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Green Building and Sustainability Explained

Blog post   •   May 15, 2015 13:31 +08

According to Asia Green Buildings, green building takes into account "the entire life cycle of the building from the design, construction and operation of the building". The United States Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), goes on to state that a green building "is also known as a sustainable or high performance building."

The purpose of green building is to:

  • Efficiently use energy, water, and other resources;
  • Protect occupant health and improve employee productivity; and
  • Reduce waste, pollution and environmental degradation

John Clark, CEO of Universal Building Network Inc. believes that sustainability is a key aspect of green building. Clark defines sustainability as "the concept of repetition meaning being able to be used or performed again and again without depleting the resource". By his definition, green building is synonymous with "environmentally friendly" and sustainability and durability are two categories of environmentally friendly design.

Eco-architect Jason Pomeroy adds another dimension to sustainability, stating that it "embraces culture and tradition, technology and space preservation to create built environments that are sensitive to the surrounding ecology, use less energy and are pleasant, accessible places to live and work".

Simple sustainability solutions for the home

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Green building begins at the design stage, but a building can be made more sustainable without major renovations. The U.S. Green Building Council outlines nine ways to make a home more energy efficient. Many of these techniques can be applied to the warmer Southeast Asian climate:

  1. Insulation provides a barrier between the hot sun and a building's interior. Special attention should be paid to the roof and walls that face the sun.
  2. Replacing windows with double-glazed and/or low-e glass windows will greatly reduce heat transference into a building and help reduce air conditioning costs.
  3. Planting shade trees and bushes near walls that receive direct sunlight will shield the walls from infrared radiation.
  4. Improve the efficiency of your hot water system by replacing a conventional electric or gas storage system with a more energy efficient system. Solar water heaters and heat pump water heaters, for example, can significantly reduce energy consumption.

Not mentioned by the EPA, but important in Southeast Asia's tropical climate, is ventilation. Natural cross ventilation and other passive ventilation strategies can increase comfort levels in the home and reduce air conditioning costs.

Large-scale green building strategies

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Larger scale office and commercial projects were the pioneer adopters of green building concepts in Southeast Asia. The Pusat Tenaga Malaysia Zero Energy Office is one of the first office buildings in Southeast Asia to achieve "net zero" carbon emissions. Some ways it accomplished this include the installation of:

  1. An energy efficient building envelope
  2. Double-glazed windows to reduce heat gain but provide natural light
  3. Energy efficient office equipment
  4. A wet/trickling water night cooling roof
  5. Concrete slab thermal cooling and storage
  6. Natural lighting using integrated blinds and light shelves

Pusat Tenaga Malaysia inspired larger projects that followed. An example is the eight blocks of the Horizon office towers in Bangsar South. All of the eight blocks were awarded Malaysia's Green Building Index (GBI) Gold provisional certificate in 2011 based on six criteria:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Indoor environment quality
  3. Sustainable site planning and management
  4. Material and resources
  5. Water efficiency
  6. Innovation

A number of joint venture developments in Malaysia are also seeking or have received GBI certification.

While not entirely synonymous, green building and sustainability go hand-in-hand. Making the transition to greener, more sustainable living does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavour. Every step you take towards making your home or office more sustainable will reduce your environmental footprint and improve your lifestyle.

[Image Source: Flickr]