Posts Tagged 'green buildings'

New York Embraces Pre-Fab Construction

Prefabricated Inwood Box Building. Image Credit: Peter Gluck & Partners.

Prefabricated Inwood Box Building. Image Credit: Peter Gluck & Partners.

The popularity of pre-fab construction is catching on in many places—and one of them is no less than what is probably one of the busiest and most populous cities in the world: New York City.

On Broadway Street, there currently is a vacant lot that is hardly recognizable and nothing more than a pile of rocks. In a matter of weeks though, it will be transformed into an apartment building—with seven stories, ten terraces, and fully furnished units, thanks to prefabricated construction methods. Called in the Inwood Project, the apartment costs $13 million and will consist of a combination of 28 apartments. And the best part, which will probably appeal most to New Yorkers, is its 28% lower rental rate than the average. The building will be called Broadway Stack, to pay its respect to its innovative form of architecture. The project will wrap up in 9 months—as opposed to the traditional 16 to 18 months of on-site construction. This also means lowered construction costs by as much as 10 to 20%.

Last year also saw the announcement of the construction of the first residential tower in Brooklyn. On top of that, New York also won the Micro Unit Apartment Building Design Contest, and fittingly chose modular design as its construction of choice.

The negative connotations New Yorkers have with prefab construction are quickly going away. It used to be equated with low-cost housing and mobile homes, but prefab is proving to be more than that. Perceptions are quickly changing, inasmuch as prefab has shown itself capable of coming up with fully functional and aesthetically pleasing designs.

That pre-fab construction is becoming popular in New York just shows how flexible pre-fab buildings are. Now that New York is following suit, it will not be a surprise if every other highly urbanized city focuses on modular construction as well.

4 Influential Technologies in Green Construction

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Norsteel Roof.

This year is clearly the best time to seriously consider green construction for your home. With tax breaks, lowered electricity costs, and an overall better indoor quality, there is every reason to favour of green construction. But the question is: how should you start? Here are four of the most important technologies in green construction today.

Cool roofs

Cool roofs serve the purpose of reflecting the sun’s rays and prevent them from reaching inside the building. In addition, it prevents the cool or warm air from inside the building from escaping through the roof. The reflecting surface of the cool roof (like the shell of a Norsteel Building) can cut down the intensity of the temperature from the outside by as much as 50 degrees.

But more importantly, cool roofs can save heating and cooling costs

Storm Water Management

Another innovation in green construction, storm water management directs water runoff into a plants and soil that would not only absorb but also purify the storm water.

Solar Power

Gone are the days when huge solar panels are required to generate this nonrenewable source of energy. Today, there are passive solar power sources that are capable of generating solar energy by strategically placing the solar home design in the windows. With this, solar energy is absorbed into the house to warm the home.

An active solar source, on the other hand, absorbs the sun’s radiation and transform it for electricity consumption or to warm water/air.

Smart Appliances

Appliances have never been smarter—you can save a lot of energy with electricity-saving refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers that are capable of delivering real-time data on power use. This function allows the appliance to adjust and optimize its operations to utilize as little electricity as possible.

Some even have computer systems integrated in them—an LG refrigerator, for instance, is capable of making an inventory of the refrigerated food to take note of expiration dates. With features like this, you can maximize the space inside the refrigerator and ultimately save on electricity costs.

Zero Energy Home

Without a doubt, the zero energy home is the ideal in green construction. The essence of net zero homes is its self-sustaining capability; it has renewable energy sources built into it, allowing the house to power itself.

Building Owners Want Green Buildings but not LEED Certification

The global economy may be weak, but that is not stopping homeowners and commercial building owners from putting up green buildings.

At least 51%, of companies said that their buildings will be certified as green in 3 years or by 2015. That is a 28% increase from 2012 and a 13% increase from 2009.

The main motive behind going green is not so much the preservation of the environment but the financial advantages of going green. With smart windows and LED light bulbs among a few other innovations in the green construction, the case for green buildings has just gotten a lot stronger.

According to McGraw Hill Construction’s Harvey Bernstein, “It’s a business decision.” While the main reason for going green three years ago was to save the environment, the prevailing reason now is to improve health and productivity of the occupants, to lower operating costs, and to meet the demands of the market.

Another shift in attitude according to another report is the number of building owners applying for LEED certification—arguably the largest certification body on green construction. In a recent survey of corporate executives by Turner Construction, 90% were into green buildings for eco-friendliness, 84% were in it for lowering maintenance costs and 74% were primarily motivated for improvement of indoor air quality. And yet, the number of these executives looking to certify their projects with LEED is just 48%–in contrast to 2010’s 53% and 2008’s 61%.

This is because many construction firms and building owners no longer believe in the necessity of LEED. Citing the difficulty of the application process and the fact that the entire industry is starting to go green, the role of LEED in the industry may be shrinking.

Ironic as it may sound, LEED may be losing its relevance just when it starts to reach its goal—to increase the number of green buildings.

Renewing US Green Building Council Membership

If you are thinking of renewing your membership in the US Green Building Council, you might want to factor in your decision the current changes in membership, which are about to take effect in October 1, 2012.

As of now, membership in the USGBC is limited to twelve categories: educational institutions, professional firms, and federal government among others. The yearly fee to be paid is based on the population, gross annual revenue, type, or base asset. The fee for manufacturers with revenues of over $10 billion is $300 to $12,500. There’s a variety of benefits that go with being a member, such as reduced fees for attending Greenbuild and other educational programs. Most importantly, being a national member means a discount on certification and registration fees for LEED-registered projects. This ultimately counts for a reduction of upfront LEED costs.

Now, the new membership reveals a structure in four levels: Organizational, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The fees for each level respectively are $300, $1500, $5,000,  and $20,000. The advantages vary depending on the level. For instance, by choosing to be “less committed” and being merely in the Organizational level, you no longer get discounts on your certification fees or registration fees. This will especially impact negatively small companies who are only members at the Organizational level. For years, small companies have formed the “backbone” of the USGBC program.

This change has been met with criticism online. The reason for the change, according to conclusions and assumptions derived from the web, is the fact that LEED has gone worldwide and no longer need the support of small companies that for years would be content with being a member at the Organizational level. Another reason might be to recruit new members as fast as possible before the cutoff at October 1, 2012.

Whatever the reason is, one thing is for sure, many building owners are not happy at all.

Green Occupancy Equals to Higher Rents and Lower Vacancy Rates

Tenants. Image Source: Premier Real Estate.

Does green occupancy really translate to higher rents and lower vacancy rates? This was a question that CBRE brokerage in San Diego looked into. CBRE investigated green buildings that have either a LEED certification or a Energy Star ratings. LEED Certification is a program certified by the US Green Building Council, where Energy Star ratings are rated by the US Energy Department.

The survey found that as of June 2012, green buildings were only 11.7% vacant. On the other hand, non-green buildings had an overall vacancy of 15.7%. The lease rates were also higher for green buildings, with an average of $2.42 US per square foot per month. Non-green buildings had an average of $2.04 US per square foot rate.

According to CBRE, “Green buildings continue to outperform non-green buildings in the San Diego market.” Majority if not all green buildings are also classified as Class and B—which are buildings that charge higher rent and are known to have the best amenities and are found in the best locations.

For Class A and B non-green buildings, there was only an 18-cent gap in the charges. That is a very small amount, considering the benefits that occupants stand to gain by renting in a Class A and B green building that is only 18 cents more expensive. Occupants of green buildings also enjoy their buildings more, as these buildings are more energy-efficient and have better amenities such as gyms and cafes.

Green buildings in San Diego are also gaining traction, as 18.3 million square feet out of 67.1 million square feet are considered green. Landlords have made it a point to upgrade their buildings with energy-efficient systems not just to provide comfort to tenants but also to lower operating costs in the long run.

More importantly, tenants are starting to demand green buildings. Norsteel understands just how valuable being part of the green movement is to both tenants and landlords.

The Benefits of Steel

At Norsteel, we pride ourselves for choosing only high quality steel that provides value, versatility and speed. There is no doubt about it: steel remains the best material for construction in the battleground of green buildings. There are several reasons why steel makes for the best green buildings:

1. Longevity

Steel manufacturers produce steel from metal by the tons on a daily basis and is even recyclable. Steel can essentially be remolded and reused. Its completely recyclable content means that it produces less waste compared to, say, wood. Steel can be renewed infinitely; as  a matter of fact, more steel is recycled daily than any other material such as paper, plastic or glass.

2. Construction speed

Steel is easy to handle and requires less space than buildings made of wood or concrete and can be constructed rapidly. Construction workers can quickly put together built-in panels without need of power tools. All materials, to note, are made of recyclable products. Norsteel is particularly an expert at prefabricated buildings that not only take fast to build but also perfectly fit to specifications.

3. Energy saver

In terms of saving energy, steel buildings are capable of delivering optimum results. Steel buildings have insulation within its steel walls and can easily include energy saving windows and doors, and solar energy powered units. In terms of heat reduction, the walls and roofing of steel buildings reflect the heat, thus ensuring that the interior is well-insulated.

4. Durability

In terms of durability, steel buildings don not require as much maintenance and repair as other types of buildings. With drywall mounted on the framing, the building endures less structural damage over time. Also, steel buildings are flexible and strong in comparison to concrete or wood. For example, it is resistant to rot and mold.

The Living Building Challenge

The US Green Building Council delayed its release of the new standards for LEED. According to USGBC, it will wait for the construction industry to absorb the proposed changes before subjecting them to the new standards. Two days after this announcement, a new alternative to green building standards won the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge: The Living Building Challenge.

The Living Building Challenge won the award for currently having the most stringent standards for green buildings in the world. Perhaps its most striking feature is its accreditation based on performance. Most environmental standards certify based on specifications and conformance to designs, but the Living Building Challenge does something entirely different. It certifies and accredits only after an occupancy of 12 months.

The Living Building Challenge takes into account 20 design “imperatives” spread among 7 categories: health, water, site, energy, social equity, beauty, and materials. In order to be certified, a building must conform to all these imperatives in a span of a year.

The program director, Amanda Sturgeon, says that the most difficult imperative out of the 20 is conforming to the Red List of materials. The list bans 14 materials, like PVC plastics and CFCs. The building owners must prove that these materials have not been used through supplier audits

According to Sturgeon, by requiring construction firms and building owners to collaborate with suppliers, the latter of which can confirm what materials are not healthy for the environment. This results in the message moving up the chain and manufacturers thereby become more transparent about construction materials.

Since it was established in 2006, the Living Building Challenge has only certified 3 buildings. Two have been partially certified. This has raised questions as to whether its certifications are feasible for building owners or something that only elites can conform to. Currently, around 140 projects across 8 countries are working to be certified by the Living Building Challenge.