As a result, more people are realizing the need for environmentally conscious building that will conserve energy, water, and materials while at the same time improve environmental and human health. Green building synchronizes all aspects of a structure to reduce negative impact on the environment. The concept of Green building encompasses the planning, building, operation, and eventual dismantling of the structure at the end of its life cycle. The EPA describes a ‘Green’ Building as “a high performing, energy, water and resource efficient building.” Ideally, a Green building also has an aesthetic component and coheres to its natural surroundings.
In addition to the environmental benefits, Green buildings promise social and economic benefits. In an era when a typical American spends 90 percent of his or her time indoors, the green movement has recognized the significance of a restorative indoor environment. With natural light sources and improved air quality, employers are beginning to see too that workers will be healthier and more productive.
Green building can add up front cost, and some builders are wary of the perceived expense. Typically, however, while the practice may be more costly in initial phases, the conservation of energy and resources will offset expenses in the long run and reduce risk and liability. Though Green building is gaining popularity, the concept remains mysterious to many. One does not, however, need to travel to the West Coast and visit the house of an Ed Begley, Jr. to witness the newest trends in ecologically conscious building.
Take for example the Kansas City Science & Technology Center (KCSTC) located at 3rd and Minnesota in Kansas City, KS. Standing at the foot of the Lewis & Clark Viaduct, the KCSTC is recognized nationally as a state-of-the-art sustainable facility that represents the newest innovations in Green building.
The KCSTC facility is the result of a design competition hosted by the EPA and U.S. General Services Administration to replace its dated Kansas City, KS laboratory. The facility was awarded a design-build contract in 2000, and is built-to-suit for the EPA on a brownfield redevelopment site. The 72,100 gross square foot office houses 110 staff and was completed in the spring of 2003.
While the average laboratory uses more water and energy than an office building, the KCSTC uses significantly less than either. In fact, the facility used 28 percent less energy than similar laboratories of the EPA in the operating year of 2004.
The KCSTC facility uses energy efficiently by employing renewable energy systems. These include Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hoods, after hour systems, carbon dioxide monitors to deter unnecessary air flow increases, a reflective roof to reduce the amount of absorbed solar heat, and five modular boilers fueled by natural gas in place of one mega-boiler.
The property manages its use of water through a unique Rooftop Rainwater Recapture System which recovers rain-water to reuse in wastewater fixtures and the building’s cooling towers. The system saves an estimated 735,000 gallons of water a year. The facility features Xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that uses native plants, soil and mulch to retain moisture and reduce water use.
The building provides a positive indoor environment as well, including volatile organic compound (Low-VOC) adhesives and paints and plumbing systems that prevent elevated water lead content. During construction, the HVAC system and duct work were sealed daily to prevent construction-related dust, chemicals and odor. Only after residual smells dissipated were carpets installed. The building materials used in the KCSTC facility are often of a high-re-cycled content. They benefit the environment and are built to environmentally friendly specifications. The windows consist of low-energy glass. The high ceilings and open bay of the office promote natural lighting. Motion-detector lights also help save energy.
The building promises sustainable growth and development. The Xeriscaping will reduce costs of upkeep for landscaping. The KCSTC continues to seek to improve water conservation. All of these factors reduce waste and reduce toxins. By increasing performance and reducing use of energy, Green building lowers operating costs. (For more information on Green building features, see sidebar.)
The ecological community has lauded this facility for its innovation. The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive has also recognized the facility in its federal Closing the Circle Awards in the Sustainable Design/Green buildings category. The facility received the Leader- ship in Energy and Environmental De-sign (LEED) Gold certification in 2003 (LEED developed a Green building Rating System). And in 2004, the Department of Energy recognized the KCSTC as a Federal Energy Saver Showcase Facility.
In fact, Green facilities are sprouting just about everywhere and in every sector. The EPA Region 7 Office, another example of Green building in Kansas City KS, was completed in 1999 and houses 700 personnel. Green building also occurs in the for-profit sector. In eastern Missouri, the Alberici Corporate Headquarters represent the movement towards Green building in the corporate world. The American Institute of Architects recognized the Overland, Missouri facility as a top ten green project in 2006.
As the benefits of Green building become better known, the practice will likely become even more widespread, especially in residential neighborhoods and in schools. The Green buildings function as close to nature as possible while serving man’s purpose. Yet in so doing, these buildings help achieve the cost-effectiveness businesses seek, which explains why larger for-profit corporations are adopting the style. It is the hope that in the future we could see a landscape of Green buildings that will emit less waste, conserve greater energy, and please the eye for the respect and care with which they were designed.