By Joseph W. Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng., Fellow ASHRAE
* Credit to architect Edward Mazria; I think he said this first, if he didn’t
say it first he sure says it well.
Many “green” buildings don’t save energy (see “MISLEED-ING” sidebar). Why? They have too much glass, they are over-ventilated, they are leaky to air, they
are fraught with thermal bridges and they rely on gimmicks and fads rather than physics.
Basically, the current green and sustainability craze can be summed up as architects and engineers behaving badly. The good news is that most of this nonsense can be easily remedied when adults finally get involved. The bad news is that the failures are beginning to bubble to the surface and we are in danger of ruining the “green brand.”1
Before you can have a “green” building you need a building first. Presumably this building needs to be able to stand up, not be blown away in a hurricane, not fall down in an earthquake, not burn, not leak
rainwater, not be moldy, not rot, not corrode and otherwise be able to meet applicable building codes such as having a basic provision for ventilation like that specified by Standard 62.1.
So what’s with all these “green” programs providing “points” for “durability” and “indoor air quality”? I mean it’s pretty pathetic if we have to reward
architects and engineers when they provide details and specifications that should be basic to fundamental practice. If you design and install a controlled
ventilation system that meets Standard 62 you get points. You get more points if you keep the rain out and design the building to dry if it gets wet. And you get still more points if the occupants are actually
comfortable. Aren’t these code requirements? Shouldn’t these be “the standard of care”?
Have we architects and engineers sunk so low that we now get points if we meet basic building requirements that all buildings should meet in order to be called buildings?
Green programs waste a lot of time and money on stuff that is obvious and more time and money on stuff that is irrelevant or unimportant.
How about focusing on stuff that is important? It’s become “all about the points” and the important stuff gets ignored. Chasing “green points” doesn’t get you good buildings that are truly green. You can get a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating and not save any energy compared to
traditional buildings. How can that possibly be green?
1 “Michael Zatz, manager of the commercial building program for Energy
Star, an EPA program to promote energy-efficient products and practices
. . . says Energy Star has a user-support line that gets calls from greenbuilding
owners and managers who are disappointed in their building’s
energy performance.” (4)
How To Be Green
So, lets start with a basic requirement that we need a building that meets code
and the standard of care. That would be a building that is structurally sound, is fire-safe, has a controlled ventilation system, does not leak rainwater and is
comfortable. No points for this. This is what the minimum requirement for a building should be.
Now what’s next? That’s pretty easy. It’s energy. What are the two greatest challenges facing the Republic
since the pesky British at Bunker Hill and Robert E. Lee leading the Confederate Army? Global warming and energy security. The key to both Global Warming
and Energy Security is energy conservation. Architect Edward Mazria likes to say “architects control the
global thermostat.” I think he is right.
Show me a building that meets code and the standard of care and saves energy and I will show you a green building. A “real” green building, not a social
statement that saps money, time and resources from the real problems facing the planet.
You want to save serious energy and serious money? Read More...