Chapter 7 Buildings
Buildings represent significant opportunities to reduce adverse environmental impacts and provide healthier work and living spaces through new design and renovation. Building construction is the largest sector of US manufacturing. The industry consumes approximately 40 percent of all energy, 72 percent of electricity, and releases around 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Typically overlooked are buildings’ additional water consumption and landfill waste generated during construction and renovation activity. Given the high proportion of time—estimated to be 90 percent—people spend indoors, materials and energy choices for buildings are tied closely to health and productivity. There are many ways innovative sustainability practices can target building design and interior furnishings to make positive changes. In fact, the building sector presents some of the most accessible opportunities to develop innovative strategies for increasing profits and addressing environmental and related community quality-of-life concerns.
In this chapter we look at building industry issues from three different standpoints. The Project Frog case illustrates the benefits and challenges facing a new company that offers state-of-the-art building design using optimally clean and efficient energy design and materials. Initially targeting the education market to help reduce the number of students housed in temporary trailer classrooms, Project Frog offers a dramatically more energy efficient and healthier alternative to school districts that need to expand classroom space. This chapter also provides background information on LEED, the US Green Building Council’s standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED discussion is followed by a hypothetical, but nonetheless realistic, case called Greening Facilities: Hermes Microtech Inc. that provides insight into building design decision-making processes. The background note subsequent to the Hermes case is titled “Environment, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation: Systems Efficiency Strategies for Industrial and Commercial Facilities” and offers additional information about why building redesign can be very challenging unless systems thinking is applied. The chapter ends with a case on Shaw Industries, a company that addresses building interior furnishing choices through innovative redesign of carpeting systems.