Acton - The consideration of energy and its conservation while designing buildings has always been a major component of the design process.
Behind the scene, professionals in the industry have tried to integrate methods of conservation, even prior to the latest green movement. The inclusions of efficient operating systems and smart design have always been the tools used to achieve efficiency, but it has come with some financial burden.
The biggest change the industry has experienced is that Owners/Clients are now aware of the benefits associated with conservation, and are funding the means necessary to obtain them. In the past, environmental impacts and the bottom line of a building’s operational budget were not considered to be as much of an issue as they are today.
Rising energy costs tied to the life cycle of a building have become a major consideration in planning. A generation has emerged that is actively seeking green solutions while trying to remain fiscally responsible, and, it is these individuals who are demanding the implementation of the design and technology that was shadowed in the past. Owners now understand the payback attributed to the initial investment and how it outweighs the conventional methods used when rising energy costs are factored in.
Architects, engineers, everyone associated with the profession are now being challenged to step up to the plate and produce buildings that not only engage an individual’s senses but ensure a future that is stable and green.
Blanchaer - Many key initiatives with regards to energy efficiency that have been implemented in recent buildings are not readily identifiable. When you look at for example, the Bay Adelaide Centre, things such as optimization of mechanical systems’ efficiency, the use of heat recovery, and the improvement of the performance of the exterior building envelope, are not visible.
The use of alternative forms of energy has changed building design. No cost energy sources such as geothermal, deep water cooling/heating, and Kyoto cooling, or low cost forms such as co-generation have impacted not only the performance of buildings but their look. Mechanical plant sizes are much smaller.
As the industry’s knowledge matures, however, new initiatives to manage energy consumption will become much more visible and apparent in building design. Examples exist of buildings with “moving parts” that respond to the daily path of the sun. However, they are costly to construct and require a large investment in ongoing operation.
In order to manage costs in the future, clients will be looking more for simple, cost-neutral ways of reducing energy consumption. Passive strategies such as maximizing building orientation to maximize daylight harvesting and minimize solar heat gain, such as buildings that are longer in the east-west axis than the north-south axis, will become more common. We will likely see more buildings in which each facade has a different treatment in order to maximize the control of the sun.
As the energy efficiency achieved by the design of the building envelope and systems is maximized, we will see the next wave of “green” with a different look. Perhaps the “last frontier” in energy performance will involve reducing the amount of glazing on the building exterior to reduce the production of green house gases. The glass buildings of the millennium will date themselves very quickly.
Although not considered architectural features in their current state, PVs in the future will become more integrated in building form and the building skin, resulting in a distinctive building appearance.
What is the biggest impact that LEED has had on building design?
Coady - I think that I have been operating myself sort of before LEED, during LEED, and probably will be operating after LEED. I have seen the transition from the carrot philosophy which is let’s incentivize people to build better buildings; to care to be better citizens and the complete failure of that system; and the stick approach which is, ‘OK we will require that you give us a LEED gold building or a LEED silver building’, mandating it and the complete success of that, to the natural evolution of a system that is now in place and in force where people are poking holes in the system and saying that perhaps it is not the most perfect system and that it needs to be adjusted and needs to be modified.
While that is all true, the great thing that LEED has done is that it has really transformed the building industry wherever it has applied. It has forced people to not only create energy efficient buildings, but to deal with other issues like water, health, materials, and it is at its heart an educational tool. It was developed not as a building measurement and certification tool. The program, the Green Building Council, that it comes out of, was developed as an educational body. I think in that regard it has also been a great success. The design industry as a whole is much more aware and much more confident in the area of sustainability than it ever was and I think that it has had a huge success in that area.
Acton - LEED, as a process, ensures the compliance of a building to the Green Building Councils rating system. It has been a major social catalyst for the promotion of energy efficient design and allowed the public to become engaged in the complexities associated with buildings such as their carbon footprints.
Professionals have recognized all along that good design is worth the cost. LEED certification does add to the overall cost of a building but, certification is an option exercised by the owner/ client that seeks reassurance and recognition. LEED empowers the owner to a certain degree by allowing them choices as to what level of efficiency/certification they wish to implement into the building, while reassuring them that an independent third party is overseeing that certification.
The rating system acts as an ongoing, comprehensive checklist for the designer, and, they may use it to perform checks and balances for items dealing with energy and atmosphere, indoor air quality, and the design process and innovation.
The Design Process and Innovation category of the rating system allows designers to push the envelope and submit new ideas for certification. This category itself acts as a motivational tool for the designer.
Overall, the third party certification can be viewed as onerous and some may say excessive. However, once complete the owner/client is armed with the knowledge that the building does perform as intended (per LEED certification) and the satisfaction of contributing to the green movement.
Blanchaer - Before LEED, some buildings were being designed with efficient mechanical systems and tight building envelopes. With the advent of LEED the effectiveness of these measures was for the first time identified and measured.
However, earlier building designs did not necessarily go far enough. The possibility of achieving the recognition of LEED status has served to push buildings “over the edge,” sometimes doing a little more than they originally intended, just to get that special green status.
New program elements generated by green buildings have created the opportunity for new types of building forms. Bicycle parking, lockers and showers are often being provided at the front door of new buildings not only for convenience but to make a statement about the importance of LEED to the owner. In certain circumstances these elements have been celebrated as distinctive elements with special architectural expression.
As previously noted concerns about energy consumption has resulted in changes to building massing and elevation treatment. Sunscreens, light shelves, fritting, are external architectural treatments that assist in the reduction of solar gain and the enhancement of light penetration.
Advances in glass technology such as improved low emissivity coatings, argon filled air spaces, and spacers with low transmission coefficients have permitted the use of clear glazing to promote access to views and daylight for users while at the same time reducing energy consumption.
How are architects promoting energy-efficient designs within their practices to garner green contracts?
Coady - Most architects and designers out there now understand the value of sustainable design and find that it is an expected competency by all of the clients that are available. When we are looking at any commission we are always seeing a requirement for sustainability in that commission description.
So it’s very unusual. I have rarely seen a current expression of interest or request for proposal that doesn’t ask us for some kind of competency in sustainable design. Most architects are repackaging their portfolios to emphasize the green and sustainable aspects of it.
It is a given. It is basically what we would call “a ticket to play.” You have to have that competency now or you are not even in that playing field. What we have to do, as the group that we are that has been doing this for 15 or 20 years, is we have to distinguish ourselves with our great body of work and our depth and our understanding of the fundamentals rather than our attachment to any program.
We come at it from a philosophical base. We understand the drivers behind what it really means to be sustainable and what the objectives are and we look at where the fundamentals are going. We are now very interested in things like ecosystems in the city, rather than just basic energy performance of the buildings. And even when we are looking at the energy performance of the buildings, we are looking at the best standards in the world, which are the passive house standards in Austria and Germany. We are searching the world for the highest and best because we have already got the LEED Gold nailed -- that’s our baseline right now.
Acton - The answer to this question can be linked to the size of the practice. Depending on the resources available, some offices are more actively engaged in the pursuit of green contracts. Various architectural firms are encouraging as many of their staff as possible to become accredited professionals with the LEED designation. This mass accreditation approach creates a green culture in the office and encourages the pursuit of its principles. This, in turn transitions into the projects and can allow an office to become known for its green design.
Other offices are designating a team of individuals to pursue the accreditation. This smaller scale approach is valid and still allows them the opportunity to attract or more readily pursue green contracts. In the end, I believe that all architects understand the benefits associated with efficient design, whether it is a passive approach or actively pursuing certification of a building.
Overall, the profession is committed to providing quality built environments and this is evident by the OAA’s (Ontario Association of Architects) adoption of the 2030 challenge. The challenge, as is presented to all, is asking the global architecture and building community to adopt targets that significantly reduce green house gas emissions and lower energy consumption, aiming for carbon-neutral buildings by the year 2030. The profession does recognize that the future is changing and as a result clients are and will continue to seek greener buildings.
Blanchaer - Architects are promoting efficient design by demonstrating the benefits that sustainable design will provide to clients’ organizations. Energy efficient practices can reduce energy costs. In recent office buildings such as Bay Adelaide this cost reduction is passed directly on to tenants.
Green buildings are good business practice for the attraction and retention of the best and the brightest in every industry. A supportive and healthy work environment is more important to today’s workforce than ever before.
Providing a better quality workplace with good access to natural daylight and views as well as fresh air, is very important to staff today. Encouraging a healthy life style by supporting the use of bicycles through providing storage for bicycles and showers and lockers is valued by this generation.
Having a green building gives an owner an image of being a good corporate citizen. Today in the development industry in Canada, one cannot afford not to be LEED. Often LEED Gold is the standard. It is a “must” not a “like to have” in order to keep up with the rest of the industry.
For public sector buildings the goal is to be a benchmark, setting a standard for others to follow.