Success of Green Engineering
“Green” or “sustainable” buildings have gained momentum over the past years
and have been a source of controversy. Some politicians believe these buildings are a
waste of resources while most environmentalists believe that the design and functionality
of these buildings can achieve dramatic economical growth. While most of these
buildings cost is relatively high to start off with, the end result will save money and
energy and increase production. In a case study in Pennsylvania, the building reduced
energy costs by 30% and increased productivity by 25% (Ries 2006). These sustainable
buildings are designed to benefit a huge range of people from the student, to the worker,
to the CEO of a company, to the governor of the city. Green buildings, brought to the full
potential, not only put money back into taxpayer’s pockets by saving on energy costs but
also help improve conditions to workers through better air quality, better lighting, and
better atmosphere of working.
The Green Buildings are productive in large part because of the Indoor
Environmental Quality (IEQ) and the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). These two qualities in
the building itself have huge impacts on the productivity of workers. A study of workers
in the state California shows that around 54% of all employees over 18 work indoors and
54% of them work in a small office or classroom (KATS 2003). These facts show how
many people are affected by the IEQ in the workplace. The IEQ in a Green Building will
determine if a building will increase or decrease productivity, the better the quality the
better the production of workers. IEQ is represented by right amounts of lighting, better
air flow speed and ventilation (including smoke-free workplaces or ‘smoking rooms’),
humidity and temperature. In 2003, the ‘Castcon Stone’ building in Pennsylvania is an
example of a non-efficient building upgraded to meet the standards of the Green
Building. This building was tested and surveyed to see if the newly acquired system of
the IEQ was productive. The results show that the productivity after a steady decline in
the years before the upgrade, increased from 167 lbs/hour in 2003 to 272 lbs/hour in 2005
(Ries 2006). That is more than a 60% increase in productivity in those years.
The money paid to employees in California account for 89% of the total cost of
running a business (KATS 2003). This amount is very significant in that the decrease in
sick days taken by employees will result in significant gains in the net profit for the
organization. To reduce the days that the employees are sick would mean better air
quality, which is in essence an investment, which will reap benefits if successful. The
surveys taken by employees showed that coughs, headaches, and irritations all dropped in
the study of Castcon Stone.
Another important factor in the IEQ process is the lighting. Employees in the
Castcon building were more satisfied with the visual comfort in the new building. They
also said that the visual comfort enhanced their ability to work more efficiently (Ries
2006). A recent study done by the Heschong Mahone Group shows that schools with
more daylight in classrooms produced a faster learning in math by 20% and in reading
26% faster (Katz 2003). Lighting is a main ingredient in Indoor Air Quality. With better
lighting, employees work quickly and stay focused longer than in the poorer quality
workplaces. All of these contribute to a major increase in productivity.
Energy conservation is another strong point of the Green Buildings. On average
Green Buildings use 30% less energy than regular buildings (Katz 2003). That is a
reduction of $44,000 in a 100,000 square foot building on average per year. If each
building did this in a particular city, that city would save millions every year in energy
costs alone. Green Buildings can also reuse the energy on the jobsite whereas the normal
buildings do not reuse their energy and loose more energy due to factors such as poor
insulation and poor ventilation. The Pennsylvania example of the newly built green
building shows that yearly energy consumption (diesel, natural gas, gasoline, and
electricity) went from 17 billion to 25 billion, while the square footage went from 17,000
to 37,000, leaving us with a decline from 1,000,623 BTU/square foot to 675,712
BTU/square foot (Ries 2006). This energy conservation is a huge success of the Green
Buildings when done correctly.
Depending on the size of the project, the process of Green development costs a lot
of money initially. Many argue that this initial price is to great and should be avoided at
all costs. In the case of the Castcon building it cost around 5 million dollars. This cost
includes the cost of meeting the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design)
codes. One of the main rules of Green Engineering is that they try to use all natural
elements including wood and natural ingredients. These substances cost significantly
more then what the normal building are made of, increasing the total price of a Green
Building even higher. An example of a specific wood used would be TimberSIL.
“TimberSIL is a sodium silicate-based pressure treatment system for wood that relies on
a mineralization process rather than toxins to prevent infestations and decay” by Wilson
(2005). This wood is guaranteed to last 40 years indoors and TimberSIL Plus is
guaranteed 40 years outdoors. This particular type of treated wood cost significantly
more than the regular wood used in normal buildings. Although the price of the minerals
and products are significant, Green Engineers consider it to be a worthwhile investment
in our resources. It may seem like it costs a lot but it is needed to save millions every year
in energy. The amount put into the project is always less than the amount received in the
end when it comes to Green Buildings. That is unless the resources are used poorly.
Scott Chrisner, of the U.S. Green Building Council, speaking on the New Jersey
Green movement, says, “[Green building] doesn't have to be so demanding…If anybody
comes to you and says, ‘Green building costs too much,’ they're doing it wrong. It doesn't
have to cost a penny more. And you can do it with an integrated approach that raises the
performance of the building and stays within the same budget. That's the key.” (Saliba
2006). Many argue that the cost is too much, in a way they are right but it can be
prevented. Anything can ‘cost too much’ if it is not made in the most efficient manner
possible. Green buildings can be built efficiently though; therefore they will not cause a
loss in profit.
Many people speculate that Green Buildings are a waste of resources because they
do not work. The reasoning behind the failings in engineering these buildings comes from
lack of understanding of the resources. This can be dangerous and can cause what are
known as ‘sick buildings.’ Sick buildings are the example of buildings gone wrong due to
lack of understanding and efficiency. They can have very negative effects to people’s
health. For instance, if a vent is not circulating air properly, or if it is too close to the
expulsion of pollution, it may be keeping harmful air inside the building and feeding it
into the building. In the idea of efficient buildings we use natural products, but if
wrong resources are used due to lack of knowledge then the buildings are not durable and
they may cause problems. Mold is a problem and some natural resources induce
moisture build up creating mold. These materials are to be tested first and not to be used.
These problems are easily solved though, through in depth research and analysis.
Another way Green Buildings can go awry is not because of the design but
because of the controls. Lighting, temperature, humidity and HVAC settings or controls
need to be monitored. Lack of understanding in this area can also cause malfunction and
inefficiency in the procedure. These malfunctions include but are not limited to: Improper
location of sensors, incorrect programming, and adjustment problems (Lstiburek 2002).
These controls need to be monitored daily to ensure maximum efficiency.
The revolutionary advancement of Green Engineering is just the tip of the iceberg
of what is to come. Green Buildings are gaining steam and cities are even mandating this
new technological advancement. In the future we may see buildings becoming so energy
efficient that it may increase the average life span and have serious health benefits. There
is little room for error in controlling and designing Green Buildings. But if they are
produced with right knowledge and carefully planned out, sustainable buildings will
produce huge economic success in years to come.