When you own a building, it is easy to overlook the need to be energy-efficient by other pressing concerns. However, striving for energy efficiency is not only beneficial to the environment but also to your pocket. Innovations abound, with some developments still underway, on keeping the buildings of today and the future efficient in its use of resources.
New or not, these technologies are keeping modern buildings as environmentally friendly as they can:
Set up a rainwater collection system.
Residential homes have long-collected rainwater to use for various purposes such as watering the plants, for instance. Commercial buildings are following suit since it can save thousands of dollars on water bills. The David & Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters in Los Altos, California, for example, has a rainwater collection system that can collect and store 20,000 gallons of water. They collect it from rooftop gutters, and they use it for their bathrooms as well as for irrigating their living green roof. Note that you need to check with your state regarding its rainwater collection laws.
Use recycled building materials.
Many green buildings are now using recycled materials such as recycled steel. According to Ala Eufaula of American Buildings Co., recycled steel reduces water pollution by 76 percent, air pollution by 86 percent, and mining waste by 97 percent. Oslo’s Powerhouse Kjorbo, a renovated old building, was rebuilt using recycled materials. It also uses efficient insulation, ventilation, and lighting that allows it to cut its energy consumption by 90 percent.
Stay abreast of renewable energy techs.
Almost every year, innovations in renewable energy development pop out, giving building owners more choices than ever. It is now possible, for example, to harness body heat to create renewable energy. This is now being used in the Stockholm Central Station where they are channeling the body heat of 250,000 daily commuters into Kungsbrohuset, a green-designed commercial building. The body heat of the Swede commuters is estimated to supply about 25% of the heat for the building.
The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington shows how much alternative energy sources can achieve. It currently gets 100 percent of its power from renewable energy and saves energy by using smart ventilation and natural light during daytime.
Watch out for auto-shading facade technologies.
While glass is a great material for building facades, buildings that use a glass facade tend to be hothouses in summer, which results in the use of more resources to keep the building cool. To address this issue, German researchers and artists came up with a shading system with delicate “fabric flowers,” which automatically unfold when hit by sunlight and folds back when clouds pass by. This automated shading system can keep modern glass buildings cool. They can be attached in between panels (for multi-layer facades) or on the outer layer of glass.
More innovations are coming to reduce the energy consumption of buildings. From ventilation to the use of materials, there are many options for building owners as they take steps toward energy efficiency.