Energy efficient: Modern building versus green building
Essay question: to what extent green building can significantly reduce energy consumption?
Making buildings more energy efficient is a main concern of people today. Energy consumption has increased significantly especially since the industrial revolution. Electricity played an important role in changing the face of the world to become more developed. Industrial sector activities depend on electricity. Manufacturing processes, services, mining activities, and other economical activities also depend on energy, such as electricity and fossil fuels energy. The industrial revolution has also caused a significant shift in terms of building structure and construction. Architects, such as Antonio Gaudi, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright began to use prefabricated materials. This also signalled a new era in the architectural world, the beginning of modern architecture. Designers and engineers have since implemented a greater variety of building technologies to make modern buildings, whether these building technologies might be systems, methods, and materials like prefabricated materials that reduce building structures and constructions costs, also improving the building’s aesthetic values and saving the building’s construction time. Moreover, modern building design can minimize energy consumption. However, not all modern buildings are low energy consumption. According to Pader (2009), in general, buildings consume over 71% of energy in America today and this figure is estimated to reach 75% by 2025. American Society of Mechanical Engineers-ASME (2009: p. 20) states that buildings consume about one-third of the total world’s energy consumption. Surprisingly, ASME (2009: p. 20) also claims that nearly 37% of the total CO2 emission is emitted by buildings, including emission from combustion processes and using electricity in buildings. On the other hand, Suzuki et. al (1994) conclude that using wood in construction process in Japan consumes less energy consumptive and reduces CO2 emission rather than other types of constructions. Therefore, an eco-friendly building design, which can significantly reduce excessive energy consumption, is absolutely necessary in dealing with green house effects. Hence, green building design is more energy efficient than modern building design. This essay will explain the benefits and drawbacks of modern building design and then the extent to where green building design can significantly reduce energy consumption by some examples.
To gain a better understanding about energy consumption, it is important to understand what green buildings are and explain why master builders prefer to implement green building design rather than modern building design. Green building has been defined as, according to United States Environmental Protection Agency, the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from setting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction. In fact, green building design is not a new thing. Since ancient times, the effort to make buildings more environmentally friendly and consume less energy has been applied, for example by using natural materials like wood. The development of science and technology has made significant change to the design of the building. Utilization of technology and the use of prefabricated materials has become a new trend in the world of architecture in the last century. In fact, this can be seen in the greatness of modern architecture reached at the beginning of 20th century, especially in the construction of many tall buildings around the world. Efficiency in time and cost is the main consideration in a process of building structures and construction. However, environmental issues interfere with the development of modern architecture. This is because materials that used in modern building are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Then the designers and architects strive to create a modern building design more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Thus the term “green building” or “green architecture” emerged in the architectural world. It is believed that green building design give many benefits for society in order to reduce energy consumption and prevent environmental degradation.
Today, modern building designs are usually made by implementing advanced technology, such as computer modeling. Rivard and Bedard (2004) claim that in order to improve these processes, computers play an important role in building structure and construction processes. They also state that the computer can combine the various aspects of modern building design such as layout, structure, enclosure, energy consumption and construction cost estimation by utilizing its tools to make building design accurately and efficient. In fact, the possibilities of wind direction movements around the building or the reflecting sound can be seen through by using computer technology. In addition, various types of building surfaces and filler panels can be analyzed mathematically using computer graphics programs. However, as Hui (2001) states, there is not just one way of creating low energy buildings. According to Stromberg (2005), combining holistic components plus a systems-based approach is needed in order to create a green building. She also states that using the right system in the implementation of building structure and construction processes is a necessity in creating a durable building. For example, as Stromberg points out, installing a small HVAC system even in a tall building can prevent its capacity to release excess water vapor into the atmosphere. Moreover, Stromberg (2005) also claims that according to Hatten, implementing advance load-reducing technology and building energy-supply systems are two main factors that create a low energy building. Following from Stromberg’s point, advanced technologies have been able to make a building cheaper, more environmentally friendly and more energy efficient without reducing the appearance of the buildings. For instance, as Stromberg (2005) points out, adding insulation and replacing windows and doors with efficiency models can significantly reduce energy cost and consumption.
In addition, according to Five Wind International (n,d.), a global environmental-management consultant, green building design can be applied to all types of buildings, both new construction and renovated buildings. They also claim that green building design has been implemented by master builders from the beginning of the planning process to the construction process. Proof for this, architects and engineers use several tools during the design and construction process to obtain a perfect green building design, especially in important zones (Five Winds International: n.d.). Hence, strong teamwork is necessary to combine between certain areas of the building so that negative environmental impacts that may arise will be eliminated. However, they also argue that initially green building designs conceived only as eco-friendly building designs. But, according to them, currently there are many elements, standards, methods, indicators and data that can be used to create a perfect green building design and even has been applied in the industrial sectors. In the 1980s and 1990s, as they state, architects and engineers trying to incorporate some of the key factors to improve the quality of the buildings and making buildings more environmentally friendly and economically more efficient, such as by designing more efficient water consumption and reducing height of the building. In short, it takes more than advanced technologies to make buildings more energy efficient.
Although many experts say that modern building design can be just as energy efficient as green building design, however, including climate consideration in urban design principles is essential to create an urban environment-friendly in order to minimize energy use and maintain environmental sustainability (Hui: 2001). Following this, implementing “the green governance” around the site and using on-site resources responsibly will determine the achievement of energy-efficient buildings. In addition, as Hui (2001) states, building designers should pay more attention to the influence of climate and solar position in order to get a good design. This is because grouping buildings in an integrated design in cities will create a significant change in terms of thermal comfort. Therefore, setting layout of the buildings should consider aspects of climate influence to make buildings more energy efficient.
In terms of building materials, modern buildings usually use prefabricated materials in building construction that can be energy efficient. Reddy and Jagadish (2003) claim that reducing the building embodied energy can be done with implementing alternative materials in building structure and construction processes such as stabilized mud blocks (SMB), prefabricated roofing systems, masonry vaults, LP cement etc. They also argue that alternative materials are a wise choice in order to implement energy-saving efforts in buildings. Moreover, Huemer and Kapleller (n.d.) claim that materials, which are usually used in the construction of modern buildings, could also produce energy. For example, Soil-cement block is the most energy efficient among the material for walling, consuming only one-fourth of the energy of burnt-clay bricks (Reddy and Jagadish: 2003). However, some modern building materials consume more energy than others. A study from Reddy and Jagadish (2003) indicate that aluminum and steel are two types of metal with a large energy storage is often used in the process of building structures and construction. Based on this study, they claim that per unit weight, aluminum consumes energy sixfold than steel. They also state that the use of aluminum as a material for building apertures causes buildings consume more energy.
Moreover, wood plays an important role in term of environmental sustainability issues (Stauth: 2004). The reason for this, as Stauth states, using wood in house structure and construction can significantly reduce energy consumption, diminishing environmental impacts and absorbing carbons from the atmosphere. Stauth (2004) also claims that in Minneapolis, for instance, steel framing, compared to wood, consumes 17 percent more energy, caused 26 percent more global warming potential, causes a 14 percent higher level of air emission of concern, and more than 300 percent water emission of concern. This shows that timber is most “green” building materials.
Finally, artificial thermal comfort systems such as HVAC systems are one important part of modern building design. This is because, according to Mikkler (2008), using energy more efficiency and maintaining indoor air quality and indoor thermal comfort can be done by implementing HVAC systems in modern building design. This argument is supported by Nassif, Kajl and Sabourin (2005) who state that daily indoor thermal comfort can be managed by implementing HVAC systems. However, As Hui (2001) states, to support building’s occupants activities continually, Modern buildings cannot depend on its own energy, but need more energy supply from outside. He also argues that limitation of land area is the main obstacle for modern building in developing its own energy resources. Modern buildings, for example, need a huge amount of electricity to operate their elevators for vertical transportation. Another example, according to Hui (2001), is that high-rise buildings have limited roof and exposed areas for collection of solar energy.
In addition, Braun (n.d.) argues that utilizing the structure and building materials to distribute and store the heat load is not necessarily able to reduce the total heat load on the building zones. The reason for this is that reduce the energy content cannot be done merely by relying on the mass of the building, because the mass of the building can only improve the operational costs of the building itself. He also says that non-massive buildings do not require much time for precooling or preheating activities and have less cooling or heating loads than massive buildings. Therefore, a combination of a comprehensive building design with the use of an efficient thermal system will make buildings more energy efficient.
Even though modern building design as has been shown in this essay is beneficial, there are many problems in term of energy efficiency. The first problem is that implementing advanced technology does not guarantee making modern building more energy efficient. In reality, a combination between advanced technology and a holistic system-based approach is the best way to make buildings more energy efficient without neglecting the buildings appearance. The second problem relating to make buildings more energy efficient is climatic consideration. This is important because by understanding climate behavior, buildings can be made more energy efficient. Implementing a little innovation such as setting lay-out and orientation of the building will determine building-use-energy capacity, and, eventually, can make buildings more energy efficient. Another problem relating to energy efficiency is building materials. With advanced technology, there are many prefabricated materials that can be used in modern building structures and constructions. But, not all of these materials are energy efficient. Therefore, careful selection of materials for use in building structure and construction is essential to make buildings more energy efficient. The last problem is providing thermal comfort through implementing Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems. Although providing HVAC system is a good solution to make the occupants feel comfortable, it must be supported by building design and material selection that can encourage energy conservation efforts. Thus, implementing green building design can significantly reduce energy consumption of buildings compared with modern building designs. Furthermore, the demand of eco-friendly building design will increase along with increasing public awareness about the importance of saving the environment.
For these reasons, it can be concluded that in terms of minimizing energy consumption in buildings, the role of technology may not be enough to significantly reduce energy consumption. Building design processes, complete with all related analysis, and the selection of appropriate materials are even more significant impact in reducing energy consumption in buildings, which eventually makes the building more environmentally friendly. Although the building is a modern building, which has a sophisticated system utility, but if not planned and designed carefully, the building will only be a burden to the occupants because of the inefficient use of energy in the building. Consequently, in a short time, this will cause environmental damage, ozone depletion, and increasing the biosphere’s temperature significantly. It is time for us to be more respectful for the environment, particularly on the issue of global warming and climate change. The use of inappropriate materials also plays a major role in making buildings into energy-intensive. Materials in the building envelopes, especially for curtain walls – such as glass and aluminum, steel structures, are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and also a big energy consuming. So that it burdensome the building itself. If public awareness has been established, then this is expected to be able to gradually restore the environmental conditions become greener.