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Going Green

Building Green Series: Part 4

Architects have learned a lot about designing buildings that save energy, and that makes it more environmentally friendly by definition. Ed Mayberry has the fourth in our five-part series on building or retro-fitting green, both in commercial and residential construction.


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Getting LEED-certified is one way of quantifying a building’s green credentials. Architect Mark Smith is a LEED-accredited professional who takes projects through the LEED certification process…

“When a building goes through the process of becoming certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. Different things that a facility needs to do, starting with the basic certification–and then going through silver, gold, platinum–points achieved.”

Smith says a lot of building green is just common sense.

“The cheapest bang for the buck in hot humid climates like us is the basic orientation of the building. You can instantly probably achieve ten to twenty percent lower energy usage. You know, the most vicious sun in Houston in the summer is that west, the afternoon sun. So if the area of the building that faces west is very small, and if it doesn’t have a lot of windows on it, you’re in much better shape. It’s either free or virtually free up front, and so those big paybacks start immediately.”

As for structures that already exist, Smith says retro-fitting can help reduce energy costs, for both commercial and residential buildings.

“There have been retrofits on buildings that come in and put shading devices on the exterior. You see homeowners that come in and put up awnings or some sort of external device to try to mitigate some of that bad initial design.”

David Murrah is a real estate inspector who LEED-certifies residential construction.

“My job is to help the builder and designer to work through this LEED for Homes program, and then I also do some verification, as well, to make sure that they are doing what they say they’re going to do.”

Murrah says there are two areas that, when optimized, can save energy.

“In our climate, windows that have a very good insulating value, as well as–since we are such a cooling-dominated area–having an air conditioner that performs at the optimal level can really save a lot of energy. Just going to energy-efficient appliances as well as compact flourescent bulbs–that can save a tremendous amount.”

Murrah says energy savings are a good motivator, and demand is being pushed by consumers and builders.

“A builder that learns one building technique for a LEED project–he may have another one that wasn’t necessarily a LEED project, but he can use that technology again and apply its efficiencies. Just using that for a guideline, it’s a very good tool to use to help you understand all the different things that go into building a green home.”

In tomorrow’s report…

“Local political champions, of course, Mayor White should be commended for his support of the green building community.”

…the mayor plans an update of the commercial energy code for buildings. Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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