Paul Bisanti

Business Development and Consultant, Green Propeller Design

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Green Buildings Don't Have to Cost More

I am often confronted by a client or contractor who refuses to embrace a green project because it will cost too much. I have always disagreed with this viewpoint. The problem with this perception is their opinion has been shaped by poorly executed "green" building design. A building project that has been labeled a ‘pioneer of energy efficiency and sustainable design’ features the latest and greatest technologies; green walls, dual skin facades, massive ground-source heat exchange loops, green roofs, etc. etc. etc.

These buildings probably do have great operational efficiencies, but the problem is the "green" solutions were applied after the design of the building had already been somewhat established. I am a much bigger proponent of load reduction through careful early design.

1. By carefully locating, orienting, and massing the building layout as well as programmatic uses, you set yourself up for a very cost effective green solution.

2. It is critical to establish a well insulated envelope (in most climates) but not to make the envelope completely air tight. Architects need to take advantage of the building's ability to ventilate, heat, and cool itself passively.

These two steps dramatically reduce the peak demand on the HVAC&R systems in a building. A business can save tremendous capital cost by downsizing the most expensive building systems by eliminating the need to adopt the ‘sexy,’ more expensive technologies.

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    Oct 26 2011: Paul:
    I have had similar experiences, however, in a somewhat different context. We work in the international development field. One of our current projects focuses on facilitating the formation of green building value chains in developing countries as a strategy to promote sustainable economic growth. To date, this idea has yet to gain much attention in the international development field with the exception of “one-off” green building demonstration projects. To achieve sustainable development impact, we believe that the focus should be on addressing the policy, institutional, and other barriers to forming and sustaining green building industries. Interestingly, those we have interacted with in countries such as Egypt, Macedonia, Serbia, and elsewhere inherently understand the value of building green and are eager to pursue the development of green building industries. In contrast, the perception in the donor community is similar to what you have encountered - building green is expensive and technology intensive and therefore beyond the reach of many poorer societies.
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    Oct 30 2011: Yes Paul!! Two parts to owning a Green Building - 1. Acquisition 2. Paying it off and owning it. "Green may be a tad more in step one but much less in step 2. If not somethings wrong.

    What if the real "ownership" of the home happened 2 to 5 times faster? So instead of 30 years it was owned in say 8 years or 10 or 12? this can now be done quite easily.
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    Oct 28 2011: well just overflow them with positive data and make that the normal. tell them how much they will lose if they don't implement those systems, not how much they will save if they do!

    which is more appealing:
    1) if you spend £100000 you can save £10000 a year, it pays itself in ten years!
    2) not spending £100000 will mean a loss of £10000 every year that the building exists. in the first 15 years you will lose £150000 by the time the buildings life is over you will have lost around £500000

    just work on your pitch.
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      Oct 31 2011: That's a great idea. definitely something I will try to incorporate into more of my presentations.
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    Oct 27 2011: perhaps your problem is marketing. rather than advertising 'green buildings' pitch your idea as a low maintenance building. people care more about maintenance costs than they care for the environment (sad but true)
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      Oct 27 2011: It's true. When given the opportunity, I've had success when I have been able to relate the lower operational costs to the clients. We still fight an uphill battle though, since most people value capital expenditures more highly than operational budgets.
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    Oct 26 2011: Good point! I was thinking the same thing in my first conversation here.

    Today the roofs of tall tower buildings are already made and just plane flat, where as with my food tower, the roof would be built and designed on efficiency, like a metal grating that rain can fall through and go into drains by the heating and air conditioning units and be filtered into the buildings water reservoir. Above the grate, would be solar panels that are set on moving arms, so that they are always facing the sun at all times of the day. and on all for corner would be the smallest wind mills ever designed. The way they are designed by the guy who invented them, it wouldn't matter which way they are facing on those corner peaks. All in all I believe incorporating a series of different free energy devices near the roof of any tall building is essential when building them in the future, the thing is you wouldn't be able to do this to a older building. You would have to do like you said. Build a new design. very nice!