Green building technology applies the concept of resource efficiency and environmentally responsible techniques in the whole life cycle of buildings or structures. In essence, the choice of site, designing operations, use and maintenance ought to employ green technology that facilitates sustainability and efficient in the utilization of material inputs such as water, energy, and other raw materials. In addition, such structures promote environmentally sound considerations during renovations, demolitions, and disposal when their life cycle ends. Notably, to construct green structures, multi-disciplinary contribution is necessary from the engineers, designing team, environmentalists, property developers, and architectures.
Constructing green structures has emerged as a contemporary technique that compliments and expands the idea of designing classical buildings, which gear towards enhancing durability, comfort, effective utility, and affordability. Evidently, continued innovations try to modify the structures so as to realize greener buildings; nevertheless, the objectives of the technology are to minimize or eliminate the impacts such projects to natural environment and human health. As a result, resource utilization efficiency and the health of the occupants are promoted. Also, environmental degradation is reduced due to minimized pollution and waste generation.
Alternatively, natural building uses similar concept but, on a local and small scale. Explicitly, natural structures utilize resources that are natural and local to a particular place. Likewise, green architecture and sustainable designing incorporate the same concept of sustainability just like natural and green structures. Therefore, green technology and the complimenting or related ideas aim at achieving sustainable development, which involves ecologically sound ways of using resources so as not to compromise the future state of the environment. Implementation of the technology may involve retrofitting or redesigning of the existing structures or designing new construction.
Currently, structural designers develop green buildings from designed components such as timber, steel, and concrete used as frames or slabs. Moreover, the structures do comprise of green walls and green roofs that are relatively cheap, save energy, and efficient to use. Additionally, the entire materials used to construct green building are recyclable, necessitates reclamation, and reduce demand for landfills or other forms of waste disposal. Ultimately, the adoption of the technology has manifold benefits, which can be classified in three fronts; namely, economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Current Scientific and Engineering Issues about Green Structures
Engineering, Energy use, and climate change
Predominantly, the world engineering projects are powered by fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil, which are high carbon based energy sources. Again the fossil fuels are non-renewable; hence not in balance with the human race timescale and contribute adversely to the environment. Notably, the reliance on such energy is the central reason for the increased greenhouse gas evolution, which leads to global warming and climate change. Therefore, engineers embark on retrofitting the conventional structures to become greener or designing new buildings that use renewable energy sources to protect environmental sanity.
Again, conventional structures demand a long of energy; however, the non-renewable sources are susceptible to exhaustion. As a result, the professionalism behind construction of green structures gears towards adopting renewable energy that is sustainable in supply and utilization. Thus, scientist and engineers develop green structures so as to address the issue of energy scarcity and unreliability by designing structures that depend on solar, wind, and bio-fuel energies.
Science, Engineering, and Urbanization
Currently, more than half of the world population lives in the urban centers, towns, or cities, which are the central places for engineering operations. Therefore, urban engineering challenges ensue in the attempt to provide solutions that would lead to adequate housing, access to water and electricity, and clean air to all citizens. With the continued urban growth, the scientific innovation green construction results to faster and cheaper construction of buildings to satisfy the need the high demands of housing in the urban centers. Again, the green structures ensures efficient and sustainable utilization of water and electricity, which are mandatory resources required by urban households and firms. Similarly, engineering of green structures mitigates the problem of indoor air pollution that is rampant in the urban centers coupled with integrated waste management.
Indoor warming during the cold seasons
Citizens from countries that experience extreme cold temperatures during the winter seasons incur huge cost of house warming. As a result, structural insulated panels (SIPs) are used by green structural engineers to insulate walls, roofs, and floors so as to conserve heat during the chill seasons. Evidently, the technology reduces the cost of energy by about 50 to 60%, which leads to minimized carbon footprints and provision of a healthier indoor environment. Similarly, high density insulation applied in the green houses is cost effective, easy to install and offers a quantitative thermal resistance of up to 3.8 per inch.
High performance building (HPB) techniques
HPB is an emergent green technology that improves energy efficiency, minimizes the cost of operations, and provides comfortable and healthier structures to work or live. US Green Building Council (USGBC) terms HPB as a sound investment because of their low cost premiums and long typical lifespan.
Examples of prominent green structures in the world
Increased adoption of green technology is due to global awareness of carbon footprints and greenhouse gases. Cities like Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Portland, and many regions of the developed countries promote the building of architectural solutions that rely on renewable energy, harvest water, and with zero or low carbon footprints. Notably, the high efficiency buildings mutually coexist with the environment.
Santa Monica Civic Center in the USA
Santa Monica shows the image of a green structure built on a self energy provision mechanism. Notably, the parking structure has solar array so as to provide for the energy required, which reduces the reliance on the expensive external sourced energy. In addition, the building has sustainable features an inbuilt water treatment system for the storm drainage. Material used to build the structure and the wastes generated are recyclable; thus necessitating resource recovery. Moreover, the building is designed with a mechanical system that is energy efficient, low-VOC coating and paints, low-e glazing, which allow efficient cooling and heating systems.
Fig 1shows a parking structure called Santa Monica Civic Center in the USA
Sinosteel International Plaza
Sinosteel International Plaza depicts how insulation is employed to reduce energy wastage from buildings that have high demands of energy, which translate to high cost of operation. Despite being underway, the project heralds the concept of green considerations due to maximize ventilation to enhance indoor air purification and comfort of the occupants. The building is enveloped by an external bound like a honeycomb with five varied sizes of hexagonal windows. Again, the windows are arranged according to solar and wind direction so as to moderate the internal temperature of the building. The 358 meters tower with additional smaller hotel (88 meters) is a central landmark described as organic, natural, and futuristic.
Fig 2: show the Sinosteel International Plaza with honeycomb designed windows.
Bahrain World Trade Center
The trade center is marked as one of the world’s pioneers in green energy and technology. Structurally, two tall towers leave a space in between them that allow very high wind velocity. Therefore, engineers modeled on the possibility of installing a micro-energy generation plant that would supplement the for the energy demand. As a result, three turbines blade of 29m in diameter are expected to produce 11 to 15% power demanded by the structure. It shows that green structures integrate the use of renewable energies that are environmentally friendly.
Fig 3: show turbines installed in between the two towers of Bahrain World Trade Center
Tall wooden buildings
In Canada, a prominent architecture called Michael green suggested that to structurally plan for urban building, natural materials should be used, particularly, wood. Objectively, wooden materials are sustainable, safe, renewable, and carbon-neutral, which cumulatively result to economic and environmental benefits. Through the life cycle study of concrete, its production accounts for 5% of the global carbon dioxide production; thus wooden structures provides better alternative for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Alternatively, green concrete made of natural or organic materials can be used to replace the conventional ones. However, caution has to be taken to avoid unsustainable harvesting of the wood materials.
Fig 4: shows a tall wooden building to reduce reliance on concrete.
Benefits of Green Structures
Green buildings have manifold benefits that can be categorized as economic, social, and environmental.
Reliance on fossil fuels has adverse impacts on the global climate due to the release of the greenhouse gases, particularly, carbon dioxide, methane, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. Again, indoor and outdoor air pollutions affect the human health negatively. Therefore, green structures which adopt cleaner energy sources and with high efficiency minimize harmful emissions.
Material inputs used for construction of green structures are natural, recyclable and can be reclaimed; thus waste generation is minimized and the environment protected. Also, the structures may integrate waste management and treatment systems; for example, in eco-houses leading to massive minimization of effluents.
Water and energy efficiency and conservation
Green structure has a primary goal of promoting efficiency in utilization of water and energy, which are the main input inventories. Use of day-lighting, high-performance windows, insulation, renewable energy, and installed mechanical efficient systems, they contribute more than 30% energy savings compared to conventional buildings. Similarly, the structures have benefits of reducing of water consumption. Application of water treatment and re-use minimize the demand of the scarce resource and promotes efficient consumption. Again, the green roofs are designed to harvest and redirect rainwater for subsequent treatment and utilization.
Heat retention characteristics of green houses because of their site and designs moderate the internal temperatures that make it conducive for the occupants to work or live.
Save cost due to energy and water efficiency and low consumption which translates to drastic reduction in costs of operation. Consequently, the value of the property increases due to high returns against low cost of operation and maintenance.
Improve employee attendance and productivity because of conducive indoor working conditions that do not risk the health of workers.
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