10 REASONS TO BUILD GREEN FOCUS
4. TO STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME
California is one of the US’ most advanced states when it comes to sustainability, which means everyone must run to keep up. From 2020, all residential buildings must be net zero energy, and from 2030, all new commercial buildings.
“That means that your building energy demand must be equal to your building energy supply,” says WSP Flack + Kurtz’s Bisel. “It’s particularly challenging for commercial buildings. In terms of on-site energy, that’s going to challenge a large number
of buildings in the urban environment. If you have a 20-storey office building, it’s not possible to install enough solar panels on its roof to equal the energy demand. There may be other challenges – if the neighbouring buildings are really tall, they may be shading you so you don’t have access to sufficient energy resources, either solar or wind.”
But towers remain sustainable for other reasons, leaving designers in a quandary: “If we construct lots of three-storey buildings
with PVs on the roof, that urban sprawl means people will have to drive to their buildings – the impact of the transport emissions is worse. This is something that building owners have not yet picked up on, but the design community is already thinking about. We’ve been out talking to architects and developers about this because it will be so important to our business.
“This is on the horizon in California, and if it can happen in California, it could happen in many, many other states.”
That’s been a key driver for the vast Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco, due for completion in 2017. It’s aiming for an environmental rating of LEED Gold, but its bus, rapid transit and rail links will also help to improve the sustainability of all of the buildings around it. “It will bring transportation right to the heart of downtown,” says Bisel. “There’s a really big high-rise development next to it too, so office workers can take advantage of the excellent public transport links.”
5. TO SPEAK A GLOBAL LANGUAGE
While regulations are unlikely to be understood outside the local market, an accreditation scheme such as Green Star, BREEAM or LEED offers a way of demonstrating a building’s credentials on the world stage.
“It’s a tangible thing that people can put their finger on,” says WSP Built Ecology’s Jarratt. “Tools like Green Star provide a common language to describe the environmental attributes of buildings and understand them. People can say, we’ve got a 6-star Green Star rating, so our building’s performance is at a certain level on the world stage. It’s up to us to understand these parameters while also pushing the boundaries to come up with
strategies to achieve our clients’ desired outcomes.”
There are a growing number of rating schemes around the world that can provide a global benchmark. WSP is working with many green building councils, and has played a key role in establishing councils and sustainability rating schemes in existing and new markets.
WSP Environment & Environmental is currently developing a green building code for Vietnam, for example, while WSP Green By Design in Johannesburg is working with governments across Africa to help them to tailor South Africa’s Green Star scheme to local conditions.
TRANSBAY TRANSIT CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO
IT’S UP TO US TOCOME UP WITH STRATEGIES TO ACHIEVEOUR CLIENTS’ DESIRED OUTCOMES
6. TO REDUCE YOUR TAX BILL
Government policies on sustainable buildings come in the form of carrots as well as sticks. For example, Bisel at WSP Flack + Kurtz helps clients to take advantage of various incentives provided by utility companies, state agencies and federal government. “Understanding the incentives is really important for
a client,” he says. “Many come in the form of tax credits or depreciation opportunities.
“We’re not certified accountants, but as engineers we need to understand these opportunities so that we can flag them to the client so they can explore them. The better informed they are, the more proactive they can be.”
Image courtesy of Transbay Joint Powers Authority and Pelli Clarke Pelli
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