Keys To Sustainable Construction

There are as many definitions of “green” as there are shades of color. Wikipedia defines a green building, also known as a sustainable building as “ a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner.”

Dade County Florida's Website reads that, “Sustainable building practices go beyond energy and water conservation to incorporate environmentally sensitive site planning, resource efficient building materials and superior indoor environmental quality.” The website lists five key benefits of sustainable construction that seems to concisely capture the “spirit” of the green building concept.

- Lower electric and water utility costs
- Environmentally effective use of building materials
- Enhanced health and productivity
- Long-term economic returns
- Reduced environmental impact

The need to reduce costs associated with energy production and importing building materials, the importance of conserving water and natural resources and minimizing environmental impact are challenges that are even more paramount within our island communities. Green initiatives provide excellent benefits but carry a pricetag asociated with implementation. We've looked at the benefits and the challenges, but what are the affordable solutions?

Lower Eletric and Water Utility costs
Thin-film solar and Atmospheric Water Generation are two affordable technolgies that fit expectioannly well in the Caribbean region. With the abundance of sunshine we receive intermingled with overcast days, it is still estimated that a solar radiation of 4-5 hours per day is typical for the region. Using lighweight thin-film solar, with a capacity of an estimated 5 watts/sq ft. a typical 1,200 sq ft home could easily support a roof laminted 3,000 Watt solar power system. A system of this size would generate an estimated 12-15kWh per day. By reducing electiical lighintg, cooling, and appliance loads to less than 4k the solar system can also be recued in size.

How do we reduce our electrical load calculations? Design and retrofit with L.E.D. Lighting, A typical home using high efficiency L.E.D. lighting would use just under 250 Watts for the entire lighting circuit and provide equal or higher lumen output than convenienal incandescent or CFL lighting systems. Heat pump water heating technologies provide an estimates 7,000 btu output and a max water temp of 135 while using less than 800 watts nominal. Air Conditioning units using proven ductless-split DC Inverter technologies provide remote controlled zoned cooling while using as little as 1,200 watts for a 11,000btu system. Energy efficient appliances are readily available and help to reduce overall electrical loads

A very natural solution for clean water production in the Caribbean has been around since the beginning of time. Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) systems use the natural humidity in the air to produce up to 6gallons per day of pure filtered drinking water without the need for any plumbing or realated infrastructure. Dispensing 99.9% pure water, the AWG system can be operated directly from solar power or plugs into a standard household outlet. With a built in water heating element the units dispense hot or cold water on demand without the need for maintaining an inventory of bottled water. Production costs are estimated between $0.06 -0.14 per gallon of water.

Environmentally Effective use of Building Materials
What's needed is a building system that can resist high winds, is versatile, structural, provides a high level of insulation, minimim waste and is affordable. Concrete Structural Insulated Panels (CSIP) provide an excellent alternative to conventional concrete block construction in the Caribbean. Proven and accepted throughout the United States, CSIP's are pre-designed, pre-cut, professionally engineered, insulated, provide a strucural frame and exterior and interior concrete fire resistant surfaces for finishing. These lighweight concrete panels are produced by manufacturers that are members of the Unites States Green Building Council (USGBC) such as T.Clear Corp of Hamilton Ohio. Their ProTec® CSIP building system provides less skilled labor, reduces wall construction time to a matter days verses months and is competitively afforadble when compared to block or conventioanl construction techniques. The company literature states the panels are “framing, sheathing, insulation and interior wall surface all in one. This equates to building more homes in les time with fewer associated costs and waste.

Enhanced Health and Productivity
Clean water, fresh air, low VOC and no off-gasing products should be the benchmark for homes built under the “green” design concept. Energy conservation and eco-friendly homes do not happen by accident, it takes planning and design guidelines to ensure homes provide comfort, style and are also affordable. Choosing off the shelf products that are eco-friendly minimize costs and help descrease the time required to source specialized products that add time and expense to the construction process. Despite the misconception, “green homes” can be stylish, affordable and built on a reduced timeline.

The Protec® Building System is currently used by HDC Development Corp within the Bahamas to build as it describes, “Net Zero Energy Homes”. Recently receing apporavel from The Bahamas Ministry of Works, the Protec Building System® is meticuoslesy engineered to design loads of up to 150 mile per winds. According to the information from the company's website, these “Net Zero Energy Homes” gerernate more energy than they consume, have minimal environmental impact, resist high winds and are very compatiable to developers seeking higher construction productivity rates.

Long-term Economic Returns
Unfortunately, when green initiatives are initially introduced into some regions for the first time, typically there exists an entense amount of resistance as traditional stakeholders, with entrenched concepts and methods are challenged by the new technology. However, for the greater good of the entire Caribbean region, traditional beauracratis “red tape” needs to be pierced so that a new generation may benefit from the advances in proven technology and ensure our regions continued success in the renewable energy amd sustainable development sectors.

Openminded acceptance of proven “green technologies” will bring investment, trainig, jobs and prosperity to the Caribbean region. The region is ideal to capture the full potential of clean solar and wind power generation. Long-term economic growth is the fruit that's harvested when we plant the seeds of green initiavtes today.

Reduced environmental impact
Waste reduction, resource conservation and matinainting pure water inventories are important issues that face any region, but even more so here in the Caribbean islands. As our population grow so does the need to pay more strict attention to the subject of waste management and recycling. Education and acceptance of recycling is the key. Conservation is an adopted lifestyle and the population must see it as a benefit in order to embrace it. Tangible incentives such as reductions in Waste Collection rates for househgolds that recycle, reduced utility rates for homes with Solar or wind Power Generation systems and reduced municipal water rates for households with Atmospheric Water Generators would go a long way to helping the large public adopt and embrace “going green”.

Lets hope the islands of the Caribbean region can by careful and wise use of our startegic natural resources become the worldwide leader in the adoption and implemntation of proven green technologies. It is clear we have the most to gain and success will equate to increased toursim, investment, training, jobs and prosperity for our region.

About the Author:
Kanchoo - International Green Building Consultant, Desinger and Builder has combined 24+ years of construction, lighting, electronics and engineering experience into concise sensible solutions for designing and building Energy Efficient Panelized "Green" Homes from the foundation to the roof. Each article features practical and affordable solutions to design and build "Zet Zero Energy Homes".

Article Source: - How Green Are You? - Keys to Sustainable Construction


Bruce Hammerson said...

The objective and purpose of a lighting system should be considered at the design and installation phases. This is especially significant for workplaces where construction work is performed .

Bruce Hammerson

Hydraulic Installation Kits

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