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Low Cost Green Building: Some Design & Planning Considerations

General Design Strategies – Siting, Land Use, and Landscaping – Energy Systems – Products and Materials

Ajay K Gupta Managing Director Kamtech Associates Pvt Ltd., Jaipur

Environment friendly, use of local materials and better energy management concepts and low cost. "I'd like to include green features, but the budget just isn't high enough." "Green building is just for wealthy clients." All too often we hear these claims. And, indeed, a lot of elements of environmentally responsible building do cost more - at least in the short term.

We're talking about first-cost here - how much more (if any) it costs to incorporate green features into a building project. Life-cycle costs are different. Environment friendly, use of local materials and better energy management concepts and low cost t. It would be wonderful if life-cycle costs were considered as a matter of course in building design today - but they are not. Most of us in the building profession are forced to deal almost solely with first-cost in justifying our projects.

To address this issue - and to counter the perception that building green has to cost more – this paper addresses various issues and checklist of design strategies, building practices, and material substitutions that will cost no more than - or actually cost less than - conventional practice. By no means should this list be considered complete in terms of what can be done on a tight budget. With good integration of all the disciplines on a design team, it is possible to incorporate, within budget, many strategies that taken alone would increase costs.

Some Cautions on a Low-Cost Agenda

As we examine green design strategies and construction practices that reduce (or at least do not increase) construction costs, it is important to point out that limiting oneself to only those strategies that keep first-costs low may not be in the best long-term interest of the client. Sure, we can create better buildings (from an environmental standpoint) while spending less money, but realize that too strict a policy on avoiding those strategies that increase first-cost may result in lost opportunities for even more significant savings down the road. Yes, we should pay attention to low-cost strategies, but we should also pay attention to some of the higher first-cost strategies that can significantly reduce life-cycle costs.

As the green design field matures, it becomes ever more clear that integration is the key to achieving the energy and environmental goals we desire - especially if

cost is a major driver. Integration is more than using the savings from one change to pay for another - it's about making changes that allow other changes to happen.

A

smaller chiller, for example, makes money available to upgrade the envelope, but

it

also depends on the envelope upgrade to satisfy the building's needs. While

integration can keep construction costs down, it usually requires more time to be spent in up-front design.

Low-Cost Green Design and Construction Practices

= R E S I D E N T I A L = RESIDENTIAL

= COMMERCIALConstruction Practices = R E S I D E N T I A L GENERAL DESIGN

GENERAL DESIGN STRATAGIES

Renovateolder When we renovate older buildings instead of

older

When we renovate older buildings instead of

buildings.

building new, we generally save significant quantities of materials and energy, thus benefiting the environment. In addition to reducing project costs, there may also be significant savings in time and money associated with not needing as extensive regulatory review and approvals.

Integratethe Integrated building design can often result in

the

Integrated building design can often result in

planning

and

first-cost savings. This is certainly the case

design process.

with energy design (see below), but savings can also be achieved in other areas of building design through careful integration. For example, including the general contractor in early discussions with the architect and engineer may identify ways to streamline the construction process. Involving a landscape architect early in the site planning process may reduce the need for (and cost of) plantings by identifying ways to protect what is already on the site.

Createsmaller Smaller, more space-efficient buildings require

smaller

Smaller, more space-efficient buildings require

buildings.

fewer resources during construction, disturb less land during sitework, and use less energy during operation. Depending on the design, the total cost is generally lower, though the cost per unit area may be higher.

Lookfor Regulatory obstacles often pose significant

for

Regulatory obstacles often pose significant

opportunities

challenges to green design, but they can also

created

by

provide opportunities in some cases. For

regulatory

example, if a regulatory body proposes that

hurdles.

you spend a lot of money to put in a rain harvesting roof pond, that presents an opportunity to do something better - like orous avement reduction of im ervious

surfaces, rainwater catchment, and infiltration basins. The alternatives may well be less expensive, more environmentally responsible, and ultimately more palatable to neighbors and planning officials.

more palatable to neighbors and planning officials. Optimize When feasible, site a building to optimize solar

Optimize

When feasible, site a building to optimize solar

orientation.

orientation and access prevailing breezes. With houses, locate more of the windows on the south than other orientations. It costs little, if anything, to reposition windows and modify the orientation moderately during design.

Minimize east- and west-facing windows. west-facing windows.

Leave floor slabs exposed. exposed.

Eliminate dropped ceilings. ceilings.

Leave floor slabs exposed. Eliminate dropped ceilings. Avoid over design. structural Provide layout. open To

Leave floor slabs exposed. Eliminate dropped ceilings. Avoid over design. structural Provide layout. open To

Avoid

over design.

structural

Provide

layout.

open

To minimize cooling loads in houses, reduce the area of windows on east and west facades. By installing fewer windows, costs should be lower.

Rather than carpeting a floor slab, leave it exposed. Molds and other biological pollutants will be avoided, the environmental impacts of carpeting will be avoided, and the cost of carpet can be avoided. There are many options for attractively finishing concrete slabs, including texturing and pigmenting. Most (not all) of these are less expensive than carpeting.

Savings can often be achieved by eliminating dropped ceilings. Pendent light fixtures, additional painting, special fireproofing measures, and exposed ducts will usually be required, offsetting some of the savings, but other opportunities may open up as well, such as deeper day lighting penetration and, in some cases, reduced floor-to-floor height (which can reduce overall building dimensions).

Optimal-value engineering (OVE) and advanced framing are strategies for reducing material use without compromising structural performance. By reducing material use, these practices reduce resource use while saving money.

Provide an open room layout in buildings to facilitate distribution of natural day lighting, reduce ducting requirements for conditioned air distribution sim lif the reconfi uration of

space, and reduce material use. Pay attention to sound control.

Optimizematerial Anytime we reduce cut-off waste or use less

material

Anytime we reduce cut-off waste or use less

use

by

material because we have optimized building

standardizing

dimensions, we save both resources and

dimensions.

money. In reducing waste we save money several ways: by buying less material, by reducing on-site labor (for measuring and cutting), and by paying less for solid waste disposal.

Save water. There is usually little, if any, additional cost associated with substituting

water-efficient equipment. Waterless urinals, for example, eliminate the need for water supply piping.

LAND USE AND LAND SCAPING

Cluster buildings. By clustering buildings and preserving larger areas of open space, we reduce the costs (and By clustering buildings and preserving larger areas of open space, we reduce the costs (and environmental impacts) of pavement, sewer lines, utility lines, rain harvesting system, and so forth. The open space also serves to protect local ecosystems and biodiversity.

Save wateralso serves to protect local ecosystems and biodiversity. Select sites that Where roadways, water, sewer, and

Selectsites that Where roadways, water, sewer, and utility

sites

that

Where roadways, water, sewer, and utility

make

use

of

lines are already in place or require minimal

existing

extension, the infrastructure costs of

infrastructure

or

development can be significantly reduced -

that

require

while the environmental impacts of

minimal extension of infrastructure.

development are reduced and more pristine, undeveloped land is preserved.

DesignRain Conventional practice with both residential

Rain

Conventional practice with both residential

harvesting

and commercial developments is to carry rain

responsibly.

water in underground tank. A better approach is to allow that water to soak into the ground to replenish aquifers and reduce downstream flooding. Carefully planned infiltration basins and measures to reduce impermeable surfaces are generally less costly than conventional practice of rain roof harvesting and building large detention ponds. Examples include: avoiding contiguous impermeable surfaces, minimizing roadway width, and using porous paving materials.

Minimizing the driveway or access road length to a building reduces impervious surfaces, helps preserve open space, and reduces resource consumption - all while saving money. Also keep streets and driveways narrow, and look for ways to reduce parking area requirements. The latter might be done in commercial building projects, for example, by convincing the company to offer employee incentives to use public transit.

Avoid cut-and-fill. In site planning and grading plans, avoid or minimize cut-and-fill practi ces that either carry In site planning and grading plans, avoid or minimize cut-and-fill practices that either carry soil off-site or bring soil onto the site. Restrict cut-and-fill to on-site movement.

Minimizeonto the site. Restrict cut-and-fill to on-site movement. paved area. Protect existing It may cost a

paved

area.

Protect existing It may cost a little more to protect existing

Protect

existing

It may cost a little more to protect existing

vegetation.

trees on a site, but that cost can easily be recouped through having to spend less on plantings following construction. Large trees around a new house may also significantly boost the property value. Protection of shade trees can allow downsizing of air conditioning equipment, because cooling loads can be reduced.

Usenative Indigenous landscaping (prairies, woodlands,

native

Indigenous landscaping (prairies, woodlands,

 

plantings.

desert gardens, etc.) support wildlife and biodiversity far better than conventional turf. Native landscaping also does not require irrigation and chemical treatments (fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, etc.). In most cases, it costs less to landscape with native vegetation than to put in lawns, though costs are variable.

DESIGN ENERGY SYSTEMS

Providean By carrying out integrated design, for

an

By carrying out integrated design, for

integrated

energy

example, a tight, well-insulated building

design.

envelope with high-performance glazings and shading strategies may enable you to significantly downsize - or even eliminate - conventional heating and/or cooling equipment.

Modelthe During design, model the energy performance

the

During design, model the energy performance

building.

of a building so that mechanical systems can be optimized.

Tune orientation. glazings to There is usually little if any additional cost in specifying different

Tune

orientation.

glazings

to

There is usually little if any additional cost in specifying different glazings for different orientations. In houses, low solar-heat-gain- coefficient (SHGC) glazings should be used on east and west orientations, for example, while high SHGC glazings make sense on south orientations when passive solar and day lighting are being utilized. In commercial buildings, low SHGC glazings may be appropriate for south-facing glazings as well, because cooling loads can be high even in the winter, when the sun is low in the south sky and heat gain from the south is significant.

Consider access Access flooring offers opportunities for energy

Consider

access

Access flooring offers opportunities for energy

floors.

savings, improved indoor air quality, easier reconfiguration of spaces, and - often - reduction of first-cost. Construction costs are most likely to be reduced if integrated design with access floors enable savings elsewhere (elimination of dropped ceilings, reduced floor- to-floor height in multi-story buildings, reduced cooling of under floor supply air, faster construction, etc.).

Expandthe By providing operable windows for natural

the

By providing operable windows for natural

 

comfort

envelope

ventilation or ceiling (paddle) fans to increase

and

downsize

air flow in buildings, occupant comfort can be

cooling

increased with less cooling than is typically

equipment.

required. Reliance on such practices can permit downsizing of mechanical cooling equipment, reducing equipment costs.

Do not run ducts to exterior walls. to exterior walls.

Keeping ducts away from exterior walls will improve energy performance and save money

- because less ducting will be required. Good energy performance of the building envelope is necessary for this to succeed.

Provide

task

By minimizing ambient lighting in commercial

PRODUCTS & MATERIALS

lighting.

spaces and providing task lighting, significant

energy savings for lighting and cooling can often be achieved even while first-costs are reduced.

Use

salvaged

Salvaged materials can often - but not always

materials.

-

be obtained at lower

rices than new (vir in)

Use structural materials as finish materials. materials as finish materials.

materials. Salvaged materials are beneficial environmentally because their use saves natural resources and reduces pressure on landfills. Examples of salvaged materials we can use include lumber, millwork, certain plumbing fixtures, and hardware. Make sure salvaged materials are safe (test for lead paint, asbestos, and other contaminants). Also, don't sacrifice energy efficiency by reusing old windows on exterior walls, and don't sacrifice water efficiency by reusing old toilets, showerheads, or faucet aerators. Finally, be aware that higher labor costs might be associated with use of salvaged materials.

Whenever we can use structural building materials as finish materials, we eliminate a building component that is costly both in resources and dollars. Examples include exposed beams, concrete floor slabs, and tilt- up concrete panels. It may be necessary to spend more on the structural component to satisfy design and aesthetic objectives (e.g., pigmenting and texturing concrete), but those costs are usually far lower than the costs of separate finish materials.

Consider patios

For durability, most wood decks are made

instead

of

wood

from pressure-treated wood or from rot-

decks.

resistant types of wood - the best of which are from old-growth forests that are in limited supply. A lower-cost alternative (in some parts of the country) is to build concrete, stone, or brick patios. Masonry costs are highly variable and may not always be less expensive than decks.

Avoid

multiple-

Instead of multiple-pane, true-divided-light

pane windows.

windows, install windows with large, single panes. These generally offer better energy performance, are more durable, require less maintenance, and cost less. Over a certain size, however, thicker glass requirements will increase costs.

Avoid

garbage

Garbage disposals require significant

disposals.

 

quantities of water for their operation, and they result in high organic loading of sewage treatment lants or se tic tanks Com ostin

Salvage materials. usable Recycle construction waste. is a much better option for organic wastes. When

Salvage

materials.

usable

RecycleSalvage materials. usable construction waste. is a much better option for organic wastes. When outdoor composting

construction

waste.

is a much better option for organic wastes. When outdoor composting is not an option, consider worm bins.

With renovations, salvage materials removed from an existing building for reuse. Generally, the extra cost of doing this can be recovered through sale of the materials, or, through advertising the availability of free materials, it may be possible to save on labor costs by having the salvaged material recipients do the salvaging. In either case, moderate savings (depending on local tipping fees) can often be achieved through avoided disposal.

Carry out a comprehensive job-site waste recycling program. Some construction waste materials can be sold, thus recovering the investment in separation and separate storage. More significant savings are often achieved through avoided land filling expense. In large commercial projects, the savings can be dramatic.