Achieving Sustainable Building

Introduction

Architects design buildings according to the needs of their clients; every building is constructed with a specific objective. It is imperative to ascertain whether a building has been able to achieve the desired objective or not. It is understood that construction of buildings and other structures involves utilisation of materials that are responsible for environment pollution. Of late, due to global awareness on preservation of environment, role of buildings in carbon emission has been investigated.

Industry Problem

Global environmental scenario is deteriorating day by day. Construction industry is one of the major contributors to environment pollution. It is reported that nearly half of the carbon emissions are caused by construction sites and concrete structures around the globe. It has become crucial to invent ways and means to decrease such carbon emission. Another problem that is escalating is use of energy resources by the construction industry. Water and electricity are the two main energy resources without which the construction industry would come to a standstill. Since construction is an industry, owners, builders, contractors, and other people and agencies involved in this field want to earn profit from their construction ventures. Latest technology is used in order to reduce carbon emissions and utilization of energy resources and this involves huge funds. The three main issues i.e., increasing profits, maintaining sustainability and reducing carbon emissions can be achieved by adopting appropriate sustainability features in the construction industry.

Literature Analysis

In pursuing the guidelines of green buildings, cost factor is a major hindrance. As such, owners of new buildings demand new construction methods that are cost-effective (Tolson 2011). New construction methods have allowed buildings to comply with the guidelines of the green building concept but at the same time, cost of construction has increased manifold.

Strategic innovation is a venture adopted by the global construction industry in order to cope with rising costs of construction. Such innovation includes carbon-green technology that aims at reducing carbon emission in new buildings being constructed (GVA 2011). Inclusion of carbon-green innovation in government guidelines becomes more important due to the fact that it serves a dual purpose: low cost of construction and adherence to carbon emission restrictions. Buildings that adopt this innovative measure qualify for government incentives and subsidies (in various nations) that also include tax-cuts (Chan & Cooper 2011; Adamson & Pollington 2006). Such measures by the government reduce financial burden on owners and contractors.

Rationale of the study

Construction sector plays an important role in the positive growth of economy of any nation and contributes substantially to its GDP (Zhou & Lowe 2003). Construction sustainability is an important aspect in the current undertaking of construction projects throughout the world. An up to date and efficient infrastructure works significantly towards promoting growth, with the construction sector playing a key role in ensuring that built structures are not only inventive, but also effective in terms of cost. Sustainable construction involves ensuring sustainable development during construction. It is the process of applying appropriate practices in selection of materials to be used, their sources, design and method of construction, as a way of improving performance, reducing environmental project burden, minimizing waste and enhancing ecological friendliness (HM Government 2008).

According to Bon and Hutchinson (2000), main methods of dealing with various challenges include; ensuring governance through set standards, regulatory and legal practices as well as developing and implementing policies that are market-focused. Successful completion of any project requires that all quality measures are put in place (Khalfan 2002). Such factors necessitated to conduct this study.

Research Problem

Construction industry is responsible for a substantial amount of environmental pollution. Though there are various guidelines to be followed by builders and owners of new buildings, the cost factor acts as a hindrance in compliance of such guidelines.

Methodology and methods

The study is a quantitative research and is based on journals, books, articles and authentic websites. Since the research question is typical, a case study was considered as an exemplar. The research problem will be discussed in detail and a research question will be formulated. A conceptual model of the proposition will be discussed that will feature the main points. The literature review features viewpoints of scholars on the given topic. The authenticity of the sources has been confirmed.

The pros and cons of having a green building have been discussed. The cost factor, which is a hindrance to compliance of government guidelines, has also been discussed and a solution is also provided. The case study would assist future builders and owners in creating green buildings.

Research Question

How can sustainability be achieved by buildings while maintaining minimum cost of construction?

Conceptual Model

Starting with a brief introduction, the problem faced by the construction industry and the rationale of the study were discussed. The author identified the research problem and formulated a research question. Scholarly articles and journals were referred on the subject and a literature analysis was done that incorporated some of the works of eminent scholars. Subsequently, the methodology of the study was discussed. Since this study is based on the green building concept, it was important to include a case study. The author researched about such buildings and selected 60L Green Building located in Australia. A thorough research was done on the building and a case study was prepared. The case study discusses the important factors related to the selected building such as design, cost-effectiveness, compliance of government guidelines, etc. Finally, the limits and constraints of the study were discussed before writing the conclusion.

Case Study: 60L Green Building

The 60L green building is an example of highest level of construction of commercial buildings, especially those that adhere to the green building concept. The building is located at 60-66 Leicester Street, Carlton, Victoria and houses the office of Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), in addition to other tenants. The building was initially a warehouse (during the 19th century). The warehouse was renovated into the present unique structure. Most of the material was reused during the renovation process. 60L green building depicts commercial feasibility of a structure designed and operated in such a way that it has minimum possible impact on the environment. The building specifies the manner in which an intelligent builder can attain objectives. The building also shows how occupants can augment productivity.

The 60L Green Building has the below mentioned philosophies:

  • To adhere to sustainability features of design, construction, operation, and management.
  • To be a commercially feasible building; to keep costs of construction at par with other commercial buildings.
  • To act as an example for future buildings.
  • To exemplify that sustainable ecological standard can be adopted by the construction industry without any exceptions.

The following building features make the 60L Green Building a leader in commercial building designs:

  • Preference is given to outsourcing materials from renewable sources. An environmental assessment is conducted on all new materials purchased. Materials containing hazardous chemicals are avoided.
  • Maximum utilization of natural resources such as light and air is facilitated by appropriate design. Such a design has reduced the necessity for artificial heating and cooling (depending on the requirement).
  • Water efficiency is achieved by rain water harvesting. Appropriate equipments are used in water supply system.
  • Green management is observed by inviting cooperation of all the occupants.
  • Frequent environmental assessments are carried out to gauge the performance of the building.

The 60L Green Building has adopted the following building principles:

  • To develop a commercially feasible building that is of high quality.
  • To make minimum use of energy resources and to make maximum possible reuse of such available energy resources.
  • To intelligently choose such materials that help in safeguarding the environment.
  • To decrease green-house emissions.
  • To implement such work practices that assist in protecting the environment.
  • To minimise utilization of water.

Cost and time implications

60L Green Building has used innovative measures that do not involve much funds. The building has harnessed natural resources such as light, air and water to meet the daily needs of the occupants.

  • 1990s: ACF decides to set an example of a green building by developing a similar building.
  • 2002: 60L Green Building starts operating
  • 2003: 60L Green Building won the coveted ‘Victorian Premier’s Business Sustainability Award’ and ‘Excellence in Property Awards’
  • 2009: The building was gifted to ACF

How is 60L Green Building different?

The 60L Green Building has set noteworthy standards for environment friendly buildings as far as utilization of energy and water and greenhouse emissions are concerned. Use of electricity for lighting purpose has been reduced by more than 80 percent, consumption of electricity by equipments has been reduced by 2/3rd and that for heating and cooling has been reduced by almost 60 percent. In comparison to a usual commercial building, long-term cutback is 65 to 70 percent on an annual basis. As a result of using non-fossil based fuel sources CO2 emission savings reached 100 annually. Rainwater harvesting has resulted in an annual accumulation of 500 kL of water to be used for shower, utensils and other washing needs. Employing appropriate and energy efficient appliances and fixtures, utilization of water in toilets has been reduced by almost 60 percent. The used water is recycled within the building premises to be used for flushing and irrigation purposes. Such intelligent measures have resulted in annual water saving of 90 to 95 percent. The following figure depicts the flow of air and how it has been used for positive effects in the 60L Green Building.

The 60L Green Building has a negligible impact on the environment due to its adherence to all the guidelines prescribed by the Australian government. Since the building lays stress on minimum of use of energy resources and maximises reutilization of such resources, it is considered to be a very cost-effective building. The following figures depict the potable water and sewage treatment systems being followed at 60L Green Building (Farrelly & Davis 2009).

The 60L Green Building used the following tools in order to achieve optimum environmental protection:

  • Energy: TAS software was used.
  • Lighting: ‘Radiance synthetic imaging system’ and ‘Ecotect software’ were used.
  • Water: Rain water harvesting and water recycling systems were employed.
  • Material: The materials used in the construction process were selected keeping into consideration the objectives.

Limits and constraints of the case study

The study is based on secondary sources and as such, on-site information is not available. The author had to rely on information provided by the scholars. However, the author saved a lot of time because information was readily available. The use of internet enabled easy access to the works of scholars. Such works brought forward critical analysis of the building.

Conclusion

Considering the aforementioned data, it can be established that the 60L Green Building is one of the most energy efficient buildings that adheres strictly to the government guidelines. The building has adopted innovative measures to save energy resources and also reuse them.

The research question has also been answered during the course of the case study. Various methods used in the 60L Green building have been discussed. These methods, while being cost effective, are eco-friendly as well. If new buildings follow these methods, they will definitely save valuable funds. The environment will also be protected if natural resources such as water, air and light are utilized intelligently.

References

Adamson, D & Pollington, T 2006, Change in the construction industry: an account of the UK construction Industry Reform Movement 1993-2003, Routledge, New York.

Bon, R & Hutchinson, K 2000, ‘Sustainable construction: some economic challenges’, Building Research and Information, vol. 28. no. 5/6, pp. 301-304.

Chan, P & Cooper, R 2011, Constructing futures, industry leaders and futures thinking in construction, Willey-Blackwell, Oxford.

Farrelly, M & Davis, C 2009, Demonstration projects: case studies from Melbourne, Australia, Web.

GVA 2011, Stimulating sustainable construction in the UK: do we need a scrappage scheme for buildings?, Spring, London.

HM Government 2008, Strategy for sustainable construction, Web.

Khalfan, M 2002, Sustainable development and sustainable construction, Web.

Quinn, T 2012, Whichever way you look at it, green buildings save dollars and make sense, Web.

Tolson, M 2011, Green building performance: benefits to post occupancy assessment, Web.

Zhou, L & Lowe, J 2003, Economic challenges of sustainable construction, RICS Foundation, London.