The environmental impact buildings have on the United States is at alarming levels — accounting for 40% of the nation’s energy usage and an equal percentage of carbon output, and adding to that water consumption, waste management and vehicle transportation for waste management as well as employees of the building, it is clear change is necessary.
Building automation is the leading solution towards streamlining building energy management. Although LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is a goal for many new buildings, oftentimes the certification covers only the construction and design process. It’s simple when it’s a project being worked on externally by a team. But once the building is occupied and in use, oftentimes the building maintenance team poorly manages lighting control, elevator access control, heating / ventilation and air conditioning, the building’s efficiency potential is not met, and the building uses an unnecessary amount of energy.
Not only should the focus be on constructing a sustainable Building Solution, but also on retrofitting old buildings to also be greener and more energy efficient. By conserving water and utilizing renewable energy, as well as implementing building automation systems, even older buildings can benefit from energy retrofittings.
Most building occupants applaud and welcome the idea of greening a building, but when it comes to behavioral change for the individual, many fail to change their ways, keeping the greening process from reaching its potential. Simple habit changes such as manually turning lights on after a timer has shut them off, or returning cutlery and dishes to the dishwasher instead of tossing out disposable plasticware can be unwelcomed by employees.
Old buildings represent only 4% of LEED-certified square footage, but account for a fifth of LEED registered square feet. Making existing buildings greener poses a number of challenges, as it is a multi-faceted project to attack and integrate building systems. The coordination of a number of priorities is necessary, and oftentimes, they are clashing. For instance, meeting the requirements of energy efficiency with heating and air conditioning, while meeting the the comfort needs of occupants. Oftentimes instead of the greening falling under one large project, it is broken into conflicting pieces where different departments overlook a specific aspect of the building while it clashes with the energy needs of another aspect.
Above all other challenges, the budget for going green is the most difficult for building owners and building management to monitor and control. Most organizations have a long list of budget priorities and constraints, with an aim to increase their bottom line as much as possible. While going green does provide an increased return on investment, it takes some time to create and see the changes.