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Green Strategies to Make More Green
Joseph F. Boyd
published September, 2002, Howard County Business Monthly

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.

Joseph BoydJoseph 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 BCI provides expert project review for real estate transactions.

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