insulation inside its walls and roof, which means less heavy lifting for its heating and cooling systems, plus lower electricity bills. Insulation derived from recyclable materials and with a high R-value, or thermal resistance, are recommended.

Green homes also use dual-glaze windows, which help reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss during the winter. Their roofs should be light-colored and reflect heat or feature landscaping to help reduce heat absorption.

Additionally, water-efficient kitchen and bathroom fixtures are a regular element in green homes. If the house is located in a drier region where water is scarce, then it’s likely it will have some type of rainwater collection and storage system.

The great outdoors: functional and regenerative landscapes 

The development and design of a home’s landscaping can have an adverse impact on local ecosystems. A green home will have drought-tolerant vegetation that requires less water and pesticides. Its landscaping will work to protect native plant and animal species while also contributing to the health of surrounding wildlife habitats.

 Location matters

Green homes aren’t built on sites such as prime farmland, wetlands and wildlife habitats. Instead, the greenest development sites are “in-fill” properties, such as former parking lots, rail yards, shopping malls and factories. They should also be within easy walking distance of public transportation, stores, schools and parks.

Healthier homes lead to healthier lives.

Christina Huynh

Web Content Associate

USGBC staff



Daylighting enhances Hub Group’s LEED Gold headquarters

Published on 10 Dec 2015Written by Amanda Sawit Posted in Industry

When the Hub Group, one of the leading freight transportation companies in the United States, started building its new headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, they knew they wanted to achieve LEED certification.

Completed in December 2013, the 141,000-square-foot, four-story building is LEED Gold—designed to harmonize human health and performance with the environment.

Built to echo the company’s corporate culture, brand and commitment to sustainability, the building’s design needed to balance occupant well-being with efficiency. In keeping with these objectives, architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz sought to optimize daylighting, or the controlled admission of natural light into a space.

Enter Hunter Douglas’ RB 500 motorized roller shades, which, along with intelligent motor controls, helped shape the look of the new headquarters. The RB 500 roller shade system creates a visually dynamic environment while managing daylight and reducing glare and solar heat gain within the space—ensuring occupant comfort throughout the day while reducing total building energy costs.

Daylit environments are proven to increase occupant productivity and comfort, providing the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate human circadian rhythms. From an energy use standpoint, natural light can replace electric lighting for up to 80 percent of daylight hours, representing lower energy costs and, by extension, reduced pollution from fossil fuel-based power plants.

The RB 500 roller shades were deemed the optimal solution based on their architectural design, ease of operation, durability and versatile Cradle to Cradle Certified™ fabrics. The intelligent programming system, installed by Indecor, Inc., supports custom applications, including large and angular windows, and is outfitted with an advanced weather station that enables shades to position themselves appropriately based on angles of sunlight.

As Hunter Douglas continues to push the envelope in developing and delivering solutions to address green design challenges, clients like the Hub Group are willing to embrace unconventional or new technology because it positively affects the triple bottom line.

Amanda Sawit

Content Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff


LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.