Besides saving energy, natural daylight is beneficial to our health and productivity. We consider as “green” products that enable us to bring daylight into a building, including specialized commercial skylights, fiber-optic daylighting systems, lightshelves, and tubular skylights.
Before specifying efficient heating and cooling equipment, it’s important to do what we can to reduce heating and cooling loads. Insulation is one of the key products to consider here, but because there are so many insulation products on the market, we look for additional benefits. Examples include cellulose insulation with recycled content, mineral wool insulation with no flame retardants, and fiberglass insulation with no formaldehyde binders. Other products in this area are high-performance windows and glazings, products that contribute to building airtight envelopes, products that reduce thermal bridging, and window-retrofit products.
With products in this area under constant development, we are always refining our approach. For example, as we have learned about insulation products with hazardous flame retardants and blowing agents that have high global warming potential, we have removed those products from GreenSpec, pending manufacturing changes. We encourage building professionals to pressure manufacturers for those changes through specification language and purchasing decisions.
With energy-consuming equipment, such as water heaters and refrigerators, we have good data on energy consumption and can set clear standards accordingly. In some product categories—clothes washers, for example—Energy Star standards were adopted because those standards provide a high enough threshold to represent just the very top segment of the product market (less than 10%). In other product categories—e.g., refrigerators and dishwashers—we set a higher threshold than ENERGY STAR: for example, exceeding those standards by 10% or 20%. With lighting and lighting control equipment, certain generic products qualify, such as compact fluorescent lamps and occupancy/daylighting controls, while in other categories only a subset of products qualify. In some cases, products that meet the energy efficiency requirements are excluded, because of evidence of poor performance or durability. Microturbines are included here because of the potential for cogeneration (combined heat and power) that they offer.
Biophilia—literally a love for nature—is an important consideration in building design and is also relevant to product selection. Biophilic elements providing a connection with nature provide real, measurable benefits relative to such human performance metrics as productivity, emotional well-being, stress reduction, learning, and healing. From an environmental standpoint, biophilic features can foster an appreciation of nature, which, in turn, can foster attitudes leading to greater protection of natural systems. While truly natural elements are considered ideal, it appears that even simulation of natural features can have some beneficial impact. GreenSpec considers biophilia mostly as a secondary attribute of products that are considered green for other reasons, but will occasionally list products solely for the health benefits of biophilia, so long as there are not other environmental concerns.
Project FROG designs and custom-fabricates modular classrooms and other commercial buildings that feature high-performance envelopes, natural daylighting, high-efficiency mechanical systems, healthy materials, and green components. Built using central "spines," different-shaped wings, porches, and mechanical rooms, the basic configuration is about 1,200 square feet but the sections can be joined together into structures larger than 5000 square feet. These modular classrooms provide an attractive, green alternative to conventional classroom trailers and come in wide range of price points, from relatively affordable trailer alternatives to state-of-the-art, net-zero-energy, LEED Platinum classrooms. Project Frog's modular buildings can be assembled quickly with almost no construction waste yet are sturdy enough for zone 4 seismic areas and can withstand 110 mph winds. While the company was established with the portable classroom market in mind, a wide range of other markets are being pursued.
Prefabricated, or modular, buildings can provide environmental advantages over conventionally constructed buildings. They are built in factories where manufacturing and cost can be tightly controlled, so materials are kept out of the elements, there is less waste, and thermal properties and air sealing can be enhanced. There are also fewer negative environmental impacts from traveling to the building site and at the site itself, although shipping modular buildings is energy-inefficient, because so much of the volume is air. Other potential downsides are that the structures may need more materials and reinforcement to withstand transportation, a foundation still needs to be constructed, and modules need to be assembled and sealed on-site. Modular buildings can sometimes be disassembled, making them viable choices as temporary structures to suit changing needs.
EAc1: Optimize Energy Performance
EQc8.1: Daylight and Views—Daylight 75% of Spaces
EQc8.2: Daylight and Views—Views for 90% of Spaces
IEQc2.4: Daylight and Views
IEQc8.1: Daylight and Views—Daylight
IEQc8.2: Daylight and Views—Views
Ratings and Commentary