Seeking information on green buildings


in Economics, The environment

While this site has seen a lot of discussion of electricity generation, vehicles, and fossil fuels there has been less discussion of ways in which low-carbon buildings can be encouraged. I would be quite interested if people could provide book or article suggestions on any of the following:

  • Materials
  • Certification standards like LEED
  • Lighting
  • Heating and cooling
  • Appliances and smart metering
  • Zoning and urban design
  • Cogeneration of heat and power
  • District heating
  • Cooling using bodies of water, as in Toronto
  • Green designs and construction techniques
  • Retrofits to improve efficiency
  • Solar water heating
  • Distributed electricity generation
  • Policies to encourage green buildings, such as financial incentives

And anything else relating to the sector.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

BuddyRich March 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

Look up anything by Bill (William) Kemp, quite the pioneer in living off the grid and self-sufficiency, and a local Ottawan as well, so he gives lectures here. He was at the Eco-Fair in 2007 and I think at either the Writer’s fest or the Ideas fest in 2008. The eco-fair would also be a good place to start as well (formerly the eco-stewardship fair)

and Bill Kemp books (particularily The Renewable Energy Handbook, which is the authoritative guide to living off the grid-just wish he would update it for 2009 tech, it was written in 2005):

Some good software for planning and evaluating different energt usages at a potential site based on different technologies is available for free

It was developed by Natural Resources Canada so its Canadian data is good. It is fairly complex for what amounts to a fancy spreadsheet, but I was only using it to plan a site for solar power to look into living off the grid…

And if I can think of it there was a site for an online magazine that was all about living off the grid and home electricity generation. Great tips but it was more southern and western US centric so of limited to use of someone living in Canada.

Milan March 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Thanks a lot for the links and information.

If I find other useful things, I will post a note about them here.

. March 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Sustainable development

Building management systems/intelligent buildings
Building services
Building structure
Building surveying
Building systems/frame
Building types

. April 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Empire State Building to go LEED Gold, cut energy costs 38%

An alliance that includes the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), Johnson Controls, Rocky Mountain Institute, and Jones Lang LaSalle — has come together to green the world’s most famous office building. By 2013, a team of experts assembled by these organizations aims to reduce the Empire State Building’s energy consumption by 38 per cent, and save its tenants $4.4 million per year in avoided energy costs.

. May 9, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Vancouver and BC Lead by Example on Energy Incentives
Posted by Roger Valdez
05/08/2009 07:30 AM

It’s cute, but it also shows just how involved these audits can be. At about 5:40 you’ll hear the consultant talk about the incentives which are tied to subsequent audits to measure the improvements’ efficiency. So in order to receive a benefit from the government the improvements must show some actual savings. Some incentives come from the Canadian government and some from the BC Provincial government. It sounds like a lot of work for a homeowner to track all the documentation. But given the possible payoff and savings it could be worth it.

On the other hand, the website’s condo and rental section doesn’t advertise any incentives but instead offers a lot of encouragement about how to reduce energy use both in individual units and buildings (and a special note about the dangers of decorative fireplaces). Again, as in Portland’s program, the emphasis seems to be on incentives for single family homes, not landlords or businesses.

With that in mind, I am keeping an eye out for any programs in BC that have addressed the split incentives problem in a unique way. But so far it seems like BC is doing a great job leading homeowners to making investments but like many cities, is struggling with incentives for efficiencies for multi-unit housing.

. May 11, 2009 at 10:28 am

Canada’s Largest Green Roof

Julia Levitt
April 13, 2009 8:48 PM

You know an innovation has hit its stride when it becomes scalable. When we first started writing about green roofs, they were typically boutique projects—and convincing city governments and developers to invest in their large scale production seemed like a major challenge. But decision-makers have gotten the message, and green roof design has risen to the occasion. Case in point: the new Vancouver Convention Centre, a major civic project which officially opened this past weekend, boasts the largest non-industrial roof in North America.

The six-acre rooftop garden is crafted as a habitat for the 400,000 native plants and grasses growing there, as well as for birds and bugs (it houses hives for 60,000 bees).

. May 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Power Smart Green Guides

There are many opportunities to save energy and save money in your home or business. Check out our Green Guides for in-depth tips and related information to make the right choices and start you on the path to energy efficiency.

. July 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Unlike your standard brew cooler, however, the big block of ice inside the Ice Bear is not what cools the building’s air. Not directly, at least.

During off-peak hours when electricity rates are at their lowest, the Ice Bear acts like a normal air conditioner and uses its compressor to cool refrigerant that in turn cools the air blowing into a building. What also happens overnight is the unit re-freezes water that had melted off the huge 200 kilograms cubes of ice. During the day when electricity rates are at their highest, the Ice Bear turns off its compressor and uses the ice to cool the refrigerant.

The result is an air conditioning system that uses about 300 watts – the equivalent of five or six light bulbs – rather than a traditional system that uses 6,000 watts.

But at a price tag of $8,500, businesses may ask themselves just how much a green image is worth.

. October 12, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Home front

Oct 12th 2009
In praise of insulation and thermostats

A DELUGE of information, computer modelling, policy suggestions and rhetoric is swamping the mind—and desk—of your correspondent in the run-up to the climate-change talks taking place in Copenhagen in December. But the simple message contained in one report is so stark that it caught his attention. On October 7th the International Energy Agency released an excerpt of its “World Energy Outlook 2009” that highlights the difference individuals can make.

The excerpt addresses the agency’s “450 scenario”—its view on the stable atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (450 parts per million) that will halt climate change—and looks at a range of potential contributions to cuts in emissions that could be made by producing power differently and using energy more efficiently. The effects of these different technologies and strategies are popularly called “wedges”, because a graph showing how they effect carbon emissions over time is invariably wedge-shaped.

Stack up a lot of these wedges and out comes a chart showing the best- and worst-case scenarios: a stack of different coloured wedges showing where emissions would end up if people did nothing, sitting on a mountain shape at the bottom that shows what would happen if the potential cuts in emissions— currently figments of the hopeful imaginations of renewable-energy engineers and climate-change-policy campaigners—actually materialised. The new report provides just such a chart, and it presents a striking finding.

. October 22, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Harrabin’s Notes: Green tower

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin reports on the tower block under construction in China which could lead the way in green building technology.

Rising high through the polluted air of Guangzhou City in southern China is a 71-storey tower block which, according to its designers, will be the most energy-efficient in the world.

Among a host of features designed either to make or save energy, the one that caught my eye was the shape of the Pearl River Tower itself.

It is built in a curve, facing the prevailing winds. And it has been deliberately sculpted to increase the speed of that wind and force it through slots in the building where wind turbines will be located.

Now, on many buildings, wind turbines are a waste of space because there’s so much turbulence in cities. I heard an apocryphal story about a Japanese firm that installed a turbine which needed electric power to keep it turning to save the face of its would-be-green owners.

. January 20, 2010 at 9:48 am

Buildings threaten UK emission targets, report says

UK targets for cutting carbon emissions by 2050 will not be met without radical changes to the engineering of buildings, a report says.

One of the study’s authors criticised the government’s “woeful track record on setting ill-considered targets”.

The Royal Academy of Engineering report lays out a groundwork for reducing the environmental impact of new buildings as well as refurbishment of old ones.

It added there was a serious skills gap in the sector that could grow worse.

Current regulations hold that new homes should be “zero-carbon” by 2016, and all other new build should reach that target by 2020.

However, the Engineering a Low Carbon Built Environment report asserts that the principles that could be applied to drastically reduce energy consumption are simply not being used.

. April 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm

“A lot has been made of the city’s attempts to green its buildings, which suck up the lion’s share of Toronto’s energy consumption. But they don’t go nearly far enough, he insists. And the problem isn’t the city’s huge supply of old, crumbling towers: It’s the shiny new buildings going up we should be worried about.

To a degree, Toronto’s hands are tied when it comes to messing with Ontario’s building code. But the key to greener buildings, Prof. Harvey insists, is bringing in laws with teeth.

What should we be doing?

We suffer from brain-dead building design. We’re building all-glass condominiums, all-glass office buildings. The office buildings are hermetically sealed – they have entire glazing sections facing west with no external shading devices. These buildings are uninhabitable without massive air-conditioning systems. … It’s really pointless to do anything else until you address this issue. I say you’ve got it all backwards. And the problem is, these buildings we’re stuck with for 50, 100, I don’t know how many years. I mean, even a coal power plant is only going to last 40 years. A brain-dead building – and that’s almost all we’re building – is going to last 100 years.”

. April 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Apart from the glass, what is the problem?

They’re hermetically sealed, they don’t have shading. If you want an all-glass building, okay, you should have adjustable, external shading at least on the west side. On the south side you can have a fixed overhang because in the summer the sun is high enough that you can shade it. You need adjustable shading and to protect it from the wind and the elements you need a second glazing over top. … If you’re going to design with nature, the four sides of the building are probably not going to look the same.

We thought we’d be really cute at the University of Toronto and put in a building with a double-skinned facade but since we wanted everyone to see it and we could only afford one side, we put it on the south side. It doesn’t do very much. On the west is where you need it. So you look at this building, this centre for cellular biology and research on College Street, and it’s a joke. I mean it’s a gesture towards green and sustainability but it’s done all wrong. Go inside it and go walk along the west side on an afternoon day – the west side is all glazing and hermetically sealed.

. March 18, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Lastly, the crisis highlighted what should have been obvious all along: that some types of properties are more resilient in the face of an economic downturn than others. The big example is the polarised performance of prime and secondary assets. But there are other, less glaring ones. Greenery had a good war. Buildings account for 30-40% of carbon emissions in industrial countries, and according to Colin Dyer, the boss of JLL, interest in energy-efficient properties did not diminish during the downturn. The Empire State Building is the flagbearer for the trend: the iconic New York skyscraper is in the finishing stages of a retrofit that will cut its emissions by almost 40%.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: