Is Sustainability Just a Buzzword?

Brody Hatch, IBE Sustainable Building Associate

Sustainability may seem more like a buzz-word than an actual concept or way of doing business.  Words like green, sustainable, renewable, earth-friendly, etc. have become taglines that lead to varying reactions by different people.  I often talk with people that believe that sustainability in business, economic development, and energy production are just passing fads. They are unaware of the impact, influence, and prominence of these concepts in the world.  So how big is sustainability anyway?  The following are some simple facts about the growth of the sustainability movement in various forms.

LEED in the World
USGBC

Green building materials demand has grown exponentially over the past several years and is expected to continue to grow by 11% annually through 2017.  As the cost of green building materials has fallen, demand for said products has increased due to the undisputed advantages of green building.  In many cases, green building has been shown to be just as cost effective as traditional building, with the additional benefits of significantly lower utility and maintenance costs.

Renewable energy sources account for almost 20% of global energy production.  Obviously, some countries are doing more than others.  The following countries and regions are the top ten renewable energy producers in the world (ordered from highest producer to lowest): China, EU, USA, Brazil, Canada, Russia, India, Germany, Norway, Japan, and Spain.  The amount of renewable energy produced is growing rapidly.

Wind capacity has grown by over 25% annually for the last five years.  It’s hard to drive anywhere (at least in the western US, but I imagine elsewhere as well), without seeing huge wind farms.   With the technology improvements, and costs decreasing, wind power is becoming more and more profitable.

Solar power production has grown 50% annually for the last five years.  This rapid growth, again, is due in large part to the decreasing cost of production and installation of solar panels.  Panels are also becoming ever more efficient in their energy production.

Flickr.

Biofuel (including ethanol and biodiesel) production has increased by 20% annually for the last ten years.  For some countries, this is nothing new.  I lived in Brazil for a couple of years between 2004 and 2006.  I was surprised to find that ethanol was not only common, but in certain areas, used more often than petroleum fuel in cars, buses and trucks.  Several decades ago, when many parts of the world were uncovering petroleum oil deposits, Brazil was unable to discover any within their borders.  Rather than become dependent on other countries for their energy needs, Brazil invested heavily in the research and production of sugarcane ethanol.  Today, the industry is booming and provides a large quantity of the fuel that is consumed in the country and exported outside its borders.

Sustainability in construction and energy production are more than theoretical concepts, they are here to stay.  In a lot of cases, people are unaware of the rapid growth of sustainability that is occurring in construction and energy production as it is happening behind the scenes.  We still have a long way to go but I am optimistic that given the current trends and projected growth, eventually sustainability will cease to feel like a buzz-word and become an everyday way of life.

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Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center Earns LEED Platinum Certification

The Army National Guard just completed construction of their new Windsor Readiness Center that houses the 1157th FSC (Forward Support Company) of the Colorado Army National Guard. The building is LEED Platinum certified, a first in the nation for National Guard facilities. LEED consists of five main categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Along with these five categories, projects are also eligible for Innovation in Design and Regional Priority credits.

Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center.
Photo Courtesy of RB+B Architects

The Colorado Army National Guard takes pride in its facilities blending into the communities in which the units are based. “The addition of the readiness centers and the infantry battalion increases the value of the National Guard to the community and enhances our ability to assist in a time of need,” said Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General of Colorado. The Guard has a longstanding relationship with community in Windsor, the unit responded when a destructive EF3 tornado devastated the town on May 22, 2008.  A state of emergency was declared prompting the Guard to send helicopters with medics and provide security patrols to ensure that looting and theft didn’t ensue in local neighborhoods.

The new 17-acre site and facility will be the home of approximately 130 soldiers from the 1157th Forward Support Company of the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.  This new facility is 30,715 square feet and includes an assembly hall, a maintenance training work bay, a kitchen, a recruiting office, a family support office, supply storage, locker areas, classrooms and administrative offices.

Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center,
Beetle-Kill Pinewood Hallway
Photo Courtesy of RB+B Architects

Proper building orientation allowed the project to have daylighting in 89% of the regularly occupied space, reducing energy use for lighting and for cooling. The facility is projecting a 70% energy cost savings from the combination of a high-performance building envelope, a ground-source heat exchange HVAC-system and photovoltaic (PV) arrays.  91% of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill through recycling and reuse programs.  Both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood and beetle-killed pinewood can be found throughout the interior of the facility. Through the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, a 43% interior water use reduction was calculated.  Furthermore, the project utilizes no sprinkler irrigation on native grass which provides a 58% reduction use in potable water.

Graduate student interns with the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University were directly involved in the LEED coordination and documentation process. Students gained valuable project experience by participating in and guiding the LEED certification process. In addition, the building continues to teach every day. Informative panels are hung on the walls to educate staff, students, guests and visitors about the green design elements of the building.

For more information about the project, check out this page on the RB+B Architects website.