How Companies Can Make Buildings Greener and Better

The need for global efficiency within buildings – one of the largest generators of greenhouse gases in the world – has been recognized for quite some time.

Over the last several years, our industry has been actively greening both commercial and residential buildings, in order to mitigate the environmental impact of building and managing these structures.

These actions include a wide variety of voluntary programs and evolution of building codes and standards, enabled by technology and interoperability standards and protocols.  In addition to programs aimed at improving building design and construction, there is also a proliferation of building metrics, building labeling, and benchmarking programs, aimed at validating the actual performance of “better buildings.”

All of these combined actions are synergistic, with new ideas, standards and programs emerging every year, as our industry uncovers new strategies and overcomes complex obstacles to whole building performance and lifecycle optimization. 

Though there have been multiple approaches to helping buildings implement practical and measurable solutions, one of the most effective and widely sought-after approaches has been gaining certification through industry standards for energy efficient buildings.

It is essential for companies to be proactive in shaping and implementing voluntary initiatives, code development and standard evolution in order to accelerate the pace and pave the path for high performance green buildings of tomorrow. This is both a business decision and a principled one, but only by practicing what we preach are we able to gain valuable insight into our overall energy management, which when added up, makes a difference in how the whole system works.

Today’s Standards

Perhaps one of the best known green building initiatives is a voluntary certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program. This voluntary program started in 1998 and today consists of nine rating systems in design and construction, development of new buildings, and retrofit and operations of existing buildings. It is a dominant catalyst in both in the U.S. and worldwide with more than 35,000 projects currently participating in the LEED system in 91 countries.

This year, two additional global building initiatives were introduced to the market: the ZigBee Building Automation Standard and the ISO 50001 certification program. These most recent initiatives demonstrate the dynamic nature of the market and the continued need for development of program standards of many different types that help builders and owners translate high performance and sustainable buildings goals into practical and actionable measures on the ground. All three programs meet different needs in the market, but they all have the same goal –helping owners and builders develop energy-efficient buildings.

The ZigBee Building Automation standard, announced just a few months ago, addresses a specific challenge for high performance buildings: how to ensure interoperable, secure, and reliable monitoring and control of building systems. It is the only BACnet-compatible wireless mesh network standard for commercial buildings, is vendor-neutral, and can ultimately be used to help organizations contribute toward LEED credits. BACnet is an ASHRAE, ANSI and ISO standard protocol that enables communication between building automation and control devices independent of service. BACnet’s open and nonproprietary protocol enables easy expansion and integration, and because it began development in 1987, is a widely-deployed system. ZigBee enables new green buildings or retrofit of existing buildings to green buildings by providing pervasive sensing and control in places costly to wire, such as the living space.

Next Page: What companies can do.