The current buzz in design and construction revolves around green buildings and energy awareness. Is this just a passing fad or something that will be a permanent part of our lives? To answer this question, we need to look at where we are and how we came to be here.
It is not news that we are too dependent on oil. Petroleum-based products are the primary fuel used to generate electricity, powering equipment in our facilities and homes. Realizing that oil eventually will run out, our society and the global community have begun to look at alternative fuel sources, such as solar energy and wind power.
Further, we have been irresponsible regarding our impact on the environment. We continue to exhume resources, replacing them with toxic and non-biodegradable materials. We are destroying the planet and ultimately ourselves. So, the answer to the question of whether “green” is here to stay is quite simple: Yes.
When considering the impacts of escalating fuel costs, we must examine two elements: power generation and consumption. The industry has focused on developing energy sources that we can use into the future — “sustainable” resources. However, we also must be cognizant of our consumption of secondary utilities. This requires changing our behavior, replacing less-efficient devices, and designing and constructing buildings with energy-efficient technology. We can respond to energy efficiency more expeditiously with secondary utilities than primary utilities. To modernize and upgrade our antiquated primary utility structure will be a huge undertaking that will take time.
Modernizing our utility structure is critical. Not only does it make good economic and ecological sense, it is an issue of national security. With an unstable grid that is unable to keep pace with growth, we run the risk of brownouts and rolling blackouts. The impacts of a terrorist attack on this type of grid would be catastrophic. By changing our habits and paradigms, we can reduce the burden on the utility grid until it can be upgraded.
The sustainable movement is not simply a fad. If we can establish that it is necessary and inevitable, owners will seek experienced teams to implement technology. Those who put off becoming educated about green concepts will be left behind. Those who are in denial may find themselves out of work or looking for another profession. We must adapt to the needs of the times.
Is the green concept perfect? First, nothing man-made is perfect. The green approach to design and construction is a constantly evolving process, not an event. As such, there will be initial growing pains in numerous aspects. Although it requires diligence, green design and construction is more environmentally responsible and responsive. Some devices, equipment, and approaches may be more costly, but what choice do we have now that we have come to terms with our predicament?
For previous Engineering Green Buildings columns, visit www.hpac.com.
Founder and president/chief executive officer of Dynamic Commissioning Solutions Inc., Richard A. Farkas, CCP, began his career 26 years ago as an electrician. His primary objective is to offer commissioning services while facilitating the public's awareness of energy-efficient design and how to deliver sustainable, predictable, and reliable facilities.