Designing For Green describes environmentally conscious design techniques in the field of architecture.

Designing For Green introduces you to the architectural firms, the individual designers, and their peers who seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space as they apply to the homes and building that we occupy. The idea of sustainability, or ecological design, is to ensure that our actions and decisions today do not inhibit the opportunities of future generations. We look forward to showcasing these creative minds, and their successes.

REI Sets New Standard for Sustainable Operations with First Net Zero Energy Distribution Center

REI announced a major milestone in its continued work to lead on sustainable operations. Its newest distribution center, located in Goodyear, Arizona, has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification—the highest level in the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) green building rating system—making it the first distribution center in the U.S. to achieve both LEED Platinum certification and Net Zero Energy. The facility is the first distribution center to earn Platinum certification in 2016 and, at 400,000 square feet, is the second largest Platinum-certified distribution or warehouse facility in the U.S.

"REI worked hard to deliver a new standard for the industry that was in line with our values and commitment to sustainable operations. To create an impact that extends far beyond the co-op, we chose to open the design of the facility and our doors to the industry, not only to make it easier for other companies to build this technology into their operations, but to actively encourage them to do so," said Rick Bingle, REI's vice president of Supply Chain.

The co-op welcomes anyone within the industry or the general public to tour the distribution center in Goodyear, Arizona to see the facility first-hand; interested parties can contact the co-op.

REI achieved LEED Platinum certification by implementing sustainable strategies and solutions throughout the building, including:

  • Renewable Energy: The 2.2 megawatt solar system produces renewable energy on-site, enough to power the entire facility annually. The system is expected to provide REI with 20 years of free energy and pay for itself in five years.

  • Water Conservation & Restoration: The distribution center features a non-evaporative cooling system—fully powered by renewable energy—to keep employees cool in the desert heat and save millions of gallons of water every year. REI will also help restore the nearby Verde River, enhancing water flows and creating new areas for paddling and other water sports. This project has balanced the entire co-op's water footprint for two years, which USGBC rewards through its Water Restoration Certificates pilot credit.

  • Eco-Friendly Building Features: REI installed energy-efficient features throughout the building, including conveyors that shut off when no items are present, an air conditioning system powered by solar energy while creating an unparalleled comfort for the employees, LED lights with motion sensors and strategically placed skylights, drought-tolerant landscaping with an underground drip irrigation system, and restrooms with no-water urinals and low-flush toilets.

  • Recycling Program: Approximately 97 percent of all materials at the distribution center are recycled and less than 3 percent of waste is sent to landfills. The recycling program includes plastic, paper, wood and cardboard.

The LEED rating system, developed by USGBC, is the foremost program for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of high-performance green buildings. REI's Goodyear facility is the co-op's first project to earn Platinum certification. Overall, just 11 percent of all LEED-certified projects earn Platinum certification.

REI uses thoughtful sustainable design for the construction of all new buildings and currently has seven LEED-certified facilities, including the first-ever retail store in the country to earn a LEED Gold rating for Commercial Interiors in Portland, Ore. in 2004. The combined size of REI's LEED-certified buildings is more than 1 million square feet, and the co-op's developer is also pursuing LEED certification for the building that houses the new flagship store in Washington, D.C.

REI's ability to meet Platinum certification required dedicated partners committed to the same values and goals, including Butler Design Group, Rocky Mountain Institute, Merit Partners, Inc., The Renaissance Companies, DMW&H, KNAPP, CBRE and EDF Climate Corps.

Pet Hospital Presented with

Leading Environmental Practice Award

Last week, Washington's statewide business organization, the Association of Washington Business (AWB), selected Banfield Pet Hospital as the winner of its Leading Environmental Practice Award.

This award recognized Banfield's new environmentally-friendly headquarters, located in Vancouver, Washington. The campus was designed to reflect Banfield's values – including an open office environment, environmentally sustainable features, dog-friendly amenities and a design that echoes Banfield's roots in the Pacific Northwest.

"Washington employers are leading the way on environmental protection by reducing their carbon footprint through innovation and investment, and Banfield Pet Hospital is another great example of this," said Kris Johnson, President of AWB. He continued, "When it came time to build a new headquarters, Banfield demonstrated its commitment to the environment by building a state-of-the-art, ultra-green building that requires less than half of the electricity needed for a typical building of its size. It's an impressive statement about the company's desire to protect our natural resources for future generations."

The three-building campus was designed to obtain the highest U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification possible. While official LEED-designation is still pending, the headquarters has achieved at least LEED-Gold designation.

"At Banfield, we are passionate about improving the wellness of our communities, and that extends to the environment we share with the pets and people we serve. I am so proud of our new campus, which brings to life many of the core values that guide our culture as a Mars company. In keeping with our principle of responsibility, we designed our new headquarters to be not only beautiful but also sustainable," said Vincent Bradley, President and CEO of Banfield Pet Hospital.

Some of the sustainable features integrated into the new campus include:

  • Geothermal heat exchange system which provides heating/cooling to the building via buried ground loop

  • 20,000 gallon rainwater reclaim tank

  • Roof mounted solar hot water array

  • Low-demand LED lighting fixture layout

  • Daylight dimming lighting fixtures at perimeter

  • Data center heat recovery to central plant

  • Variable speed pumping

  • 60% reduction in irrigation water usage

  • Utilization of low-VOC emitting building materials

  • Daylight and exterior views for majority of occupants

  • Bicycle racks and showering facilities provided for building occupants

  • Twelve charging stations for electric hybrid cars

  • Regionally sourced building materials including wood, steel and concrete

All this going into making you and your pet's experience as pleasant, and sustainable as possible.

LEED Platinum Core, Torre Reforma, in Mexico City, is a Locus of Innovation

An instant architectural icon, a three-sided high-rise offers a new model for concrete construction in earthquake zones

With its distinctive triangular volume and soaring concrete walls, Torre Reforma makes an eye-catching addition to the skyline of Mexico City. To achieve this impact, Arup worked with L. Benjamin Romano Arquitects (LBRA) to ensure that the 57-story mixed-use building was not only striking in appearance, but safe in its performance -- a particular concern in the seismically active location.

"Arup has been indispensable in helping to transform my architectural vision into an efficient and buildable structure," said Benjamin Romano, principal of LBRA. "They have provided innovative solutions to the complex seismic issues in Mexico City and have been instrumental in helping the bidding contractors understand that Torre Reforma is not more complex than standard vertical construction; it just applies traditional construction methods, that contractors are already familiar with, in a new and different way."

Tabitha Tavolaro, associate principal at Arup and project manager for Torre Reforma, said, "Building tall structures in Mexico City often means working in constrained conditions. Challenges can include small or irregular sites, coordinating diverse teams, and, of course, seismic hazards. In this project, we partnered with LBRA to create robust solutions that bring value to the client as well as the community."

Arup's innovations at Torre Reforma include:

An Aesthetic Structure. Romano's design boldly departs from the norm not only in form, but in its merging of materials with structure. Arup devised pre-tensioned double-V hangers that brace the glazed façade and simultaneously create a signature visual identity for the building.

Because the architecture is so closely aligned with its material expression, the finish of the concrete is critical. Several design mixes were evaluated; the final choice flowed well and created a surface that's free of honeycombing or flaws. The concrete was poured in increments of 70 cm, highlighting the subtle variations in color that occur naturally across multiple concrete pours.

The Core in the Corner. In conventional skyscrapers, vertical circulation is typically located in the central core of the building. At Torre Reforma, the elevators and egress stairways are contained in the apex of the triangle. This, paired with the long-span pyramidal floor trusses that allow plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems to be concealed within the structure, results in maximum ceiling heights and a column-free interior, facilitating unobstructed, dramatic views over adjacent Chapultepec Park and the city from every level.

Designed for Stability. Set in an area with a long history of significant seismic activity, skyscraper construction in Mexico City poses complicated engineering challenges. Because Torre Reforma is triangular in plan, the building has an inherent tendency to twist when subjected to lateral loads and wind, not to mention earthquake forces. Arup applied a comprehensive time-history analysis to establish the performance of the structure under extreme seismic conditions and engineered a solution that is both locally appropriate and consistent with international best-practice designs for tall buildings. Torre Reforma will be able to withstand the full range of earthquake activity projected for a period of 2,500 years.

Green Goals. In addition to its structural innovations, the building offers extensive sustainability features. Pre-certified as a LEED Platinum Core and Shell project, Torre Reforma has multiple water conservation systems, including rainwater collection and grey-and black-water recycling plants. A combination of automated and passive ventilation work moderates interior temperatures throughout the structure. The tower's two concrete walls also contribute to the energy efficiency of the building: unlike glass curtain walls, they reduce the cooling load by protecting the interior from direct sun without impacting the aesthetic views in the tenant spaces.

World's First Solar Powered Mobile

Wastewater Treatment Plant

The world’s first mobile wastewater treatment plant to be powered entirely by the sun has been shipped to the Canadian Army.

Housed in a 6 metre shipping container, Island Water Technologies’ modular REGEN system is able to process wastewater produced by up to 75 persons.

The “plug and play” plant supplied to the Army is powered by 10kW of solar panels that charge a 48V bank of deep cycle batteries.

REGEN uses an enhanced fixed film biological process optimized for energy efficiency and is controlled by a smart PLC system; with all data transmitted wirelessly for remote system monitoring and control.

Wastewater is first treated aerobically in a primary treatment tank with enhanced fixed film materials. A secondary chamber provides additional filtration and disinfection. The treated water can then be used for applications such as drip irrigation.

The mobile wastewater treatment unit is housed in a 20′ cargo container and will process wastewater produced by up to 75 persons. The wastewater treatment is based on enhanced fixed film biological process with a particular focus on an optimized low energy footprint. The treatment system is controlled by a smart PLC system with all data transmitted wirelessly for remote system monitoring and control. This packaged solution also comes with a “Power-box” renewable energy supply that includes 10kW of solar output and battery back-up to offer a stand alone energy supply and wastewater treatment solution.

The REGEN mobile wastewater treatment solution has been designed for remote population clusters where energy costs are excessive, and remote system operation is required.

– Military and humanitarian applications.

– Remote mining and work camps

– Rural communities

Solar powered wastewater treatment

“I feel privileged to be able to support Canadian businesses; the Build in Canada Innovation Program offers us the opportunity to test cutting-edge innovations that could potentially be beneficial to our future operations.

Particularly, technologies such as the REGEN system from Island Water Technologies offers us the opportunity to bring economical and tactical benefits by reducing energy consumption, waste, and the environmental footprint of our military compounds in operations. One of the main advantages is the potential to reduce the number of soldiers in harm’s way who would have been otherwise required to provide logistical support.”

Dr. Patrick Kiely (CEO, Island Water Technologies) “This solution is a game-changer for wastewater treatment at remote camps. This low-energy solution is readily deployable and system performance can be monitored or controlled from our central facility. This sustainable technology saves money and reduces risk for remote population clusters that require on-site wastewater treatment.”

Island Water Technologies was founded in 2013,  is headquartered in Montague, PEI and has a technology testing base with Dalhousie University in Truro, Nova Scotia. For this innovative project IWT partnered with Aspin Kemp and Associates and Advanced Atlantic Power Technologies.

San Francisco's First Hybrid Electric Building

Photo by Peter Alfred


Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) announced that it has been selected to transform San Francisco's distinguished skyscraper, One Maritime Plaza, into the City's first Hybrid Electric Building® using Tesla Powerpack batteries. The groundbreaking technology upgrade will lower costs, increase grid and building resiliency, and reduce the building's demand for electricity from the sources that most negatively impact the environment.

Building owner Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing hired SF-based Advanced Microgrid Solutions, to design, build and operate the project. The 500 kilowatt/1,000 kilowatt-hour indoor battery system will provide One Maritime Plaza with the ability to store clean energy and control demand from the electric grid. The technology enables the building to shift from grid to battery power to conserve electricity in the same way a hybrid-electric car conserves gasoline.

The energy storage system at One Maritime Plaza will reduce the building's peak energy demand by as much as twenty percent. In California, peaker plants – power plants that run only when there is a high demand for electricity – account for approximately fifteen percent of the state's power fleet. These plants are by design the least efficient fossil generators and, when they do run, produce more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than any other type of fossil generation.

"As a San Francisco-based company, we are thrilled to partner with Morgan Stanley to bring best-in-class storage and software technology to the City," said Susan Kennedy, chief executive officer of AMS. "Hybrid Electric Buildings® allow forward-looking companies like Morgan Stanley to help build tomorrow's energy grid."

AMS and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) are in discussions to apply battery-enabled bill savings from the first year of operation of the One Maritime Plaza installation toward other potential storage projects contemplated by the agency.

"For a 100% greenhouse gas-free electric utility like the SFPUC, battery storage offers an unparalleled way to bolster the electricity resilience of critical facilities around the City," said Barbara Hale, Assistant General Manager for Power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. "We look forward to collaborating with One Maritime Plaza and Advanced Microgrid Solutions so we can begin to pilot battery storage solutions with key SFPUC customers."

The project is expected to be completed by January 1, 2018.

Brownfield to Green Field:

Button Hole, A Story of Positive Change


As we continue to celebrate June as Sports and Sustainability month here at RNN, we would be remiss not to spend a bit of time focusing on our host venue, Button Hole Golf Course, and how they were a result of one man’s vision and a very successful Rhode Island DEM program. But before we look at how the course came to be, let's go back in history and get a sense of how it all began.

From its earliest days as the site of the Industrial Revolution, Rhode Island has a long and storied history of the growth of many manufacturing industries that developed in populated areas around the many sources of water in the state.  One of those sources was the Woonasquatucket River that flows through Providence and Johnston.  Among the factories that thrived along this urban corridor was a shoe factory where buttons were used as shoe fasteners. In the days before strict environmental controls, refuse was often discharged into the river.  The Woonasquatucket was no exception.

Caught by the current, the buttons were swept down the river until they were caught along the bank in a natural swimming hole.  Local children, who often swam in the river, dubbed this special place Button Hole.  Through over 100 years of history, the name has stuck.  Those who grew up in the city remember swimming and playing ball at Button Hole, long before it became the blighted area that was rescued by a small group of visionaries and turned into the urban green space, home to Button Hole today.

Before and After

That small group of visionaries was lead by Edmund Mauro.  In 1997, when he began the task of creating Button Hole, Ed already had an impressive list of accomplishments - a successful entrepreneur and business man; he had also made his mark as an outstanding golfer. In 1965 he won the State Amateur and was among top contenders in that event and others for many years. Mauro began giving back to the game even as he played, serving the Rhode Island Golf Association in many ways, including as president. As an avid golfer, Mauro believed in the power of the game and its life lessons to help guide young people as they grow into adults and he recognized the particular benefit for inner city youth.

More than 25,000 disadvantaged children live within three miles of the gravel pit that Mauro, together with a board of committed supporters, worked tirelessly to turn into the Button Hole Short course and teaching center. When it opened in 2000, Button Hole's mission was simple- enrich the lives of young people by providing facilities and programs that develop strong character, teach life values and champion success through the game of golf. Youngsters who become "Button Hole Kids" use the facility for $1. PGA Tour stars Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade became active supporters. RIGA moved its office to the site.

From Ed's vision and drive, Button Hole has become one of the region's most successful community resources, nationally recognized for its programs and facility exposing over a thousand kids each year to the game of golf and its values.

This project couldn’t have happened without private citizens coming together with Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management (DEM) who’s Brownfield incentive program helped to make this community resource a reality. As this article is being written the EPA is awarding a total of $1,220,000 in Brownfield Grant funding to Rhode Island DEM and the new RI Infrastructure Bank to hopefully continue to convert unused land into thriving resources similar to Button Hole.

Is this the most sustainable office in the world?


The new head office of dryer and cooler manufacturer Geelen Counterflow in Haelen, The Netherlands, is the most sustainable office in the world, receiving a 99,94% score in the BREEAM certification system.

The building for 50 office employees generates 50% more solar energy than it needs for heating, air conditioning, lighting and computers. The extra energy is used in the factory for laser cutting of stainless steel and recharging of electric forklift trucks.

Where possible, the building materials are "Cradle to Cradle" certified, which means that they do no harm to the environment and that they can be re-used at the end of their lifetime. The building is constructed out of wood which is considered to have the lowest CO2 footprint of any construction material.

The design is optimized for employee health and productivity through control of daylight infiltration, air quality and indoor lighting, and by using healthy materials.

Around the office a natural garden has been created using a variety of native plants and flowers. The landscaping also includes nesting sites for birds, bugs, bats and amphibians.

Sander Geelen is Managing Director of Geelen Counterflow: "In our never ending quest to build the best dryers and coolers for food and feed we apply the laws of nature around gravity, aerodynamics and thermodynamics. So when we build a new office it only makes sense to respect these laws and the limits of nature too. This office is another step on our journey to phase out fossil fuels. The next step is to develop a new generation of dryers that will use renewable energy only."

The office was designed by Architecten en Bouwmeesters. Construction management was by Wagemans Bouwadvies. The technical installations were designed by Dubourgraaf and Ad van de Ven was BREEAM-NL expert.

BREEAM is the world's leading sustainability assessment method for buildings and projects. Globally there are more than 540,700 BREEAM certified developments. In the Netherlands, the system is managed by the Dutch Green Building Council.

Geelen Counterflow develops and manufactures counterflow dryers and coolers for the food and feed industry. With 100 associates the company delivers equipment used to manufacture food (like coffee, cornflakes and croutons), animal feed, aquafeed and petfood. It has sales and service offices in the Netherlands, USA, Argentina and China.

Taiwan's Green Demo House


Taiwan's Green Trade Project Office, one of the major sustainable development and green economy facilitators in Asia, once again showcases top quality eco-friendly products and innovations to people from around the world. GTPO's trademark green products promotor, "Taiwan Green Demo House," is scheduled to exhibit at London's 2016 Ecobuild in March 8-10.

The "modular," "easy-to-assemble," and "reusable" demo house is an environmentally friendly, reusable exhibition show booth. It is designed to present the use and application of high-quality green products and services in a realistic way, enabling visitors to experience the full benefit of each display, just as if they were in a real home, office, and much more.

To validate the quality of each display, the house utilizes advanced building-energy- modeling software IES-VE to ensure the best energy-saving strategies for the entire setting. IES-VE analyzes a number of inputs, including climate data, building design, HVAC design, among others, to calculate the building's energy consumption and anticipated energy bills. It then proposes strategies based on the return-on-investment of the application of energy-saving products.

To be more exact, according to IES-VE's calculations on a virtual 3750-square-meter, 2-floor building in London in average annual weather conditions, an energy savings of up to 38% can be attained.

For example, by installing Shun-Fu Electronics's power saver, 10% of energy can be saved. The device, easily installed to the input of the power source, helps filter out harmonics of electricity, achieve reactance filtering and 3-phase balance, and efficiently recover the best quality of voltage and current. Spring Pool's energy-saving bricks, made from recycled LCD fragments and cement, can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees. In addition, the bricks offer excellent soundproofing and are only at 1/5 the weight of conventional red bricks. It enables a total of energy savings of up to 14% by replacing the building's interior walls with SP's bricks. SunValue's Solar Power Brick is a green building material that can be integrated with existing buildings, and it is ideal for vertical installation. With the help of the solar bricks, solar energy can be easily absorbed from various angles, yielding 9% of energy savings. And Nan Ya Photonics is known for explosion-proof LED lights. They have an array of real cases especially at various hazardous locations across the world. By installing its LED, 46% of lighting energy can be saved.

The house also features several of the world's newest smart, eco-friendly innovations. Heatax's insulation coating, for example, can reflect up to 88 percent of solar heat; it is easy to use for DIY-projects; it is made to be long-lasting; and, most importantly, it is very affordable. Nustone is a one-of-a-kind building material that can transform ordinary surfaces by giving them the look and feel of stone, with less difficulty and less expense. It is essentially a new generation of spray paint that creates a genuine stone-like surface of granite, marble, or quartzite, among many others. And Taiwan's largest wooden- flooring-products exporter Ua Floors has showcased their toxic-free products as well as nanotechnology that help to facilitate blood flow.

Another must-see presentation in the form of a mini model is Skynergy. Skynergy is a revolutionary, totally off-the-grid system entirely self-powered by solar energy. The real Skynergy features a 5 kW thin-film photovoltaic module as well as a 5kW lithium-ion battery. In addition, it has brought together innovative green-technology producers in order to demonstrate the viability of a green solution.

Basically, Skynergy can be custom-made. The first Skynergy has been created out of a 40x8 foot shipping container that serves as an electric-bicycle station. The entire rooftop area of the station is covered with thin-film solar panels. These panels feed the station's smart grid with electricity, with any excess electricity then stored in the station's lithium-ion batteries. And with the help of the smart-energy-management system, cloud monitoring technologies have been implemented to help ease administrators on the challenges of the central control of scattered equipment. The station has also installed a hydrogen fuel cell to provide reliable backup power, in case of blackouts.

Annual Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced its annual Top 10 States for LEED, the world's most widely used and recognized green building rating system. The per-capita list highlights states throughout the country that are making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water resources, save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and establish a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

"Green construction is quickly outpacing conventional construction in the U.S.," said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. "LEED has become an essential tool for the transformation of building design and construction. By recognizing these states excelling in the use of LEED, we are celebrating the green building professionals, architects, business, policy and community leaders who work tirelessly to design and develop innovative solutions toward a healthier, more sustainable future. LEED construction drives economic growth, creates jobs and makes communities greener."  

Now in its sixth year, the ranking looks at total square feet of LEED certified space per resident, based on U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified throughout 2015. Illinois retained its top national position for the third year in a row, with 161 LEED certifications representing 3.43 square feet of certified space per resident. Illinois and Colorado are the only two states to have made the list every year since 2010.

A newcomer to the Top 10 list is Utah, illustrating how LEED is expanding beyond states with densely populated urban areas. And after a three-year hiatus, Texas, Washington and Nevada are again on the list.

A continued strong performance from Maryland and Virginia has reaffirmed the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Washington, D.C., as the epicenter of green building. While D.C. is not included in the list of top states due to its status as a federal territory, it is notable as it continues to lead the nation with 19.3 square feet of LEED space per resident certified in 2015.

This year's list has the highest average (2.47) per capita space LEED-certified among the to p10 states since 2010. Four of the six states included in the 2014 list increased the square feet of space they certified per resident in 2015 (Ill., Md., Mass. and Calif.).

The full ranking is as follows:

Notable projects certified in 2015's Top 10 States for LEED include:

  • Illinois: Virgin Hotel Chicago; LEED Gold

  • Maryland: Holy Cross Hospital in Germantown; LEED Gold

  • Massachusetts: New Douglas Elementary School in Douglas; LEED Silver

  • Washington: University of Washington Husky Stadium, the largest stadium, college or professional, in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle; LEED Silver

  • Colorado: North Colorado Springs Readiness Center home to the Colorado National Guard; LEED Platinum

  • Nevada: Clark County Wetlands Park Nature Center in Las Vegas; LEED Gold

  • California: Los Angeles Convention Center Recertification; LEED Gold

  • Texas: The Treehouse at Memorial City, part eco office and part club house in Houston; LEED Platinum

  • Virginia: Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Environmental Center in Virginia Beach; LEED Platinum

  • Utah: U.S. District Courthouse in Salt Lake City; LEED Gold

Collectively, 1,633 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the Top 10 States for LEED in 2015, representing 274.9 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,837 projects were certified in 2015, representing 818.9 million square feet.

USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building. This also allows for fair comparisons among states with significant differences in population and number of buildings.

In 2015, LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance was once again the most popular rating system within the top 10 states, representing 49 percent of the total square footage certified. LEED for Building Design and Construction was the second most popular rating system in the top 10, representing 46 percent of the square footage certified and LEED for Interior Design and Construction was the third most popular rating system, representing 5 percent of total square footage certified in these states in 2015.

The LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of green buildings. More than 52,000 commercial, neighborhood and residential projects are currently LEED certified, comprising more than 5 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 150 countries and territories globally.  Green construction is a large economic driver. According to the 2015 USGBC Green Building Economic Impact Study, green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs–more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector–and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The industry's direct contribution to U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015-2018.

The DUTCH Wind Wheel Skyscraper

The Dutch WindWheel, touted as a “sustainable icon," is as controversial as it is stunning.

The Dutch Windwheel Corporation has set its sights on building the unique facility in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to “be a showcase and accelerator for innovation, renewable energy and the circular and inclusive economy.”

Standing 174 metres high, the outer ring will host 40 carriages that run on rails, enabling passengers an unprecedented view of Rotterdam and the surrounding area. Relevant information will be displayed on “smart glass” walls in the carriages.

The inner ring will have a restaurant and sky lobby, 72 apartments, plus a hotel with 160 rooms on 7 floors.

In relation to sustainability, the site mentions a “climatic facade” and organic waste will be used to create biogas. Rainwater will be harvested for use in the facility and in a wetlands to be created outside the building.

Water will also play another important role – it along with wind will create electricity.

Helping to power the facility will be an EWICON (Electrostatic WInd Energy CONvertor). The technology, developed at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) a few years ago, involves a series of tubes, electrodes and nozzles that release positively-charged water droplets. The method is based on transporting  electrically charged droplets against the direction of an electric field by the wind, building their potential electrical energy, and accumulating them at a collector.  

As interesting as the WindWheel concept may be, engineer Tom Lombardo questions the viability of the wind power system.

Based on what he says is an efficiency of 1.7% at best*; an inner diameter of around 87 metres and Rotterdam’s average wind speedof  6m/s, the EWICON would generate roughly 13.5 kW, or about 324 kWh/day. That’s not much power considering the space the generator occupies – and how much electricity the generator and building will consume.

However, using solar panels in the same area angled at 45 degrees and spaced so they don’t impact too much on the view through the center of the building; Mr. Lombardo estimates the system would produce about 1100 kWh/day – more than triple the EWICON’s production.

Mr. Lombardo notes that Delft University, where the EWICON was developed, states while the wind power system has been proven to work on a small scale, there is no evidence to support use on a commercial scale.

Even with the current Windwheel design, solar PV does get a look in elsewhere on the structure, with Building-integrated PV (BiPV) along the top of the inner ring. The capacity of this array isn’t provided.

While costs of building the entire structure aren’t mentioned either, its backers estimate around 1.5 million people will visit the Dutch Windwheel per year if it is built; allowing for the entire development to be profitable within 10 years after construction.

The Dutch Windwheel Corporation is a consortium of Rotterdam based companies BLOC , DoepelStrijkers and Meysters.

Indiana's first Certified Passive House

Indianapolis, Ind. - It's been a long, record-setting winter: thick ice, piles of snow and sky-high energy bills. Now imagine little to no bills all winter, or any other time of the year. How about no furnace at all? That's reality for people who live in Passive Houses.

Passive design is an extremely efficient style of architecture used by Indianapolis company The Beamery. These innovative homes use 75-95 percent less energy than current new buildings that meet today's US energy efficiency codes.

The Beamery owner, David Watters, wanted to build Indiana's first Passive House in Brown County, with his  emphasis on "Energy Free Design."

"This house faces south to get as much solar energy as possible through the windows," Watters said. "The long vertical windows allow the house to get more sun in the winter, while being shaded as much as possible in the summer time."

Insulation, seals, triple pane windows, LED lighting and energy efficient appliances are just some of the home’s features. A state-of-the-art ventilator also brings controlled, highly filtered air into the house.

“A Passive House is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint,” Watters said. “It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for heating or cooling.”

This specialized standard is not confined to residential properties. Several office buildings, schools, kindergartens and a supermarket have been constructed in the same way. Passive design is not a supplement to architectural design, but a design process that is integrated with the architecture.

About Passive House Institute

Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) was founded in 2007 by Mike Kernagis, a builder, and Katrin Klingenberg, an architect. Klingenberg studied with Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the physicist who developed the Passive House standard and methodology, in Darmstadt, Germany. She has built her own residence to the Passive House standard, as well as several affordable housing projects in partnership with Kernagis. Since founding PHIUS, they have worked to advance the Passive House building energy standard.

Understanding China's 3 Star Rating Systems

The green building industry is flying high and growing fast in China. Rapid urbanization, private sector incentives to save energy and differentiate projects in a crowded marketplace, and a strong government push to reduce building energy consumption are fueling a green building boom. The growth and popularity of the green building in China, brings up the issue of green washing, and begs the question: How green are these buildings, really? Two rating systems in China, the 3-star system run by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHURD), and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, originally designed by the US Green Building Council are helping to ensure the promise of green building is more than just hype. By provided an objective and trusted seal of approval these rating system help create accountability; transforming the building marketplace so that environmental performance metrics become part of the economic equation.

The growth rate of these rating systems is remarkable. LEED is the best-known system and overall more popular in China, but the 3-Star rating system is fast catching up. In fact the growth rate in terms of registered project for 3-Star is much faster than LEED. LEED registration grew at 39 percent in 2011, and 29 percent in 2010, while 3-Star is grew at 191 percent in 2011 (not included November and December). LEED has nearly 800 registered projects, while 3-Star has 242 (again not including Nov & Dec).

This chart speak for itself about the potential for green building in China.

Additionally, according to Professor Borong Lin at Tsinghua University, China's upcoming Green Building Action Plan will most likely include a 75 Yuan per sq meter subsidy for developers who achieve a 3-Star certification of any level. 75 Yuan represents about 30% of the extra cost that it takes to design and build a 3-Star certified building over standard construction. This subsidy represents a concerted effort by the government to push the 3-Star system. And in China, the market moves when the government makes its preferences clear; therefore, I expect growth rates for 3-Star to increase even faster in the near term. But despite these high growth rates, knowledge of the Chinese rating system is limited, and both rating systems foster a lot of misconceptions. With this post I hope to clear some of them up, as well a introduce you to a few of the more photogenic 3-star registered projects.

★★★ | Shanghai Building Technology Institute Green Engineering Research Center


System Design

Similar to LEED the 3-Star Rating System uses a checklist scoring scheme, which allows the developer some flexibility in choosing the most appropriate credits for each project. 3-star breaks green building into 4 categories roughly equivalent to the LEED categories: Land-Saving, Energy Saving, Water Saving, and Indoor Environment. 3-star has one additional category not in LEED NC, Operation, which is concerned with commissioning and operational management of the building systems. Within each category there are a number of prerequisites called “control items”, as well as specific credits levels necessary to achieve the 1, 2, or 3 star rating. There are also Preference (optional), items within each category, which are more difficult to achieve, such as renewable building material usage greater than 5%.

There are many minor differences between the way the credits are allocated between LEED and 3-Star; however, instead of delving into the details, I’m going to refer you to an excellent power point by a green building consultant that works in China. One of the most important differences is a larger number of pre-requisites (control items) in the 3-star system.

Through this link you can also access an English translation of the system.

★★★ | Xizhuang Integrated Building, Shanghai | 莘庄综合楼


All credits are totaled together for your final score in LEED regardless of the category. In contrast, the 3-star system requires every building to achieve all the control items as well as a minimum of one star in each category. To receive higher certifications you must achieve that higher score for every category. This means a three star rated building must have a three star score for every category. This method is in some ways is an improvement over LEED. Since LEED credits are all counted equally, it is possible to pick and choose the easiest credits, while ignoring the more important and more difficult credits like energy efficiency. In fact, it was possible to get a LEED certified project with no energy credits at all in previous LEED versions, and many LEED Certified projects only attempted a minimal number of energy credits. This problem is partially remedied with LEED 2009, which adds additional weight to credits that are determined to have more environmental impact.

Application and Certification Process

The process to achieve certification is also significantly different between the two systems. In LEED, you register a project, submits the application fees, and then design and construction documentation to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). The GBCI then assesses the paperwork and awards a rating, before the project is actually occupied; therefore, credits are determined by design assumptions not actual performance. Energy efficiency credits are determined by comparing the design energy consumption of a design model vs. a “baseline” energy consumption model. As I’ve written in an early post, these energy models, unfortunately, are a very flawed predicator of actual energy performance.

In the 3-star system, a project can receive a “design” certification before construction begins through a program called the Green Building Design Label. This is similar to LEED pre-certification process for Core and Shell. However, the project is not actually certified until 1-year post occupancy, after energy measurement for a full year and an on-site assessment. Every three years 3-Star certification also needs to be renewed to ensure the building is still operating efficiently. The one year post occupancy waiting period means 3-star projects take much longer to become certified, and it adds an element of risk for the developer that the project may not achieve the level of certification it was designed for. In theory projects that don’t meet design goals will pay the consequences by losing their rating, but in practice post occupancy evaluations are difficult and time consuming, and I have never heard of a project actually having its rating reversed. But the program is still young (only 23 projects received an operational certification), so we’ll have to wait and see whether this enforcement mechanism is effective.

Both rating system base their evaluation on a comparison of the designed project to a theoretical baseline projects that refers to industry standard guidelines and codes. But the baseline reference codes used by the two programs are significantly different. While LEED refers to internationally accepted standards like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1 guidelines, the Chinese system refers to domestic standards. It is my adviser Yingxin Zhu's opinion that the Ashrae 60.1 requires too much ventilation, as well as specifying an inefficient central HVAC system design, when compared to the Chinese standard. This means baseline energy models in LEED have much higher basic energy consumption than baseline models for 3-Star. Therefore, 3-star projects must have much lower levels of energy consumption than LEED projects in order to achieve a comparable energy rating.

★★ | Vanke Garden Residences, Shanghai | 万科府前花园上海

Assessment and Certification

The assessment of a LEED project is basically predicated on following the checklist accurately and submitting the paperwork correctly to the GBCI. In generally points are very objective, so the assessment is relatively straightforward. For example 1% of total energy produced by on-site renewables equals 1 point, 3%, equals 2 points, 5% equals 3 points, and so on.

The 3-star approach is a little more flexible and subjective. After you submit your application, a committee of green building experts, largely based out of China’s research institutions as well as practicing professionals review your project. Research institutions, like the Tsinghua University’s Department of Building Science, can also provide consultation and advice to the designers during the design phase when the first drawings are submitted. While the point achievement criteria in the 3-Star system can be very clear in some places, at times it can also be vague and subjective. This subjectivity gives the designers a bit of flexibility, but it also injects some uncertainty in the process. I see this as having both advantages and disadvantages over LEED's more rigid system and well-defined program. On the one hand, trained evaluators can ensure that a poorly designed project that only meets the bare minimum criteria cannot claim green status, and they can also reward creative or innovative solution that don’t fit exactly within the definition of a specific credit. On the other hand, the subjective nature of the systems introduces an unpredictable factor that can scare developers off.

Different but Complementary Philosophies

This difference between these systems reflects the different goals and philosophies of the organization designing and running them. LEED was designed by the USGBC, a collaboration between developers, architects, engineers, and green building material suppliers, to generate a market for green buildings, green building products and services, and promote sustainable design. In short, in green building jargon: transform the marketplace. By almost any measure LEED has been an incredible success in generating a market and creating a buzz around the idea of sustainable design around the world.

The 3-star system on the other hand is an Academic and Government-led project. While 3-star shares market transformation goals, it also has an overriding policy goal that fits into China’s long term environmental and energy policy: namely reducing building energy consumption. So it is not really all that surprising that 3-star has a greater focus on energy consumption: by requiring more energy prerequisites, and specifying a lower energy consumption baseline. Furthermore, since the 3-Star program does not have the same collaboration between green building suppliers and industry it tends to focus on simpler and cheaper solutions for energy efficiency, while LEED has a much stronger preference for high tech solutions and materials.

★ | Suzhou Industrial Park Youth Center | 苏州工业园区青少年活动中心

Which is Better?

When I talk to architects and academics around China and the US about these systems they tend to have relatively polarized positions. The professors at my University see LEED as mostly marketing and hype that will not actually reduce building energy consumption in China, and in some ways the data is proving them right. Western Architects, on the other hand, tend to discount 3-Star as non-transparent and lacking the objective and trusted brand name of LEED. This viewpoint is also right to a certain point, 3-Star is more subjective, but as far as popularity goes it’s actually growing faster than LEED, and as I stated earlier I expect growth rates to increase.

My opinion is that both program are necessary and in fact complementary. They target very different market segments: LEED targets very high end commercial and luxury residential, while 3-Star focuses on government projects, as well as less expensive, but still luxury housing projects. And the programs are actually tailored very well to those individual markets. Brand name recognition is important for corporate headquarters in high-end commercial projects, and developers for these type of projects can afford expensive technologies. Standard commercial projects and public buildings, on the other hand, will benefit from University expert consultation and a focus on simpler and cheaper solutions.

Together these programs will continue to have a huge impact in China. And these exceptionally high growth rates will make anyone happy to be working in the green building industry.

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