The interest in building sustainably has grown exponentially over the past decade and it’s not likely it will go away. Gone are the days when building green meant paying out big bucks with little or no return on the investment. Now, not only is sustainable building more affordable, it will actually save companies money over time. Add on top the tax breaks, rebates, grants, and other incentives that exist out there—your company would be crazy not to jump on the bandwagon. This doesn’t mean all of the options out there will mean monetary gains, and not all green advancements are made equal. Here in the United States, we have a rating system in place by the US Green Building Council and it’s known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Many other countries around the world have similar systems as well–like the UK and France.
So with all the new products, advancements, and technologies happening on the green commercial building front, what are some of the best ones out there? Let’s take a look.
- Passive Solar – Unlike solar panels, passive solar designs do not require any type of a device to utilize the energy of the sun. The passive part comes in by taking the time to watch the sun’s path as it’s rays would strike the newly constructed building. The design of a passive solar building will take all variations of the sun’s path throughout the day, and throughout differing seasons, to make the most use of its power so it can be an integral part of lighting the building, and even heating and cooling it as well. There are a lot of variables at play in this type of design, and many that need to be considered. However, the payoff can be substantial—not only in money saved, but even in the way it affects the moods of those who work inside the building.
- Green Building Software – With all of the hundreds of pages to read in the LEED Green Interior and Construction guide, is it any wonder companies have developed collaborative software designed to make it easier to understand? One of the most well-known is a cloud-based program known as Sefaira Concept. It allows designers to set up scenarios that show the costs and benefits of using different energy sources, types of water usage, and overall helping commercial buildings live up to their full potential.
- HVAC Redesigns – Traditional HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems can be energy efficient, but there are alternatives on the market called chiller boiler systems which have a better green record. This type of system is hydronic, which is similar to the older hydronic radiators, but instead of hot water, they use radiant heat. The downside of a chiller boiler is they’re best for small commercial buildings, as they haven’t produced cost-effective ones for larger ones.
- Sustainable Insulation – Here in Minnesota, having good insulation is critical, and it’s not just to be kind to the environment. Luckily, there are lots of sustainable options now on the market. Some reuse materials to convert into fire retardant insulation (such as recycled plastic bottles, newspapers, or even your old denim blue jeans!). There’s also insulation made directly from plant-based fibers. Some manufacturers are producing insulation from straw, hemp, and even flax.
- Mycoform – What would you think about walls themselves being made out of plant materials? Mycoform technology involves actually growing building materials using mycelium, a fungal spore. The fungal spore feeds off a waste material of choice, inside a mold, then it fills up the space. It’s then heat-treated to kill the spore, leaving behind a strong brick, plate, or other shape. They’re inexpensive and require nothing toxic to make. One downside could be the fact they are biodegradable, so caution needs to be used when deciding what material(s) the molds are made from, or where the mycoform walls are placed in relation to the elements. This technology is in an experimental phase, but it will be interesting to see what other options come out of it in the future.
As you can see, green building designs for commercial construction is not only doable, but can be worth the investment. If you’re interested in starting a new commercial construction project, renovation, or just curious about what we offer at Baratto Brothers, contact us today by filling out our contact form, stopping in to say hello, or by giving us a call at (218) 692-1070. We’re here to help you sift through your options, and come up with an affordable plan that delivers the results you’re looking for. We’ll do everything we can to become your Commercial Builder for Life.