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Energy efficiency is essential for the production of sustainable businesses. Today, consumers look for eco-friendly products with a small carbon footprint. Rather than purchasing many cheap products, customers are apt to spend their money on sustainably produced goods and services. Companies can decrease their environmental impact by altering their practices in the workplace. Some businesses have adopted paperless, straw-less and other eco-conscious practices to shrink their carbon footprints. Many organizations restructure their buildings to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions altogether. As for environmental engineers, they developed something called a net-zero energy building.
The Importance of Emission Reduction
Nearly 80% of our global energy supply derives from oil, gas and coal. These non-renewable sources produce power for residential and commercial buildings. Their emissions contribute to adverse human and environmental effects.
The transporting and processing of oil and gas contributes to toxic air pollution. Around 12.6 million Americans interact with this pollution daily, leading to leukemia, blood disorders and other cancers. The mining of non-renewable energy materials also contributes to severe health impacts. Toxic airborne particulate matter contributes to lung cancer and breathing complications in full-time miners.
Greenhouse gas emissions from non-renewable energy sources also cause atmospheric degradation. As air pollutants invade the environment, they contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect. This is a natural process the planet uses to maintain a life-sustaining temperature.
When humans contribute additional pollutants into the atmosphere, it throws off the balance of the environment. Rather than attracting the sun’s energy, converting it to heat, transferring it to the surface and releasing it to space, the overstressed atmosphere transfers excess heat to the surface, increasing the global temperature over time.
What Are Net Zero Buildings?
To challenge the issue of atmospheric pollution and decrease utility costs, environmental engineers developed net-zero buildings. These structures produce as much energy as they use, relying on no additional non-renewable power. Net-zero facilities utilize sustainable designs, renewable energy systems, eco-conscious maintenance and optimum installation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions through their reliance on the grid.
These buildings are cost-effective because they source their electricity from renewable systems. Solar power now costs less than fossil fuel-reliant energy. Renewable energy is as little as $0.70 per watt. Net-zero commercial buildings also increase their customer appeal.
The current global consumers value sustainability. Around 45% of customers between the ages of 18 and 34 purchase environmentally friendly goods and services over their cheaper counterparts. To achieve this model of sustainability, builders can explore some of the current net zero energy building examples.
The Joyce Center for Partnership and Innovation
Canada’s largest net-zero carbon institutional structure is 96,000 square feet and entirely self-sufficient. The Joyce Center for Partnership and Innovation is an air-tight building that limits the escape of hot and cool air. Its roof contains a large garden that reflects the sun’s heat to keep the structure cool in the summer.
A total of 1,980 photovoltaic solar panels meets the building’s electricity demands. They produce 730,000 kilo-watt hours of energy each year. The structure heats and cools itself using a renewable geothermal system.
The center also utilizes a strategically designed light well which provides natural lighting throughout the building. LED lights illuminate the building at night when their sensors detect that the sun is dropping.
Smart water conservation devices further contribute to the sustainability of the center. A rainwater harvesting system captures 228,000 liters of stormwater to use in landscaping and plumbing. Many institutions look to this center as a model for global building sustainability.
National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment
The National University of Singapore developed an eco-conscious design and environment building that eliminates its reliance on the grid. They designed the structure to consume as much energy as its 1,2000 solar panels produce. It will also be an air-tight building that maximizes cooling and heating efficiency.
The structure design relies on a floating box model, which elevates the structure to allow for cross-breezes. It will have a porous layout allowing for natural lighting to illuminate rooms during the day and provide outdoor views.
A carbon-neutral apartment building and office space reside in the south of London. It utilizes solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems to reduce its energy and water exploitation. The home units have south-facing terraces that allow natural lighting and heating from the sun.
Its wind-driven ventilation system is revolutionary for energy-efficient apartments. The community also relies on a green transportation plan which utilizes electric transportation for residents to use. The BedZED offers a green vision for future community living centers to shrink their carbon footprints and increase their cost-effectiveness.
What Is on The Horizon?
As the eco-conscious movement expands globally, we can expect to see more net zero energy building examples including homes and commercial buildings. In the meantime, facilities may utilize renewable energy sources to shrink their carbon footprint, attract customers and reduce their utility costs. When more companies adopt green technology to decrease their reliance on the grid, the price of the devices will drop, increasing global access to sustainable resources.