The Importance of Building Green
You’re probably aware of the trend in green building or green construction, because it’s more than a trend, it’s a permanent part of the construction world—with new innovations coming all the time. Tri-North has been a part of this movement in green building, so let’s visit some of our projects and explain sustainability in construction.
If you have a green building project and are looking for an end-to-end construction company, visit the Tri-North website and contact us today.
Why building green is important
Green building solutions are going to become more important and prevalent in the future. The more sustainable construction is implemented, the lower the carbon footprint and waste involved in the construction industry. Doing this worldwide will have a tremendous impact on the environment now and down the road. Some of the benefits of building green include:
- Efficient energy use. Green building energy practices reduce energy dependency and will reduce energy bills down the road.
- Lower maintenance costs. Due to the green building self-sustaining processes used, green buildings generally require less maintenance and operation costs.
- Better health. Green buildings avoid “sick building syndrome” which allows those inside it to have healthier and more productive work environments.
- Improved indoor environment. Improvements in lighting, ergonomics, thermal improvements, and air quality enhancements are part of green building which makes the overall health indoors better and more effective for employees.
What is building green in construction?
One of the first terms we will need to discuss is sustainability. The strict definition of sustainability is a building that avoids the depletion of natural resources and maintains an ecological balance.
However, like so much, it’s a lot more complicated in practice. What is the process and what elements are studied to determine the sustainability of a building?
The key elements analyzed and discussed during a green building project include:
- Life cycle assessment. This is a long look at the building from a complete environmental impact perspective. It uses scientific studies and information to see where green building and green techniques fit best within a project or building. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, each building and project can be different, with unique solutions for each.
- Siting and structure design efficiency. Green building must start from the bottom up, particularly if you are talking about a new building. The site chosen, the designs and every aspect of the construction project should be looked at from a sustainability perspective.
- Energy efficiency. The amount of energy used is important. Green buildings try to use as little energy as possible, while still maintaining the standards needed to live or work in them.
- Water efficiency. A sustainable building will use as little water as possible and solutions for water conservation should be determined and planned for. This includes processes for reusing rain runoff and “gray water” for non-potable purposes such as watering greenery or other uses that minimize the waste of water.
- Materials efficiency. No wasted materials, for example reusing even wood normally thrown away. In fact, whenever possible, the vendors from which lumber and other materials come from should use sustainable practices. Even the types of stone and the use of more environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo or straw should be considered.
- Indoor environmental quality enhancement. Green building can provide a thriving, healthy and creative working environment. This involves indoor air quality standards and testing, lighting quality reviews and temperature analysis.
- Operations and maintenance optimization. Once the building is complete, it needs to operate and be maintained sustainably. Every aspect of how the building is run and maintained is reviewed, updated, and implemented for maximum sustainability.
- Waste reduction. So much waste material comes from commercial buildings, it’s staggering. A green building has processes, technology, and designs to mitigate this.
Becoming an LEED certified building
These days, buildings striving to lead the way in green building can go through the rigorous LEED certification process. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the authority in green building certification.
The certification process starts with registration of the project with the U.S. Green Building Council. To even be considered for LEED certification, certain criteria must be met, including:
- Environmental law compliance
- The building must be complete and permanent
- Use of a reasonable site boundary
- Compliance with minimum floor area requirements
- Minimum occupancy requirements met
- Commitment to share whole-building energy and water usage information
- Compliance with a minimum building area to site ratio
Once the application has been set, there will be numerous reviews of the project and the progress of the project as it moves forward. The building and all sustainable processes will be assessed and, depending on a points system, it will assign a certification from certified, silver, gold, and platinum.
Tri-North green building initiatives
Tri-North saw the need for sustainable construction a long time ago. Not only do we work with our clients who have green building projects, we put our money where our mouth is. When it came time for Tri-North to build our own new headquarters, we implemented green solutions that got us a gold LEED certification. We implemented the latest technologies available and made sure all the materials and designs used were sustainable.
Of course, there’s a lot more we’ve done and continue to do. Tri-North’s other projects with a green building emphasis include:
- Madison Public Library – Pinney. A build-out project at the busiest library in Madison, WI, involved green initiatives such as installation of wall insulation, structural steel, geo-thermal heating and cooling, wood ceilings and finishes made from reclaimed ash salvaged from trees cut down locally to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer. This building was certified LEED Gold.
- The Urban League of Greater Madison. Certified LEED level Silver, we undertook Tri-North’s extensive LEED® point analysis and identified areas for environmental improvement with minimal cost to the Urban League. We looked at all aspects of the building and found areas we could upgrade at no cost through life cycle analysis. For example, installing energy recovery units on exhaust fans and rooftop units saved energy on heating and cooling. Tri-North installed insulation on the outside of the building to increase energy efficiency by 10% and lower energy bills. We also placed emphasis on construction waste recycling during the build and all members of the Tri-North team were encouraged to maximize recycling on the project.
- Hotel Verdant – Racine. With this project Tri-North added environmentally sustainable features such as a living green roof which put live vegetation on portion of the roof to reduce the carbon footprint. We also added solar panels and wind turbines to the roof and utilized geothermal energy throughout.
Contact Tri-North for green building
Does green building sound exciting to you? Does it also sound a bit intimidating? Well, Tri-North can assist you through the process. We have become a leader in green building, and we make it part of our core services to construction projects whenever possible. If you have a building project and want to discuss sustainability or LEED certification, we can help. Contact us today!