As buildings are responsible for one-third of total energy use, raw materials use, waste output, and greenhouse gas emissions across the world, it is crucial to take conscious steps in limiting the environmental impacts made by buildings.
A recent online poll conducted by AsiaGreenBuildings revealed that majority of the votes feel the most important aspect is indeed energy efficiency (68.9%), followed by a tie between waste and water management (13.3%) and health (13.3%), with building materials being the least important aspect (4.4%).
AsiaGreenBuildings highlights the key importance of each aspect below and how each one has their own unique role in terms of a green building structure.
Net Zero Energy buildings taking off in Asia
With crude oil prices at record highs and carbon emissions are racing at an alarming rate across the globe, energy efficiency is prominently taken into account in building construction. A striking 68.9% votes on our website signifies the concurrence of the importance of this concept, moreover when many cases have confirmed that it indeed makes business sense.
As the concept develops, the Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) trend has emerged across the world, described as a building structure with 0 net energy consumption where the total amount of energy used on an annual basis is more or less equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
In Guangzhou, China, the Pearl River Tower is labelled as China’s greenest skyscraper and has obtained an LEED-CS Platinum certification (the highest certification of LEED, there is) as it is designed with the concept of NZEB. A series of well engineered green technologies to minimize energy usage include solar panels, double-glazing curtain walls, radiant ceiling cooling systems, ventilation air, and daylight responsive controls.
Some Asian countries have undergone certain incentives to promote energy efficiency in green buildings. Thailand, for instance, has one of the best green building incentives in Asia which is the Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund (EERF). With 294 projects carried under EERF, it is estimated that energy can be saved up to around 3721.6 GWh per year while also reducing carbon emissions to about 1 million tons CO2 per year.
The importance of water and waste management
Coming second on the score board of AsiaGreenBuildings’ poll is water and waste management in a green building structure (13.3% out of total votes). The waste generated through building activities can cause irrevocable damage to the environment and public health if not managed properly. These impacts can include harm to fish and wildlife populations, oxygen depletion, beach closures and contamination of drinking water.
Analysts have forecasted that during the period of 2014-2019, the global construction waste management market will grow at a CAGR of 9.67%. Heightened concerns about water management, in the light of increasing rate of urbanization, is also felt across the region. Vietnam, for instance, will need an investment of USD 8.3 billion by 2025 in order to provide the necessary wastewater services to its 36 million urban residents, according to World Bank.
Better water management also makes good business sense. A report titled “Indonesia’s Industrial Estates and Green Practices” published by Solidiance reveals that companies which have reused and recycled their water were able to decrease 10-15% from costs for purchasing new water. On average, 45 – 60% of waste water can be recycled from total water consumption, leading to a cut in production costs.
Public health gains from green buildings
Following the top two key aspects of green building, ‘health and wellbeing of occupants’ scores 13.3% out of total votes. Researchers have found that green buildings can improve the health, well-being and quality of life of building occupants – whether it be offices, homes, schools, hospitals, retail centres or industrial facilities.
In the World Green Building Council’s report, factors ranging from indoor air quality, thermal comfort to day lighting and lighting can affect the health, satisfaction, and job performance of office workers. As people are generally 90% of an organisation’s expense and well-exceed building costs and energy costs, any higher construction or occupation costs far outweigh by even small improvements in staff performance, leading to higher quality buildings that are sustainable, healthy and productive.
The WELL Building Standard is the world’s first building standard that measures, certifies and monitors the performance of building features that impact human health and well-being. As the WELL adoption rate increases across regions, productivity gains and health improvement in the built environment may also see a spike in the coming future.
The future green building materials
Another growing trend in today’s building construction is the use of renewable/natural materials and newfound technology aiming to curb buildings’ carbon emissions. This aspect scores the lowest in our poll, but the actual importance is by no means devalued.
Examples of renewable/natural materials common to many types of buildings include clay, sand, wood (timber), straw, rice-hulls, bamboo and stone, as well as recycled glass.
Solar window, on another hand, produces clean electricity as it is designed to mainly operate in sunlight, shaded conditions, and artificial light on the glass surfaces of buildings.
Furthermore, other major innovations in green building materials may change the way builders construct buildings, such as green cement (e.g. the Ferrock, a cement type that curbs carbon emissions through diffusion), wood foam insulation, and recycled floor coverings – all of which can be alternatives to their conventional counterparts.
Increased ecological concern and climate change have prompted research and development for affordable, quality products that reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. Over time as the industry develops, demands increase, new technologies are more affordable and widely adopted, and a greener future may indeed be realized. (AGB.com – NA)