For decades architects and construction companies have been trying to implement more efficient designs into building construction. In recent years, their efforts have been aided by new technologies, some of which are very practical yet effective.
Building efficiency is graded by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing the performance in six key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and design innovation.
It conducts a thorough audit of each building then gives it a grade from 1-100. There are four different grades available: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points), and Platinum (80 points and above).
Efficient building construction consumes the largest portion of North Carolina’s renewable energy pie. It generates more than 12,500 jobs and $2.3 billion for the state’s economy. The state best known for being first in flight is emerging as a national leader in clean and renewable energy – from Asheville to the coast.
Speaking of Asheville, it is home the Vandemusser Residence. This fascinating LEED Platinum building acts as a home, showroom, and set of offices. Its owners, an architect and mechanical engineer, conduct business in the home in order to highlight the various efficiency strategies and technologies that they’re able to provide to prospective clients.
Some of the house’s energy efficient features include rainwater harvesting, photovoltaics, solar thermal water heating, radiant floor heating, 90 percent LED lighting, FSC-certified wood floors and cabinets, zero-VOC paints, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and circuit-by-circuit energy monitoring.
Its rainwater harvesting system collects and filters water allowing the homeowners to consume less city or well water. Radiant floor heating uses electric wires or water pipes to heat floorboards. The air temperature stays constant, but the surfaces your body comes into contact with won’t steal heat from your body. The house’s low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce the amount of water released from faucets. Solar panels are also incorporated into the home’s energy mix.
The LEED Gold Certified Gensler office is located on the 23rd floor of the Hurt Tower in Charlotte. However, the building itself and surrounding offices aren’t LEED certified. This presented a challenge that the architects were eager to overcome.
The office space utilizes natural daylight and a lighting control system which uses a combination of motion sensors and dimming controls, along with Energy Star appliances, low flow aerators, and high-efficiency light fixtures.
Roughly 100 miles northeast of Charlotte lies the Proximity Hotel, an LEED Platinum Certified Greensboro hotel. The hotel consumes 39.2 percent less energy than other conventional hotels by using ultra-efficient materials and the latest technology. The sun’s energy heats the hotel’s hot water with 100 solar panels covering its 4,000 square feet rooftop, which is enough hot water for 100 homes.
The Proximity has reduced its water usage by 33 percent since installing high-efficiency Kohler plumbing fixtures. It saved 2 million gallons of water throughout the first year! Builders recycled 87 percent of its construction waste, diverting more than 1,500 tons of debris from sitting in landfills. This building is a great example of efficiency at work.
Moving east, the Triangle boasts its fair share of sustainable buildings. Buildsense in Durham designed its office to be one of the most efficient buildings around. Originally this renovation project was supposed to utilize only 35 percent of the energy typically required to power a building the same size. In the end, it ended up utilizing less than 20 percent of the national average!
Buildsense implemented solar louvers and wind turbines into the building design. From high-efficiency glass and natural daylight features to toilets flushed with rainwater, this building has it all.
The solar louvers act as “smart shades” that allow the proper amount of daylight in without blinding its occupants. The building’s wind turbine sits enclosed atop the roof. Though the turbine isn’t utility size, it generates clean power to an already efficient building.
Buildings across North Carolina’s beautiful, lush countryside are taking the necessary steps to become more sustainable and efficient. Becoming more energy efficient benefits the workforce, our economy, and future generations.Builders recycled 87% of the Proximity's construction waste, diverting 1,500 tons of debris from landfills. Click To Tweet