Building Green
The green building movement is a modern-day revolution that began in the United States nearly 15 years ago and has had a tremendous impact on the way buildings are designed and constructed. Over the last 5 years, everywhere you turn you hear the word "green". From green buildings to green products to green services, there's no way of escaping the topic of green. To bring perspective to the issue, we examine what makes a building green, the standards used during design, and the growing green product innovations created by manufacturers.

Buildings account for one-sixth of our planet's fresh water, one-quarter of its wood supply and two-fifths of its material and energy resources. Building "green" is simply a way to use limited and precious resources efficiently while meeting standards for occupant health, increased productivity, lower energy and water uses and, most importantly, reducing the overall impact on the environment by using recycled products.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known as LEED, was established by the US Green Building Council to serve as a rating system of green building practices. To be considered green, a building must show considerable attention to a) resource efficiency, b) indoor air quality, and c) energy efficiency and water conservation. To achieve resource efficiency, materials used must be recycled or refurbished, natural or plentiful, produced through a resource efficient manufacturing process, locally available and durable to ensure a longer lasting life. To achieve adequate indoor air quality, materials used must be non-toxic, emit few or no carcinogens or toxins, assembled with minimal Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), moisture resistant and must require only simple, non-toxic methods of cleaning. To achieve energy efficiency and lower water consumption, materials and systems utilized must reduce the consumption of both energy and water. With all this in mind, how does an architect or contractor strategize to meet "green" standards during design and construction?

For one, a proper green site should take advantage of mass transit while also taking into consideration conservation of existing landscape and natural environmental features. Landscape designs that plan for foliage requiring little water, pesticide and general maintenance are an obvious choice for resource conservation. Paving materials and outdoor furnishings manufactured out of recycled content complete the green cycle.

Passive design strategies, including building shape and orientation, solar design and the use of natural lighting also enhance energy efficiency levels. Implementing high-efficiency lighting systems, (those that include advanced lighting controls and motion sensors tied directly to dimmable lighting controls), ensures energy is not wasted while buildings are vacant. Properly sized heating and cooling units in conjunction with a thermally efficient building shell and high quality wall and ceiling insulation prevent unnecessary energy leakage.

When planning for water efficiency, implement a "gray water system" that collects rain water for outdoor irrigation and ultra low-flush toilet or low-flow showerhead fixtures that conserve vast quantities of water. Accurate dimensional planning (a measure of spatial extent, especially shape, width, height, or length) also helps by reducing the amount of materials required, which in turn promotes resource conservation.

Architects and contractors can also choose to require documented proof and confirmation that a product meets green standards. Recycled content, zero or low harmful emissions, low toxicity, durability, longevity, recyclability, and of course, local production are just some of the characteristics to look for in products that claim to be green. When it comes to excess construction and demolition materials, a commitment to proper disposal and recycling should be unwavering.

The design ideas mentioned here are but a fraction of the total options available to architects and contractors today. General organization plays a part as well. Establishing a clear vision, developing standards and commitments, design criteria and priorities along with a project schedule that allows time for green systems and green products to be properly tested and commissioned are among many of the keys that should be considered when strategizing a green building project.

With the idea of green spreading throughout the US, keeping up with innovative products and with LEED standards is a challenge. Manufacturers are constantly inventing and re-inventing methods of production and fabrication, and using green certified materials in their production processes. Products such as CRFP-reinforced insulated wall panels for insulation, on-site distributed generation systems for power, water-based solvent-free top coats for non-toxic flooring, lower wattage fluorescent down-lights for energy efficiency and foliage roofs that greatly increase roof life and decrease exterior noise are among the more popular innovations that have been implemented into green building thus far. As the trend is expected to thrive into the future, many more products are on the drawing board and in the testing phases.

In its own commitment to green building, Krieger Specialty products has implemented many new changes including the use of water based prime paints, recycled cardboard for product shipping, and environmentally friendly adhesives for veneering. Krieger's oxygen powered laser machine generates a clean cut and maximizes the yield per metal sheet to reduce scrap and waste. And, Krieger's efficient manufacturing processes further reduce waste products such as welding rods, grinding disks and debris. And when it comes to wood veneering, Krieger calls on the Forest Stewardship Council to supply logs for projects requiring specific wood species.

Furthermore, Krieger contributes to energy preservation by offering a thermal-break door assembly that has, for many years now, gone well beyond LEED standards. Where most companies provide only a thermal-break frame, which is very efficient with BTU loss (British Thermal Unit) in windows but does little to assist the door system, Krieger's thermal-break door assembly provides a complete unit that is proven to be much more efficient than a frame alone.

Because "green" building products and processes are new, cost of production and sourcing is currently the biggest barrier to mainstream entry. But anyone who thinks this will keep the green building industry from sky-rocketing is sadly mistaken. Education and government facilities are planning for a 62% increase in green construction over the next several years, while institutional, office and healthcare facilities are expected to increase as much as 46-54%. Overall, a 71% growth increase in green building is expected in the next few years alone. As with any new industry in the progress of human history, it's only a matter of time before green building rapidly evolves, improves, and its costs decrease. Anyone who tries to argue this point needs only to think back to the automobile. Once a costly, luxury item reserved for the wealthy, the automobile is now a commodity affordable enough to own one for each member of the family.

From LEED standards, to vision and strategy, to the manufacturers that continue to develop new innovative green products, the building industry is working together to protect our environment amidst the ever-increasing rate of commercial and industrial growth. But most importantly, it is the end users, building owners, and buyers who are driving the demand. And no company, no matter how big, can afford to ignore the need.
If you have questions please call us at 562-695-0645
Made in the USA