By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Bonn
They account for around 35% of energy consumption globally, a similar proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being huge users of water, material and generators of waste, so without green buildings we cannot have green cities.
But achieving the green building of the future does not have to be a difficult or a costly process. Speaking to RTCC at the ICLEI Resilient Cities conference 2012, Jason Hartke from the US Green Building Council explained how building with the environment in mind doesn’t have to be expensive.
“We know right now without having to cost a penny more we could create, build and operate buildings that reduce energy by around 30%, that reduce water by about 40%, that use more environmentally friendly products and that also start to apply the technologies of clean energy,” he explains.
In fact Hartke believes that the move to a more sustainable built environment could save $1 trillion by 2020 through green buildings – particularly through the retrofit market and the US Green Building Council believe as much as $554 billion could be contributed to the US GDP between 2009 and 2013 by the green building industry.
This also creates new jobs within all of the sectors and industries involved in buildings and construction, as well as new skills for all those already working in the area.
“We now have 200,000 LEED accredited professionals (which is professional credentialing programme),” said Hartke. “What we are seeing is that two thirds of architects and engineers in the US have some green building experience or credentials, which is profound.”
RTCC Video: US Green Building Council’s Jason Hartke talks to RTCC about the potential for jobs and skills through green building accreditation and what the green building of the future will look like…
While Hartke is confident that a truly sustainable building could exist in the future – with some buildings in the US already reducing energy by 70 to 80% and that we could almost see future buildings being regenerative buildings that give back to the environment, he warns that it is important for the industry to work on overlapping areas and ensure buildings are hitting multiple values.
Considering the energy use of a building is important, said Hartke, but this then needs to be combined with water use, air quality and how a building is lived in.
“You have to balance energy, you have to balance water, you have to balance daylight and indoor air quality, and all those things together make the perfect green building,” he said.
“The building is getting more complex and more sophisticated – which also means that in our understanding and management of that building we need to be more sophisticated,” he added.
“Also the systems of buildings. How does the building relate to other buildings around it? How does the building relate to the neighbourhood? Can you be a green building if you are not near public transportation?
“So those things once again need to be balanced to meet the needs of not only the smart building but [also how it] connects to a smart grid. All those I see as accelerants, they accelerate the opportunity of not only the building, but also the neighbourhood and then also the city.”
With China set to build the equivalent of the entire US building stock in the next ten years, the opportunity for fresh, green buildings is huge.
As resource pressures escalate, the energy, emissions and water savings on offer, could prove too good to ignore.