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August 19, 2009 @ 1:37 pm
Dueling 6 Star Green Buildings in Melbourne

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The Council House 2 building (CH2) in Melbourne was anointed the greenest building in Australia when it became the first to receive 6 stars (in 2005) from Green Building Council Australia’s (GBCA) Green Star rating system. By my count, there are now 18 6 Star buildings in Australia. Impressively, 11% of Australia’s central business district commercial office buildings are Green Star certified which I would imagine compares very favorably to other countries – I’ll have to research it to find out for sure.

The scale has three rating levels; 4 Star, 5 Star and 6 Star, and points are obtained from 9 categories: Management, Indoor Environment Quality, Energy, Transport, Water, Materials, Land Use & Ecology, Emissions and Innovation. According to GBCA the 6 Star rating signifies “world leadership in environmental sustainability.” In meeting this standard, CH2 and Melbourne’s latest 6 Star entrant, the Melbourne Convention Centre (MCC) have some very impressive features.

CH2
ch2A 10-story city government office building opened in 2006, CH2 features photovoltaic cells, chilled ceilings, a co-generation plant and blackwater sewage recycling systems amongst other things. The whole project cost a shade over A$51 million, A$11.3 million of which went to sustainability features that are expected to have a 6 year payback from energy and resource cost savings.

  • Solar cells provide 60% of the building’s hot water supply
  • The chilled ceilings are part of an innovative cooling system that is much more efficient and more comfortable for building occupants than traditional airflow systems
  • The gas-fired co-gen plant will provide 40% of building’s electricity with much lower relative carbon emissions

Maybe the two most interesting features from my perspective are the “shower towers” that mimic ant-holes for cooling purposes while sprinkling water on passersby and the beautiful recycled timber shades pictured above that provide passive cooling to the sunny westside of the building while still letting in light if need be. Significantly more details about all of CH2’s innovations can be found here. Click “read more” and continue reading about the Melbourne Convention Centre.

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August 15, 2009 @ 1:35 pm
Geothermal Heat Pumps Save Energy and Suction Taxes

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Geothermal heat pumps (aka GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source or water-source heat pumps) are a remarkable, yet simple green technology that has been around for about 60 years. Anyone that’s visited a cave to see stalactites/stalagmites or do some rugged camping will remember the constant temperature that is cooler in summer and warmer in winter than at the surface. The ground is an efficient insulator, and depending on latitude, underground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C) year-round despite seasonal extremes at the surface. Heat pumps are able to take advantage of these temperature gradients for heating and cooling purposes, but how?

There is a detailed explanation here, I will summarize. Traditional heat pumps transfer heat utilizing a refrigerant that is acted on by an exchange medium (air in a standard A/C unit or liquid in a geothermal heat pump). The refrigerant absorbs heat and is compressed into a high temperature, high pressure liquid for heating purposes or allowed to expand into a low temperature, low pressure gas for cooling purposes. In winter, heat pumps pull heat from the air to be circulated in the home and during summer they take heat from inside and push it into the air. Significant amounts of electricity are used in this process because temperature extremes need to be overcome and air is an inefficient heat transfer medium. On the other hand, the liquid water or antifreeze solution of geothermal heat pumps is 30% more efficient than air. In summer, heat is pulled from the building and deposited in the much cooler earth very efficiently. In winter, the constant, relatively warm temperature of the earth provides much more than heat than the air so much less compression (and therefore less energy consumption) is needed vs. a conventional system. 

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In fact, according to U.S. Department of Energy studies, geothermal provides system efficiencies of 300-600% on the coldest winter nights while air-source systems can reach only 175-250%. Integrated systems can handle all of your heating, cooling and hot water needs year-round. The result is significant energy savings over your current costs of electricity, heating oil, etc. While installation of geothermal systems costs more upfront, these energy savings cover the additional costs over 5-10 years. 50,000 units are now installed annually in the U.S. alone. The benefits outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are listed below: Read More…

August 11, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 2)

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Yesterday in part 1, I talked about the tax incentive provided for green roof construction in NYC. Today I will touch on a variety of other existing and proposed programs around the U.S.A. This is likely not an exhaustive list so feel free to comment and provide links to additional information. I discussed Toronto’s program in this previous post.

Existing Programs 

Chicago: Developments with green roofs receive fast track permitting and the city provides a number of favorable financing options. A grant program offers up to 50% of the cost or $100,000, whichever is greater and the green roof must cover 50% of the net roof area of the building.

greenroof-cityhall

Los Angeles: Beginning on July 1, 2002, all City of Los Angeles building projects 7,500 ft2 (700 m2) or larger were required to meet LEED “Certified” standards. Green roofs can contribute several LEED points.  

Minneapolis: They charge stormwater usage fees to commercial and residential property owners based the amount of impervious surface area on the building. However, buildings that improve stormwater management, such as by installing a green roof, receive a 50% credit against these fees.

Philadelphia: Provides “a credit against the Business Privilege Tax of 25% of all costs actually incurred to construct the Green Roof, provided that the total credit shall not exceed $100,000.” The green roof must cover 50% of the rooftop or 75% of eligible rooftop space. Read More…

August 10, 2009 @ 10:58 am
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 1)

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I’m not even talking about the energy savings, cost savings and environmental benefits though. I’ve talked about these advantages on my products page but now I’m going to focus on tax credits. A number of places have mandated green roofs under certain circumstances; Toronto, Tokyo and Switzerland to name a few. Another approach that’s often more agreeable to building owners and developers is the voluntary opportunity to receive tax credits.

The program I’m most familiar with and closest to home is the New York State incentive passed by the state legislature last year. It offers building owners in New York state cities with a population of one-million plus (i.e. New York City only) a tax credit equal to $4.50 per ft2 when they install a green roof. Generally, this would cover about 25% of the costs (materials, labor, installation and design) associated with building a green roof. The one-year property tax credit is capped at $100,000 and the green roof must have at least two inches of growing media and cover at least 50 per cent of available rooftop space.

greenroof-skyline
According to comments from Storm Water Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) in this article, “the environmental benefits of the legislation are measurable. Each 10,000 square foot green roof, for instance, can capture between 6,000 and 12,000 gallons of water in each storm event, the evaporation of which will produce the equivalent of between a thousand and two thousand tons of air conditioning — enough heat removal to noticeably cool 10 acres of the city.”

Just think what it would be like if all rooftops supplemented the green space in New York or your city. Despite its massive size and positioning as the heart and lungs of New York City, Central Park only covers 843 acres or 1.32 mi2 (3.4 km2). Meanwhile, Manhattan contains over 950,000 buildings spread over the island’s 22.96 mi2 (59.5 km2). Certainly streets, parks and other non-roof structures take up some space but all those roofs could create a network of green space that is multiples of Central Park’s size.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight other green roof incentive plans.

Photo: 416style via Flickr

August 7, 2009 @ 10:37 am
Malaysia Focus Part 2: GTower – First Internationally Recognized Green Building

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gtower

Now leasing, GTower on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is the first Malaysian building to receive an international green certification. Singapore’s Building & Construction Authority has given it provisional status as a Green Mark Gold rated building. The building is a 30-story twin tower owned by Goldis Berhad (Goldis) and was built at an estimated cost of RM470 million ($134 million). It is a mixed-use development containing a 180-room 5-star hotel, 100,000 ft2 of general office space, another ~400,000 ft2 spread amongst 112 CEO duplex suites and numerous meeting rooms. Additionally, there is a private club, lobby bar/café, rooftop bar, other food & beverage outlets and a wellness floor with gym, yoga, spa and pool facilities.

The building is designed to maximize energy and water efficiency. According to Colin Ng, Head of Corporate Investment at Goldis, energy efficient building systems will cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60% (Source: The Green Channel). The IT infrastructure alone is expected to produce 30% energy savings. They installed 3Com’s Intelligent Building Solutions (3CiBS) products which combine state of the art hardware and software that optimize network capacity while reducing power consumption and carbon emissions.

After construction began, Goldis brought on a consultant to implement green features. This Architecture Malaysia article provides more details. Five areas were addressed with a multitude of technologies and installations: Read More…

July 14, 2009 @ 12:06 am
GreenBldgBlog.com is 130% Wind Powered

You may have noticed the Host Gator advertising banners on the site. I’m proud to display them because they’ve focused on reducing their environmental impact and I’m one of their many satisfied customers. The environmental efforts began with green renovations and more efficient servers and now all of their servers are 130% wind powered! Yes, you read that correctly. Host Gator has actually purchased renewable energy wind credits representing 130% of the electricity used to both power and cool every single one of their servers. The wind credits are generated in their home state of Texas and according to their website, the environmental benefit is equivalent to 1) Removing 444 cars from the road for a year, or 2) Powering 321 homes with clean energy for a year, or 3) Saving 5,654 barrels of oil, or 4) Protecting 551 acres of forest for a year.

hostgator_cartoon

Data centers are an incredibly energy intensive business and a significant contributor to the world’s carbon emissions.
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