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You need to think green

Getting there requires a change in behavior just as much as it requires a change in technology.


March 1, 2008  


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There is no getting away from it and there is now way to ignore it, environmental sustainability is a top concern to the public.

The scientific community has reached a consensus that there could be a catastrophic change in our climate within the next century as a result of human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions if we do not significantly reduce these emissions in the near future.

To meet the challenges that lie ahead it is paramount that we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the building industry.

In order to achieve this, we must implement the technical advancements available to us today including integrated systems and building automation to create a more sustainable industry.

To date, most buildings have been designed in a fragmented nature, which has allowed them to fall well behind in meeting the achievable goals for improved energy and environmental performance.

It has been estimated that if we were to apply the existing energy saving principles available to us today to all existing buildings from an integrated system perspective and efficiency performance, we would be able to sustain the expected growth in new building construction over the next 50 years.

This would allow us to bridge the gap, until alternative low carbon fuel source technology has been developed, thus reducing the requirement for new power generation until then.

As there has been little emphasis put on energy performance by building owners during the design and construction phases of a project (in the past), we have yet to see the required dedication to the integrated design and energy performance criteria required to meet greenhouse gas emission for today’s buildings.

Lack of accountability

As energy costs historically have been viewed as a relatively small factor in the overall economics of a building, there is a lack of accountability for integrating energy performance on the day-to-day operations of today’s buildings.

The building owner is the one person who has the control to impact the design and construction of a building and must accept the responsibility if we are to meet greenhouse gas emission targets required for a sustainable future.

It is up to him or her to influence the design and construction team to ensure the building follows an intelligent building roadmap such as outlined by the Continental Automated Building Association. The CABA Standards Committees monitor and interact with protocol standards groups that are involved with the home and building automation industry and the development and understanding of integrated systems automation.

If we accept that the building owner has the ability to do this, we need to make sure that the design and constructions teams (architects, consultants and contractors) are knowledgeable enough and up to the challenge.

Integrated automated systems have been around for some time and the technology is proven to integrate legacy automations systems and open HVAC and electrical protocols on a Web-based control system.

This allows anytime/anywhere access to the network while providing secure access via the WAN from a standard Web browser.

It is also possible to have a highly secure network to manage mission critical data centres, which should address any security concerns. The benefits include energy and operational savings as a result of anytime/anywhere access and real time alarming, resulting in fewer resources to manage the system.

With an integrated building system you are able to program sequences between systems that optimize the building schedule and its efficiency.

It is important to utilize the improvements in technology and the integrated approach to automated systems that are available to us today.

However, it is just as important to change the way we think and look at the construction of a building and its long-term operation.

When planning for the construction of a new building we must take into account the long term cost to operate the building and the global impact that our decisions today will have in the future.

Keith Fortune, C. E. T., is an independent consultant and member of CNS Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at fortune.keith@gmail.com.