By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Before energy conservationists launch efforts to turn off and unplug equipment or concern over emissions spurs a change in fuel, architects are quietly incorporating “green” features into the walls and systems of the buildings they construct.
And sometimes, the precautions save money.
Bob Nevill, director of physical resources, said the advancements in what is commonly called a “green building” have come mostly as a result of better technology – and he says cost motivated the progress.
“It used to be energy was quite cheap,” Nevill said. “That’s no longer the case.”
As the cost of energy rises, Neville said a building’s longevity and sustainability become increasingly important. A sustainable building, one that “continues to yield dividends,” Nevill said, can cut energy use and, in turn, reduce costs.
“Green” building, Nevill said, includes more efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting systems and consideration of window placement to best utilize natural light and reduce use of synthetic light.
According to www.usbgc.org, which researches green building, 65 percent of energy consumption in the United States comes from buildings, and energy use from buildings accounts for 36 percent nationally.
Not only does a “green” building improve air and water quality and conserve resources, according to the Web site, it also reduces operating costs and can contribute to occupants’ health.
One key development in “green” building has been improved integrity of buildings, which Nevill said reduces the energy required to heat and cool a building, cutting costs and conserving energy.
Improved insulation and the use of double-paned windows have increased the efficiency on campus that Nevill said holds about 1.8 million square feet of buildings.
“We may not see savings,” Nevill said, “But what we don’t see is increased cost.”
Nevill hailed the university’s architectural firms for their conscious approach to heating and cooling systems and other design considerations.
“It’s a science,” he said. Sometimes, the science is too costly.
The newest construction project, the Bob and Shirley Hunter Welcome Center, will not use the geothermal energy Nevill said he looked into. Although using an energy source that utilizes soil and water may be the “greenest” approach, Nevill said economically, the change wasn’t feasible – but geothermal energy could be on the horizon for future buildings if the energy is cost-effective.
“There’s a price to pay to be an innovator,” he said. “As we get more environmentally conscious, we start thinking about using
more available resources.”
One such resource physical resources has tapped into is the use of “green” paint, which uses a low or zero VOC content.
According to www.greenplanetpaints. com, a “green” paint reduces the substances released into the environment as the paint dries.
Nevill said the price of “green paint” is about 5 to 7 percent higher, which translates to $5,000 to $6,000 per year at ACU because maintenance applies about 2,000 gallons of paint each year.
“That’s an investment that’s well worth it,” Nevill said.
Although all coats of paint applied as maintenance are “green,” Nevill said the university is still weighing the costs of painting the Welcome Center in “green” paint.
Ultimately, Nevill said “green” building comes down to finding a balance between economic constraints and a call to stewardship. In upcoming years, he said the university could overhaul the Central Plant and also move to smaller, more automated heat controls, which cut energy use.
“There’s a premium to pay right now for those kinds of things,” Nevill said.
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