sustainable buildings

The Smarter City

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 “Organizations today are embracing a more sustainable approach to business – one that takes into account the environmental and societal impact of their activities. By factoring this accountability into their strategy, they implement new ways to source, manufacture, and distribute goods in a more sustainable manner, often while simultaneously lowering costs. And, based on more transparent and proactive engagement with employees, consumers and the communities where they operate, organzations are becoming better equipped to create products and services for a smarter planet.” Corporate Social Responsibility – IBM

One of the recent articles linked in the Current News & Events section, IBM’s Top 5 Predictions for Smarter Buildings for 2012, only touches the surface of IBM’s commitment to the role technology can contribute to helping develop smart buildings and communities. To see just how committed they are, IBM has provided this fascinating video presentation, The Smarter City, explaining how we can build a smarter planet – city by city – today. Topics range from Transportation/Traffic, Airports/Rail, Public Safety, Healthcare, Education, Energy and Utilities, Economic Development, to Social Services. Included is a short documentary and a HELP (?) section that explains how to navigate through the video.   Continue Reading →




The Smarter Building

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One of the problems we encounter today when defining sustainability initiatives is that most everything associated with the environment, from energy efficiency to social responsibility, is in a fundamental state of flux –­­ constantly changing, ever evolving. While expanding our knowledge and, consequently, our concerns associated with environmental stewardship, we witness organizations and corporations vying for a sense of place arrive by the busloads, and they also leave by the busloads. The boundaries and parameters become blurred, often with conflicting messaging. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), as well as other organizations, promoting smart growth and social responsibility, a heightened awareness will be focused toward building technology and automation. As we assimilate the data and establish our goals, this emerging technology will become a more relevant and active participant in the way we will provide sustainable buildings that integrate into sustainable communities.

However, in order to provide truly sustainable buildings, we should ask the question: is being green enough? Is a green building the same as a sustainable building? Although the terms are generally accepted as being interchangeable, one could legitimately argue they are not the same. On one side, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

“Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.”

On the other side, consider the fact that we’ve been successfully creating green buildings for some time now and though we’ve made great strides, for a multitude of reasons, we’ve also fallen short of our expectations. To meet the above stated goals, as sustainable professionals we need to embrace a well-coordinated and expanded process. The state of the art of buildings is that they aren’t just green, but “smart” ­­ structures that go beyond simple resource efficiency and indoor air quality, built with the latest technology for building controls and automation.

Enter smart buildings.          Continue Reading →




What is Smart Growth?

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Smart buildings. Smart cities. Smart growth. What’s the meaning of all this “smart” talk? In the most basic sense, all three are associated with sustainability and social responsibility, with smart buildings and smart cities individually and collectively supporting smart growth.

So what is smart growth, and why is it important? With respect to sustainability and social responsibility, smart growth is of critical importance. In 2010, 82 percent of Americans lived in urban communities (towns and cities) and by 2050 it will be 90 percent. For the first time in history, more than half of the people on Earth live in cities, and urban populations are projected to double by mid-century. Towns and cities are responsible for approximately 65 percent of all energy used, 60 percent of all water consumed and 70 percent of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. As compared to less densely populated rural areas, urban communities offer increased potential for resolution of environmental and social problems, generate jobs and income, relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity, and with proper governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently. In essence, smart growth is about urbanization.

Enter smart growth.

The challenges presented by sustainable urban development are immense. Smart growth, an urban planning and transportation theory, values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. Utilizing growth management tools to encourage sustainable communities, combat sprawl, and strengthen urban centers through existing infrastructure, smart growth is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and many other environmental organizations, such as Smart Growth America. USGBC promotes smart growth through their LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System and the EPA’s support is focused around their EPA Smart Growth Program.

The EPA has compiled a set of best-practice examples of adopted codes and guidelines from around the U.S. that support smart growth, grouped into six categories:  Continue Reading →