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Green Strategies to Make More Green
published September, 2002, Howard County Business
When you get right down to it, what business, large or small, doesn't want to
increase its net productivity and profits? Implementing "green" or
environment friendly strategies in your business will provide synergistic
effects, which are proven to reap rewards almost immediately.
Let's take buildings for example. Buildings can have a detrimental effect on
the environment in that they account for more than 1/3 of carbon dioxide
emissions, they produce approximately 40% of the municipal solid wastes sent to
landfills, and they consume approximately 40% of the energy produced in the
United States. And that's not taking into account additional environmental
impacts, such as water consumption, indoor air quality, and natural resource
depleting building materials. With so much capital devoted to the maintenance of
the building, no wonder it's difficult for businesses to increase their economic
efficiency and competitive edge. Well, there is a way to improve the
environmental performance of a building that will use less energy, reduce
pollution, be more comfortable and healthier to occupy, increase competitiveness
and productivity, and most importantly will be more cost effective.
Green strategies work just as efficiently in pre-existing
buildings (retrofit) as they do in designs involving new construction and
depending on the types of upgrades installed, can cost the same as a
conventional building. Retrofitting pre-existing buildings is more desirable due
to the recycling of the building framework. Environment friendly
strategies that can be implemented range from building material selection,
improving energy and water efficiency, heating, cooling and ventilation, indoor
air quality, and office conservation.
In constructing or rehabilitating a building, recycled building
materials should be used and materials that will deplete natural
resources or were made from toxic or hazardous constituents should be avoided.
Avoid using any materials that generate air pollutants or volatile organic
compounds (VOCs) such as certain paints, caulks, and adhesives. It should be
noted that in building rehabilitation all hazardous materials, such as
lead-based paint and asbestos should be handled appropriately. To increase
energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar
panels or fuel cells can be used to meet energy demand. Installing
skylights, dimmable ballasts, occupancy sensing lighting, and low wattage
emergency lights will also reduce energy consumption. It is also
important for the building to be properly insulated and windows airtight to
increase energy efficiency. Placing awnings, glazing treatments or tint
on windows will allow light to enter the workplace without the heat
component, thus increasing the efficiency of the heating, cooling, and
ventilation units (HVAC) and increasing the comfort of the employees.
Insuring that the HVAC ducts are airtight will prevent moisture
buildups, which cause mold and mildew, thus indoor air quality concerns. To
improve water efficiency, lower the building water pressure, and install water
efficient plumbing fixtures, appliances, and low flush toilets. A
rainwater collection system can be installed for non-potable water
uses, such as toilets or a cooling system. Office strategies that can be
implemented include using recycled paper, paperless faxes, saving attachments to
the computer as opposed to printing them out, and sleeping computer monitors
when not in use.
The above green strategies are only but a few measures that can be
implemented to increase the environmental performance of a building, therefore
increasing the economic performance of the business. Many of the measures also
eliminate the need for continual maintenance. Because these strategies
are fairly easy to interweave into a pre-existing structure and work
synergistically, the results can be seen in a matter of months. It is
proven that when employees occupy a healthy workplace and are more comfortable,
absenteeism decreases and productivity increases. More importantly, it should be
noted that implementing green strategies doesn't always mean overly conserving,
but operating at a higher level, more efficiently.
Boyd is an Environmental Scientist with Building Consultants, Inc. In
addition to his experience performing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, he
is also an IAQA certified mold assessor, as well as a certified Lead Based Paint
and Asbestos Containing Material Building Inspector.
He can be reached at BCI at (410) 715-2277 or jboyd@eConstructionServices.com.
BCI provides expert project review for real estate transactions.