Many commercial buildings have taken steps to become more environmentally conscious over the past several years, but the green construction movement is amping up in 2021 and will continue in the years ahead. We discuss emerging trends and the continued dedication to eco-consciousness for commercial buildings.
Green Building Certifications on the Rise
Certifications such as LEED and Energy Star are fundamental when it comes to creating green buildings. Achieving an Energy Star building certification means creating a building that’s energy efficient. The EPA believes that energy efficiency is a prerequisite for environmental friendliness, which means that Energy Star is an important prerequisite for the more involved LEED certification. Energy Star buildings use 35% less energy and as a result they cost $0.54 cents less per square foot to operate. In addition, they generate 35% fewer greenhouse emissions.
Adoption of both Energy Star and LEED certifications are on the rise. As of 2019, 42.2% of office space in the top five office markets is certified green. What’s more, the future of green buildings looks very bright. If it passes, the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan contains funds to “Build, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings.” In other words, prepare for the continued acceleration of the green building boom.
Eco-friendly Building Materials
Alongside a worldwide shift towards green buildings comes a massive demand for the materials that make up these buildings. The market for green building materials is growing at an 11.25% CAGR. This has been driven by a global increase in construction expenditure, as well as a worldwide commitment to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Here are some roofing and building materials that you might need to be aware of in the future:
- Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs)
These prefabricated building panels take the form of a large block of foam insulation sandwiched between two sheets of OSB plywood. These panels provide superior insulation, and their large size means that they make good walls and roof decks.
- Insulated Concrete Forms
These forms allow builders to create cast-in-place concrete walls with preexisting insulation and preinstalled reinforcement. These forms minimize the use of cement while creating an extremely strong structure with a high R value.
- Composite Roof Panels
Here, two layers of foam insulation are sandwiched between two metal or plastic sheets. This creates a strong yet lightweight roofing material that increases the R value for the structure underneath, improving energy costs.
- Fiber, Cork, or Cellulose Insulation
Finally, another ongoing trend is towards using insulation derived from renewable or organic materials as opposed to plastic foam. By using these materials, builders can help save the planet without sacrificing energy efficiency.
Efficient HVAC Systems
Even the most effective kind of insulation needs some sort of active heating or cooling mechanism to go alongside it to protect against the effect of extreme temperatures. Fortunately, emerging technologies have made it possible to heat and cool commercial buildings using progressively smaller amounts of energy.
One obstacle to achieving efficient HVAC is that nearly every manufacturer makes similar and competing claims about efficiency. Fortunately, programs like Energy Star can help purchasers understand which kinds of commercial HVAC equipment are viable in terms of energy efficiency. Use their product finder tool to gain insight into what works for your building.
Fully Sealed Building Envelopes
Lastly, a good seal is crucial when it comes to maintaining energy efficient buildings. As generations of dads have said, “we’re not paying to heat the outdoors!” In other words, facility managers need to ensure that there are no places where the interior conditioned environment of a building can mingle with the outdoors.
A lot of the time, this means concentrating inspections on the roof. In a commercial building, the roof represents the portion of the building envelope that’s most directly exposed to the elements. This means that the weathering effects of the air and wind can create cracks in the roof membrane and roof edge or compromise the effectiveness of the insulation. No matter how you’re certified or what kind of roofing material you use, the integrity of the building envelope plays a huge part in determining your energy efficiency.
Because of the importance of the rooftop in an energy efficient building, it is crucial to invest in rooftop support systems designed to help building owners safely inspect, maintain, and update building systems. Here at PHP Systems/Design, we specialize in creating custom roof access walkways, equipment platforms, pipe supports, and other infrastructure that lends itself to sustainable roof designs. Contact us today for more information and pricing.