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Construction News: Green building becoming the standard for construction
September 03, 2018
John O’Connor is an experienced director of preconstruction at Balfour Beatty with a demonstrated history of working in the construction industry. He holds a Bachelor of Science Civil Engineering degree focused in Civil Engineering from Michigan Technological University.
What are the benefits of green building?
Green building takes an approach that meshes building construction with the surrounding environment. When done correctly, the benefits can be recognized by those who occupy the building, in addition to owners responsible for the long-term operation and maintenance of the building. For end-users, benefits often include increased natural lighting that provides a healthier and more productive work environment. Natural lighting can also reduce operating costs for owners by reducing power consumption by artificial lighting.
How is green building related to smart growth and sustainable development?
Green building is the construction process to achieve smart growth and sustainable development. Designed to create environmentally friendly work and living spaces, the process promotes the efficient use of the available space, minimizes waste during the building process, and utilizes materials that reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Green building also considers the long-term function of buildings and how to maximize the surrounding environment by thoughtfully evaluating building orientation and minimizing the impact on the existing site and surrounding area. Simply evaluating a new structure’s orientation and its impact on the site can affect mechanical equipment efficiencies, electrical power needs and the natural drainage of the site.
What are the economic benefits of green or sustainable building and development?
By leveraging sustainable energy sources such as solar power or geothermal systems, economic benefits are inherent in green buildings which are more efficient and provide power to the grid. Green buildings promote the use of recycled materials like reclaimed wood, recycled steel and products that come from recycled materials. These environments also take into careful consideration the health of the end-users in regard to air quality and lighting, which in turn creates healthier and more productive living and work environments.
What are the major changes in your industry relating to green building?
Green building practices are becoming more of the standard for construction in the industry today. There are many benefits for building owners when it comes to lower O&M costs and investment values, although those benefits come with additional initial construction costs. The most notable changes we see are changes being made to building codes and local jurisdiction codes for building in large metropolitan areas.
What is the most significant challenge your industry faces relating to green building?
Education, understanding the requirements and helping the designers with constructability of the new systems. The next challenge is understanding what the owner’s ultimate goal is for their project.
Are green buildings more expensive to construct? Why?
Although the long-term O&M cost savings are well documented, green buildings are more expensive to build. Green buildings often require new and less available materials such as Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FCS) wood products. Green building systems may also require additional layers, whether it’s additional insulation in wall and roof systems or additional valves and controls to enhance mechanical systems. Also, commissioning costs to verify buildings have been constructed to meet the efficiency requirements to be designated a green building.
What are the cost increases relating to green building?
Ultimately the cost increase revolves around new, unknown processes and the requirement to prove the buildings achieve the green building designation. I believe as these new processes and systems are increasingly utilized, it will be understood they achieve green building standards and will not require the extreme cost of verification.
What is on the horizon for your industry?
I believe green building practices that save on O&M costs will continue to be more of a requirement than a choice in the future for developers and owners. Builders will have to be better informed of these changes in order to anticipate green-building trends that will affect the construction processes for their projects.
Have there been any significant code or regulation changes regarding green building?
Green building practices have certainly influenced changes to building codes. For instance, the electrical energy codes now require lighting control systems in institutional facilities like schools to reduce power consumption by shutting off lights when rooms are not in use or are unoccupied.
How are buildings certified as green in the U.S.?
Buildings in the United States are primarily certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® green building program. However, some major metropolitan municipalities like Dallas and Austin are adopting their own green building requirements as part of their building codes, but they do not provide certifications.
Balfour Beatty is a full-service general contractor with offices throughout the continental US.