What are the Environmental Advantages of Building Green?

According to the United Nations (UN), the building sector has the “most potential for delivering significant and cost-effective GHG (greenhouse gas) emission reductions.”

Specifically, the UN says that buildings can cut a staggering 84 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050 (that’s 84,000,000,000 tons).

So the focus on constructing ‘green’ buildings is certainly well placed. But as a building owner, you might be wondering if the environmental advantages align with your needs.

Sure, in an ideal world you would always build green but is that a feasible approach and will it at least give me a positive return-on-investment (ROI)?

Well, here are 3 dual environmental and business advantages of building green:

1. Energy Savings

According to a joint study by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), green-certified buildings generated energy savings of 40-50% and water savings of 20-30% in India.

For building owners, these savings translate into lower lifecycle operating costs for the building and, in turn, lower utility costs for occupants.

In fact, in Canada, 82% of owners reported decreases in energy usage thanks to green building design. These savings let you to improve your competitiveness by cutting costs and, if you pass those savings to occupants, elevate your building’s attractiveness.

According to Dodge Data & Analytics, green building owners — newly built and retrofitted projects alike — reported a 7% increase in value in their buildings compared to non-green buildings. In effect, going green offers a positive ROI.

2. Occupant Comfort

There’s little value in a building that fails to keep its occupants comfortable. Be it quality of life or office productivity, discomfort is cause for leaving.

Fortunately, the environmental advantages of green buildings positively impact occupant comfort in three core areas: thermal, visual, and acoustic.

Thermal Comfort

Returning to the joint WGBC-IGBC study, on average 80% of occupants reported being thermally comfortable in green-certified buildings.

Occupant Thermal Satisfaction

Occupant Thermal Satisfaction(Source: IGBC)

This means that the occupants didn’t feel cold in the winters nor hot in the summers.

For offices, thermal comfort maintains productivity by ensuring that workers are not distracted by the temperature. In homes, thermal comfort is a positive quality of life attribute, ensuring that people are comfortable and want to stay.

A proper heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system plays a central role in providing thermal comfort. For example, an Underfloor Air Distribution (UFAD) system is energy efficient because its air diffuser vents are closer to the occupant.

But UFAD also offers better thermal comfort by pushing hot hair from the ground, which naturally rises, delivering it to occupants more evenly and efficiently compared to overhead air distribution.

For More on Green Building Design and Construction Trends, Read:

Visual Comfort

Green buildings generally make greater use of sunlight for internal lighting, thus reducing the reliance on electrical lighting. But this has the risk of insufficient lighting and glare.

Interestingly, green building designers have managed to produce designs that actually result in strong occupant satisfaction — i.e., 72% — with lighting. Likewise, 89% of their occupants reported that glare wasn’t a problem.

Occupant Satisfaction with Lighting in Green Buildings

Occupant Satisfaction with Lighting in Green BuildingsSource: IGBC


Occupant Satisfaction about Glare in Green Buildings

Occupant Satisfaction about Glare in Green BuildingsSource: IGBC

These are important metrics for office buildings. The ‘right’ lighting at work can help mitigate a spate of issues ranging from grogginess to lethargy, lack of concentration, and fatigue. Natural light is among the features businesses seek for their offices.

Similarly, raised access floors (RAF) help with increasing natural lighting by factoring out the need for suspended ceilings to house piping and wires. This results in room for larger windows.

Acoustic Comfort

In the WGBC-IGBC study cited earlier, 78% of green certified building occupants said they were satisfied with the acoustic levels of their building. Moreover, 61% said there were no noise distractions, and only 4% said they were distracted by traffic noise.

Occupants Satisfied with Acoustic Levels in Green Buildings

Occupants Satisfied with Acoustic Levels in Green BuildingsOccupants Not Distracted by Noise in Green Buildings

Occupants Not Distracted by Noise in Green BuildingsOnce more, HVAC plays an important role in controlling acoustics in green buildings. In UFAD systems, air diffusers are in the floor (nearest to the occupant), which requires less ventilation and fan speed and, in turn, generates less noise. It also uses less energy.

See How UFAD Lets Buildings Cut
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3. Fewer Materials

Existing building construction methods are heavily resource-intensive and result in the waste of millions of tons of material every year.

However, green buildings require fewer construction resources.

According to GreenBiz, buildings adhering to the standards set under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “resulted in over 80 million tons of waste diverted from landfills, which is expected to grow to over 540 million tons by 2030.”

For building owners, following green building standards such as LEED presents a major opportunity in reducing supply/material costs upfront and through the long-term.

Going green offers dual benefits of reducing costs and raising value. The latter comes in the form of delivering comfort to occupants and, in turn, fuels occupancy rates and the overall value of the building. Thus, investing in technologies such as UFAD and RAF, will not only provide a ‘return’ to the environment but you as well.

If you are planning to build a LEED-certified building or retrofit an existing building to attain LEED, speak to AirFixture today to see how our next-generation UFAD HVAC solutions will equip you to reach your project goals.