Building Sustainable and Smart Buildings

By Traver Kennedy, Chairman and CEO on November 07, 2017
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The world’s population has become concentrated in cities. The United Nations estimates that by 2030, 60% of humanity will reside in metropolitan areas, up from 54% today. Accordingly, the way we design buildings for sustainability is increasingly important. From structures that leverage the natural environment they are in to generate their own electricity and heat to natural ventilation systems and vertical gardens, today’s modern buildings are greener than ever.

Technology plays a crucial role behind smart buildings. New materials, for example, make gravity-defying shapes, which were impossible a decade ago, commonplace. City skylines around the world are being populated with new structures that move with the wind or shift shapes according to the weather and time of the day. Improvements in construction techniques offer minimal disruption to the lives of those around construction sites and result in finished buildings in record times. Technology also makes it possible for buildings to produce their own energy and minimize the use of energy consuming applications, such as air conditioning.

 

Technology will make you love cities again.

Sprouting Engineering Marvels

The downtown area of one of the world’s greatest metropolises is not what it used to be. The impersonal glass boxes of the late twentieth century are being out staged by green, smart and beautiful buildings designed to give occupants joy while being kind to the environment. Just last week, Bloomberg unveiled their new London headquarters as “the world’s most sustainable office building.” This beautiful, unpretentious building, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster, is rated ‘outstanding’ by BREEAM, which is a recognized “sustainability assessment method for master planning projects, infrastructure, and buildings.”

According to the BuisnessGreen journal, Bloomberg’s new London building has “ultra-low water, energy and resource consumption.” Ultra-low anything and big corporate headquarters used to be diametrically opposed just a decade ago. With today’s engineering and architecture advancements, buildings like Bloomberg’s can now shape cities in a positive way to increase the quality of life of people who work and live there while helping cities reduce their carbon emissions.

Significantly, smart and sustainable buildings are not only good for the environment and citizen quality of life, but they are also good for business. Michael Bloomberg referred to the new corporate mindset that is driving investment in buildings like his new London headquarters when he said, “This building is designed to encourage cooperation and collaboration, and that is what makes for a successful business.”

What’s Inside Bloomberg’s Green Building?

Bloomberg describes the new structure as being “designed to facilitate collaboration and fuel innovation,” which includes an electricity generation plant that uses the heat produced by the generators for heating the building. This building was also designed to allow the wind to pass through to cool the offices during the summer months and provide natural ventilation to the people inside. Bloomberg indicates, “Our innovative space energizes employees, clients, and visitors while encouraging a new level of productivity and collaboration.” This statement reflects today’s new reality: sustainability is good for business and not just a “do good” deed corporations need to checkmark. I encourage you to check out this brief video that explains how Bloomberg’s new headquarters pushed the boundaries of technology for sustainability, beauty, and business productivity.

Technology for Sustainability

Back in August, we wrote a post that highlighted the energy-intensive footprint of buildings, which consume around 40% of all energy produced worldwide and contribute almost one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions. The post reflected on how traditional big buildings of the past expended enormous amounts of electricity and heat. These massive concrete caves enclosed the people inside in artificial environments that were energy-intensive to maintain.

The buildings of the same caliber going up today, like Bloomberg’s London headquarters, take an opposite approach thanks to technology improvements that range from energy production to materials and ventilation. Technology has improved even in areas such as richer soils that support blooming gardens inside. Progress in energy technology can make these buildings even more sustainable. For example, Hydrogen 2.0 could be used to make clean fuel for electricity and heat available on-site and on-demand for a building like Bloomberg’s, whose electricity-generating plant currently uses gas to produce energy, resulting in carbon emissions.

Blooming Cities Ahead

Smart, green buildings play a significant role in making cities sustainable to enhance the quality of life of their citizens. Together with greener transportation and better design (to encourage walking, for instance), buildings are enabling cities to reduce carbon emissions to secure a healthy future for all. For the nearly two-thirds of humanity that will be living in cities within the next decade, the future looks green.

 

Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel.

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