We are planning to put our construction project on display so we can show others how we are following ‘green building principles’ by using innovative building materials and innovative construction practices. We decided to offer six informational sessions from now (October 2009) through May 2010 and invite people in the construction industry value chain to attend.
In our view, ‘green building principles’ are those as promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and, applicable to us, the LEED for Homes program.
Advocating Green Building Principles
We advocate green building principles for several reasons. First, we believe following these principles is required for sustainability of our planet and subsequent generations. Second, we believe following green building principles will result in better indoor air quality, which has direct health benefits. Finally, we believe there is a financial benefit to following green building principles.
The cost of following green building principles is currently higher than otherwise, largely because of the extra documentation required and the low volumes of certified green building materials and innovative building materials. The extra documentation required is costly because the processes and automated systems are not in place to provide that documentation at a low cost. As with most supply conditions, there are economies of scale that, with competition, help to lower prices.
These problems will be addressed with the increased adoption of green building principles. However, the adoption remains slow.
We advocate green building principles and would like to help increase the adoption rate in our community.
Accelerating the Adoption of Green Building Principles
One of the barriers to construction and renovation of more green building is the lack of understanding of the new building materials available and the sustainability of those materials. Educating the participants in the construction value chain needs to occur at all points, from the architects and designers, through planning commissions, contractors and building officials/inspectors, to owners and tenants. Importantly, building appraisers need to determine how to value the green features in buildings by understanding the financial and other benefits of those features.
Third party certification programs, including USGBC LEED and Build It Green help generate awareness and understanding of green building techniques. For example, under the LEED-H program, applicants can earn points for ‘Education & Awareness’ as set out below (E&A 1.3):
1.3 Public Awareness (1 point). Promote general public awareness about LEED for Homes by conducting at least three of the following activities:
a) Hold an advertised, attended public open house that lasts at least four hours per day on at least four weekends or participate in a green building exhibition or tour. The home or building must display at least four informational stations about the LEED for Homes features (and/or offer a guided tour that highlights at least four LEED for Homes features).
b) Publish a Web site with at least two pages that provides detailed information about the features and benefits of LEED homes.
c) Generate a newspaper article on the LEED for Homes project.
d) Display LEED for Homes signage, measuring six square feet or more, on the exterior of the home or building.
By including public awareness as a criteria, the USGBC has created the mechanism for applicants to help educate others in the local community and through the internet, and reward applicants for doing so.
In our municipality, the City of Monte Sereno, we are not allowed to post signs so we are proposing changes to the sign ordinance. Although Monte Sereno has formally acknowledged both the LEED and Build It Green programs and now require permit applications to include a completed Build It Green checklist, the City of Monte Sereno is not actively promoting these programs in our community.
Challenges with Elements of Green Building Principles
Many of the elements in a green building are only seen during construction as these elements are ‘covered’ by finishes or other materials. For example, consider the structural elements, waterproofing under the foundation and roofing materials, rainscreens, geothermal ground loops. The hidden elements are known to the builders but very few others in the construction industry value chain.
Even when the elements in a green home can be seen, people may not understand and/or appreciate those elements. For example consider low VOC paints and finishes, materials from within 500 miles, reclaimed wood that has been remilled, etc. If people do not understand or appreciate those elements, they will assign little, if any, value to those elements or features.
Consequently, we are going to host six informational sessions through our project that will highlight our green building principles, and innovative building materials and innnovative construction practices. Our objective is to help educate participants in the construction value chain by making green building principles more tangible.
Informational Sessions and Timing
We plan to offer six infomational sessions on Saturday afternoons, from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Attendees will be required to confirm their attendance in advance, so we can avoid disturbing our neighbors too much on these days. The dates and focus of these six informational sessions are as follows:
10/24/09 Structural Concrete, Waterproofing and Hollow Core Concrete Panels
Attendees will see the structural elements of the building and understand the construction challenges that we face and how we addressed those challenges in an environmentally friendly manner.
11/07/09 Structural Insulated Panels
We will show how the building is constructed using our SIPs (manufactured by Insulspan), including the various connections required and seismic requirements (e.g., shear walls). Attendees will see how our SIPs integrate with the existing structure.
12/12/09 Mechanical, Radiant Heating and Cooling, and Plumbing
Attendees will see how the mechanical systems in the building are designed and installed, and how these systems integrate with the overall building design.
02/20/10 Geothermal Heat Exchange and Photovoltaic Solar Panels
We will profile the geothermal heat exchange equipment and show how it works, and how it is integrated with our photovoltaic solar panels. Participants will see how these systems were designed to be scaleable in the future.
03/20/10 Windows, Doors, Fixtures and Finishes
At this informational session, attendees will see the building as it nears completion. Many of the fixtures and finishes will be completed at this point and the ‘green’ features of these elements will be profiled.
The appliances will be in place and this will be one of the last opportunities to see the building before it is commissioned for our family. The building control system should be in place, with the heating, lighting and resource consumption (water and energy) systems in place. The passive features of the building should be apparent at this time.