Buildings are a vital part of our life and living needs. We spend our days in office buildings, our evenings in clubs and our nights at home. On average, a common city dweller is spending around two third of his life in a building, be it an office, club, cinema, hospital, school, factory, shopping mall, railway station, airport, hotel, prayer place, industrial complex, broadcasting station, control room or the home sweet home. Today, we cannot imagine life without these buildings.

The design, construction and operation of all the various types of Buildings have extensive direct or indirect impacts on the society, economy and the environment. The experts involved in building design refer these impacts as the 3P’s:

  • People
  • Pocketbook
  • Planet

These experts while developing sustainable building design seek to balance the 3P’s; giving design solutions wherein needs of these areas are harmonized by using an integrated approach. The main considerations in sustainable building design are to minimize depletion of critical resources like energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by these buildings throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are safe, healthy, secure, comfortable and easily accessible. These considerations can be broadly summarized as follows:

Resources like energy, water, raw materials etc are used efficiently in these built environments.

The generation of waste by occupants, construction and demolition of these built environments are managed appropriately.

The emissions of potentially harmful atmospheric pollutants from these built environments are minimized.

Most of the existing buildings do not meet the above criteria of sustainable building design. This does not mean that they are demolished and new sustainable building structures designed and constructed in their place. Surely that would be a huge loss of embodied energy of the existing building. Embodied energy is a term used to express the cost of resources in human labor, equipment and materials consumed during the building’s construction. Therefore, sustainable building design experts encourage retrofitting existing buildings. The areas requiring retrofitting can be any of the following:

  • Optimization of Site Potential
  • Optimizing Energy Use
  • Conserving Water Usage
  • Optimizing Building Space and Material Use
  • Enhancing Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ)
  • Optimizing Operational and Maintenance Practices
  • Optimized waste disposal management
  • Reduction in emission of pollutants

There are individual national laws and regulations, which vary from country to country, for regulating the sustainable building designs and construction practices. However, standards issued and recognized internationally by Organizations like ASTM and ASHRAE often provide a common bench mark and basis for development of these national laws and regulations for sustainable building design.

The important thing to remember is that buildings account for major shares in Total Energy Use, Total Electricity Use, Total Water Use, Total CO2 emissions and Total Waste Generation of a country. The nations around the world should start managing their built environments in a manner that supports Green Energy Living.

by Syed Kamran Ali

The information and views expressed in the articles are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of IEI or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other IEI publications. 
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About the Author

Syed Kamran Ali

A mechanical engineer with 20 years’ experience in energy sector including alternate energy resources, currently engaged in developing ideas for maximizing comfort and reliability in sustainable living. The only problematic concern in harnessing green energy is the intermittent nature of renewable energy resources like solar radiation, wind power etc. This intermittent availability necessitates storage of energy when it is available for the time it is not available. For industries and businesses this may not be a big issue, but for households this may cause serious problems. The writer believes that use of renewable energy is not simply pruchasing gadgets, which provide alternate energy supplies, it has to be incorporated in our lifestyles to make it sustainable in the long run.