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From the Advanced Buildings Newsletter - issue number 22

What's new in Green Buildings

It might be easier to review what isn't new, since this area of development is seeing a massive expansion of activity around the world. However, a partial sketch may be useful.

     First, even the term "green buildings" is not free of controversy. Our UK colleagues solemnly advised us against using this term some three years ago, because of some cases of excessive claims being made for this genre of building during the 1980's. Nevertheless, we find it to be useful, since "sustainable development", or "sustainable building" carries with it an implication that issues of social equity and participation will be addressed; and this is hard to do at the level for individual buildings.

     Getting to the heart of the matter, there is a very high level of activity around the world amongst policy makers, researchers and designers, to approach the sustainable development issues at the urban level and green building issues at the building level.

     Sticking to buildings, most researchers in the field will admit that Europe is ahead with respect to the design and construction of green buildings, especially the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Finland. In North America, with a few brilliant and relatively high-priced exceptions, we have still to match the overall environmental performance, integrated with elegance of execution, that we see in the best of European buildings. A major factor, I believe, lies in the fact that Europeans are willing to pay more in capital cost to ensure quality and performance. But many good minds are now focusing on the problem in North America and it would not be surprising to see a general improvement very soon.

     In Canada we have a few examples of well-designed and high performance buildings including, for example, the recent work of Busby + Associates, Matsuzaki Wright Architects and Bunting and Coady Architects, all in Vancouver, or Kindrachuk Agrey Architects in Saskatoon. There are also a few smaller and more modest buildings designed with assistance of the C-2000 Program, initiated by Natural Resources Canada. The latter started its life five years ago as a program to implant high-performance technologies in designs, but it was rapidly realized that successes were more due to the design process required by the program, and not the technologies.
     The process includes an integration of efforts of architects and engineers right from the concept design stage, plus the easy and rapid availability of subject specialists (e.g. daylighting, thermal storage etc.). This approach appears to result in buildings with a 40% or more improvement in energy performance relative to current good practise, at very little or no increase in capital costs - and with technologies that are relatively mainstream. An international working group, IEA Task 23, is developing recommendations for a generic integrated design process" that follows the same principles as C-2000.

     Beyond good design, we have discovered a need to define what we actually mean by high performance, in objective and consistent terms. It is relatively easy to have well-trained designers agree that buildings X, Y and Z perform relatively well, but if we are to make high performance a more widely accepted goal, then we have to have generally accepted performance assessment systems that cover a wide range of criteria, ranging from energy use, to consumption of resources, ecological impacts, indoor environmental quality and costs. In this area, North America holds its own, although the UK pioneered the field with the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
     BREEAM is now used to assess and label (just like washing machines) about 20% of the new office buildings in the UK, and the system has been the source of inspiration of much work around the world. Systems are under active development in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Hong Kong and other major jurisdictions. In the USA, the US Green Building Council has launched a system called LEED, which has already undergone prelliminary testing and improvement.
     A Canadian version of BREEAM has been developed and is being implemented by ECD Canada Ltd., and BREEAM also inspired the development of a non-commercial system called BEPAC (Ray Cole and colleagues at UBC). A related database and software model has been developed by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, which provides accurate assessments of embodied energy and emissions for a substantial range of materials in most Canadian regions.

     The proliferation of systems has led to the launch of an international effort to develop a generic assessment system. The process, called Green Building Challenge, was launched by Canada but is a cooperative effort of 16 countries. The work involves the development of a common protocol which is tested on real designs in each country. A major international conference has already been held in Vancouver, and a second conference focusing on this work will be held in Maastricht, the Netherlands in October 2000. The Canadian team for GBC recently met in Ottawa and has decided to test three buildings during the next round of work.

     Efforts are now underway to launch a hybrid performance assessment and labeling system in Canada, one that would involve the best elements of both the generic GBC system and the well-tested BREEAM system. If this can be implemented on a wide scale, it can have a real and positive effect on market demand for high-performance buildings, and this would cause a sweeping change in performance standards within the industry as a whole.

EA Working Groups

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has many working groups in the area of building research; some (for obscure reasons that do not concern us here) called Tasks and others called Annexes. Some news of recent activities will be of interest.

     Annex 31, focusing on the energy implications of building environmental performance assessment systems, is winding up its work. A final report is being prepared and many sub-reports will be of interest when they are available, including a review of software tools, case studies, a review of theory, a glossary of terminology and a dictionary in several languages. Reports are expected to be complete by later this year. The mandate of Task 23 is to explore the relationship between the design process and the adoption of passive or active solar technologies.

     Recently, we had an opportunity to attend the meeting in Stuttgart of Sub-Task B, which is attempting to develop a generic design process that will maximize energy performance. The meeting was held in the offices of TransSolar, a 28-person firm totally devoted to consulting in the field of energy analysis and CFD modelling. TransSolar has an extensive range of large international projects to its credit, and is currently working with a major Canadian firm to assist in the design of their facilities. The full Task 23 group will meet in Vienna in early October, and reports of value to the industry will probably start to appear next year.

     Task 35 has just been established to explore issues in natural- and mixed-mode (hybrid) ventilation systems for large buildings. The topic is of increasing interest in Europe and North America, and it will be interesting to see how the principles can be applied in those North American areas with high relative humidity during summer months.


     We had an opportunity to attend the summer conference of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in Seattle during June. This august body has been in existence for over 100 years and is widely respected for its technical work and standards. New trends are best captured in ancillary seminars and technical task groups (some Task Groups go on to become Technical Committees). Our brief report covers some of these events.

Commercial Buildings Roadmap

     In a pre-conference workshop, Drury Crawley of U.S. DOE outlined the activities of the U.S. Commercial Buildings Roadmap project. This initiative is sponsored and facilitated by DOE, but led by industry organizations. The idea is to review trends, targets and barriers, and to come up with a vision and a "roadmap" for future developments. The purpose of the project is to building better links between R&D groups (largely government-funded) and the private sector, to establish an agreed-upon R&D agenda. If successful, the process will also undoubtedly build private sector support for R&D funding in Congress.

      The process began with an "Executive Forum", to obtain the support of key private-sector organizations. This has been followed by the establishment of several technical sub-groups, including one for whole-buildings, lighting, windows, combined heating/cooling/power and one for insulation, roofs and walls. The process is on-going and looks to be well-considered. The advantage of including major stakeholders in the process is that a momentum is being built up for implementation, and the building sector is notorious for the difficulty of creating a consensus for any sort of action.

Integrated Design workshop

     On the Saturday before the main ASHRAE events began, an informal workshop was arranged to discuss developments in "Integrated Building Design", e.g. a design process that involves all relevant professions starting at the concept design stage. The workshop was sponsored by the "Bild-IT Project" which is an international project to specify and develop an integrated design software tool for application in the HVAC industry, and was organized by Eliott Gordon, a consultant to Bild-IT.

     One of the technical issues that underlies any adoption of an integrated design process is the ability for professionals to exchange information. As is painfully evident to many practitioners, data exchange is partial and often difficult. However, improvements are on the horizon, and this was discussed in a presentation of the work of the International Association for Interoperability (IAI). Originally known as the Industry Association for Interoperability, the IAI started off as a small group of U.S.-based software developers and researchers, and has now grown to include 620 organizations in 9 international Chapters.

      One of the original founders was AutoDesk and another was LBNL, which give the organization both clout and credibility. Essentially, the IAI is working towards establishing a "shared product model" for data that is exchanged by software systems used by various disciplines. The work of the IAI has resulted in the establishment of the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), a library of software object classes that are commonly useful for defining shared AEC project models. In the future, you will want to know whether software is IFC-compliant.

     Vladimir Bazjanac of LBNL chairs the IAI Technical Advisory Group and he demonstrated some of the practical benefits that will appear in the near future. Preliminary work with the design of a small energy-efficient bank using IFC-compliant software allowed energy simulations to be carried out on the basis of a schematic design, and permitted a preliminary check on compliance for prescriptive energy features. This small study showed "dramatic savings in time and money", in the order of 1 day v. 1 week, and $2000 US v. $7000 US.

     One of the programs used in this study was an IFC-compliant set of modules called SMOG and RIUSKA, developed by Olof Granlund OY, a Finnish firm that also is a partner in the Bild-IT process. Other sponsors of the Bild-IT project include AEA Technology Engineering Software, Halton Group (Granlund and Halton are both funded by the Finnish R&D organization TEKES) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, funded by US Department of Energy). The aim of Bild-IT is to create a computer-based tool that supports integrated building design, obviously based on adherence to the IFC discipline established by the IAI.

     The first phase will concentrate on understanding the requirements for tools to support the integrated design of commercial building and demonstrating a prototype tool to the industry. Successive phases of the project will involve developing and implementing the tool for specific applications. The tool will link an architectural CAD system, AEA Technology's computational fluid dynamics (CFD) program CFX and the building energy simulation program EnergyPlus, that is currently being developed by the US Department of Energy. Standard methods of exchanging design information within the tool and with other software tools will be developed, based on the IAI's Industry Foundation Classes, in order to provide an open, interoperable environment for equipment selection and HVAC system analysis.

Other ASHRAE news

At the official part of the ASHRAE conference, we attended part of two new task groups in ASHRAE on integrated building design and the impact of buildings on the environment (TG4.IBD and TG2.BIE). These are at their early stages of work, but the TG4.IBD group (chaired by Tom Phoenix) on integrated building design process is already working towards preparing a chapter for the ASHRAE Handbook under the leadership of Charlie Shieh. Hal Levin, well-known for his IAQ work, chairs the TG2.BIE group which will review and possibly develop methods and tools to assess the impact of buildings on the environment. A research plan is now being developed.

Canadian Team for GBC 2000

The Canadian Team for Green Building Challenge 2000 held its first meeting in Ottawa on September 25. GBC 2000 is the follow-on to the highly successful GBC'98 process and conference held in Vancouver in October of last year. Each participating country (there are now 16) forms a National Team to adjust the assessment system to local realities and to test the system on one or more buildings.
     The Canadian Team for GBC 2000 consists of some of the same members as the previous team but also has a number of new faces representing a good cross section of industry and government. The level of enthusiasm and commitment shown by the team was high, and the prospects for assessing and showcasing the best of current Canadian Green Building practise in this international arena is encouraging.
      The team is currently fundraising with aim of being able to assess and showcase at least three buildings, instead of the minimum of one building required. If you are interested in contributing or know of an organisation that would be,
     Invitations and information about how to submit your building for the assessment process will be forthcoming soon in industry newsletters and will also be posted on the Web.

iiSBE formed

     A group of individual researchers have formed an international group to develop a strategic framework and information dissemination in the area of environmental performance assessment, rating and labelling. The group, calling itself the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment, or iiSBE, was formed this Spring by individuals involved in this kind of work from Finland, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, UK and the USA. iiSBE is led by Ilari Aho (Finland).
      The group intends to carry out its coordination, strategic development and information dissemination tasks in a manner which leaves intact the relationship of existing IEA or CIB working groups with their parent organizations. A representative of the group presented the proposal to the CIB and to the IEA Executive Committees at their recent sessions during May in Leiden, and both groups gave their blessing to the project.

On the Road with Ian

Ian Theaker is a professional engineer who specializes in ecologically sensitive and climate-responsive "green' building design. He normally works in Vancouver, but is now on an extended sabbatical. We thought you might like to share the interesting e-mailed notes he has been sending to his network of colleagues.

     There are quite a few cranes on the London horizon, but with a few notable exceptions, buildings seem to be limited to 10 or fewer stories.
     The Millennium Dome is intended to show off modern British industry, a la the Great Exhibition of the 1860s. A huge tensioned-fabric dome on the banks of the Thames, it will house technology exhibits of many large UK companies, in pavilions sited in the mechanically air-conditioned (!) shelter. There is a great deal of controversy as to whether it is worth the 1 billion pounds-plus cost, and what it will be used for after 2000. The plan is to keep it as a public attraction, but everyone I speak to about it doubts that anyone will pay the 20 pound entrance fee.

      A much more interesting building (to me anyway), is the proposed Greater London Authority building. Designed by Ken Shuttleworth of Foster & Partners, it's a 10-storey, 185,000 sq.ft. building for London's Council and administration sited across the river from the Tower of London. The proposed building resembles a streamlined glass egg floating on end; it is intended to be naturally ventilated, with large openings at its 'roof'. Walls are almost entirely glass, with the council chamber (close to ground level) at the bottom of a huge open volume, overlooked by a spiral public gallery around the glazed 'walls'.
      This walkway is shaped to shade the debating chamber and offices; and the building is obviously intended to be naturally daylit. The plan is to use groundwater for supplemental cooling, with heat exchangers and pumps powered by building-integrated photovoltaic panels. It's intended to use less than half the energy consumed by a typical London office building. Unfortunately, there are few numbers in the info I have; I hope to meet with the designers before I leave the London area.

      From the renderings, it's one of the few large buildings I've seen whose form visually - and beautifully - reflects the local microclimate. It reminds me of Ken Yeang's work; the organic shape makes explicit the airflows and solar path that make it work. Being from Foster's office, the structural and mechanical systems float, exposed, within a very high-tech, transparent (and expensive?) skin. It echoes the new Berlin Reichstag in its integration of a glazed dome with public galleries designed for daylighting, emphasising openness of the political process. Nicely done!
     After Cornwall, I headed East to Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy, and the Sovereign Housing Association development. This is one of two SUNH ( "Solar Urban New Housing") multi-family residential developments in the UK that form part of a larger demonstration program of passive solar buildings, funded by the European Commission's "Thermie" project. Projects are being built in Britain, France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Portugal. The Sovereign site is being built in 2 phases; the first is a building with 24 flats for retirees. They're incorporating additional insulation, active solar water heaters, and Solarwall ventilation air preheat; and are intended to use half of the energy of a building designed just to code.

      After Brighton, I went to visit Phillip Jones' Architectural Science Research Group, at the Welsh School of Architecture of the University of Cardiff. Phil and Don Alexander (a Canadian from Vancouver) were kind enough to give me a tour of their research facilities, and discuss their current work. They recently commissioned the largest artificial sky I've seen, some 10 metres in diameter, and equipped with several hundred compact fluorescent lamps to simulate general sky illumination. Computer-controlled to allow simulation of passing clouds, it's equipped with a large turntable that allows a 3-minute long day cycle, at any latitude.
      Anticipated upgrades to their sensors and electronic cameras will allow instantaneous and time-averaged measurements and photos with up to 4096 different grayscale intensities - *within* the models. They've used it to aid daylighting design of a warehouse conversion, and are collaborating with Leicester University on Radiance software validations. They're also renting use of the facility to the private sector, for 1000 pounds a day, including technical help (negotiable, for the right projects).

        Cardiff also has a large wind tunnel devoted to natural ventilation studies. It has a once-through, dual fan test chamber 1m high and 2.5m wide, with a 2.5 x 3m upwind section, allowing pressure coefficient measurements that include local terrain models. Currently they're investigating turbulence in pedestrian areas, and natural ventilation of common interior areas, of an archetypal ~30 storey residential tower in Hong Kong. The model itself is a meter tall, with several hundred pressure taps monitored with a PC data-gathering system. They're looking for fast-response pressure sensors that measure to fractions of a Pascal, to closely investigate turbulence effects in real-time.
     Phillip is responsible for ongoing development of their "Energy & Environmental Prediction" model, similar to Sheltair's TIRA efforts. EEP is a MapInfo GIS-based computer program that allows scenario analysis of various town and regional planning alternatives. Both use building energy simulations of archetypal building models, and econometric models of industrial inputs and outputs, to understand energy and pollutant emissions from different planning options.

      EEP uses the SATURN transportation model, based on 'spatial analysis' work pioneered by Hillier and Penn, to predict pedestrian and vehicle flow, emissions and energy consumption from different road network designs. EEP is being used now to inform planning of the City of Cardiffand they are filling the databases for the Neath Port Talbot urban region. Future plans include addition of a pollutant dispersal model, a health model that indicates distribution of air-quality-related problems, and accessibility of public transportation; it is also funded for use in Belfast, Leicester and London.
     Cities and towns in the UK here have been delegated major responsibility for implementation of the country's Kyoto commitments, and even more ambitious commitments by Parliament, and it sounds like they're currently wrestling with the implications of that. The Home Energy Conservation Act requires local authorities to improve housing energy efficiency by 30% by the year 2007, relative to the 1997 housing stock.

      ECD Limited is one consulting firm that is helping urban planners meet sustainability challenges. The day after visiting Cardiff, I met with John Doggart, managing director of ECD, and one of his staff, Loic Finlan. ECD advises cities on green planning policy, and design teams on green buildings; John was one of the authors of the first version of BREEAM, the very successful building environmental assessment program that inspired our BEPAC work in Canada. Loic is their head energy simulator; the major tool he uses is TAS, an hour-by-hour program that incorporates a network-model natural ventilation and cooling algorithm similar to COMIS or CONTAM. Unfortunately, the current version does not include daylighting energy savings - but keep tuned for the next version. I'll be keeping my ears open on this one.

      I next visited Nigel Howard, and his staff at the Building Research Establishment at Garston, Watford. They have been responsible for ongoing development of BREEAM; they just released BREEAM 98 for offices, which now includes both new and existing buildings. It has been extended to include life-cycle assessment of buildings, and credits and points awards have been updated to reflect changes in best practice that have now become mainstream.
     More importantly, it now incorporates a more rigorous assignment of weighting of environmental and resource issues. The BRE conducted several workshops to pull together priorities of green construction issues, to feed into their recently released "Green Guide to Specification" and their BREEAM building enviro performance assessment packages. Typically they convened a group of 20-odd individuals involved in building design and construction, and presented them with a pre-prepared list of issues, covering the 3 legs of SD (they added a 4th, 'Resources', to the classical 'Enviro, Social, Economic').

       The group is first asked to add or delete issues; most importantly, they *are not* given any guidance on semantics or definition of issues they find unclear, but must come to a common understanding of them - which is then documented. (Good approach - avoids imposed definitions & disputes with the hosts, but ensures near-consensus, so they're all working from the same page.)
      Two rounds of questionnaires are then filled out by each individual (who can remain anonymous if they desire): first to indicate their own personal priorities for the 4 SD "legs"; and then on the SD issues. The questionnaires give the user some credits to 'spend' on the issues; all their credits can spent on one, or they can be distributed as desired. The kicker is: they have just a few fewer credits than issues, so they're forced to budget.

      The first session included 60 "experts", including "... government policymakers, construction professionals, local authorities, materials producers, academics and researchers, activists and lobbyists, investors and developers ". The (enviro) issues of the Green Specification Guide, with their resulting weightings are shown in table below.
     The BRE has now done this with ~10 groups (who were sceptical of the first groups' weightings) and apparently their issues ranking is very consistent from group to group, and exhibit only minor variations on their relative weightings. According to Nigel, "The last group were a mixed group working with hydraulics research, and they were within 2% of the average on all scores."
      The BRE's new "Green Guide to Specification" is one of the most useful materials and assemblies environmental guides I've seen; it rates several hundred wall, roof, interiors, and finishes on the list of environmental issues above.
      Designed to be simple for designers to use, it gives the assemblies an A, B or C rating on each of the issues, and an overall score based on the weightings listed.
I also had a tour of the BRE's Environmental Office building by Matt Grace, who's responsible for monitoring its performance. I won't go into details, since the building has been discuused before in ABN and in the Green Building Challenge.
     The building is consuming more than anticipated for heating, largely due to air leakage; they used the new BREFAN to find the cracks, and found the roof/wall interface to be responsible for some 16% of the heating energy. They've since tried caulking and air-sealing, and hope that this winter it'll perform better. It is performing very well in cooling; the occupants are delighted, and my personal experience is on the hottest day of the summer to date the building was very comfortable at 5:30 in the evening. The main lesson Matt got from the building was "Keep It Simple, Stupid" - he feels that the complex EMCS controls may not be robust over years, and is difficult for the building operators to program easily. (Sound familiar?) That being said, it is one of the lowest CO2 emitting buildings in the UK, on a square foot of floor area, and on a per occupant basis.

Results of BRE survey on environmental priorities (from Ian Theaker)

CO2 emissions 241.5
Primary energy used in extraction, production and transport 72
Oil feedstock consumption 72
VOC & NOX emissions 56.5
% of recycled materials in finished product 50.5
Toxic pollutants arising from manufacturing 42
Water consumption 33.5
Wastes generated 32.5
SO2 emissions 30
Mineral consumption 23
Reserves of raw materials 23
Toxic pollutants arising from combustion 0
Other recycling issues 0



October 21-24, 2000
Salvaging Tomorrow
This event will be held in conjunction with the Solar Energy Society of Canada (SESCI)conference,
but is sponsored by the Used Building Materials Association.
If your interests extend to both solar energy and the re-use of materials, you should explore further.


United States

August 14-17
Moving Innovation into Practice for a Sustainable Future
Washington, DC

The conference and trade show is sponsored by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF),which is associated with the American Society of Civil Engineers.About 1500 people are expected to attend to see the trade show and to discuss how technology innovation can be moved into the mainstream of practice.
Contact:Fax: 1 202 789 2943


August 6-10, 2000
Healthy Buildings 2000

Espoo, Finland
The conference aims at processing the latest knowledge from IAQ research,
construction techniques and product development into economical and
safe solutions for healthier living and working environments.
Healthy Buildings 2000
Fax: +358 9 4355 5655


22-25 October, 2000

Sustainable Buildings 2000
Maastricht, The Netherlands
A major international conference which will continue the work initiated
by GBC '98. The conference will display the results of detailed building
performance assessments carried out by 17 national teams participating
in the Green Building Challenge Process. There will also be technical
papers on related topics. the conference is sponsored by NOVEM, Green
Building Challenge and CIB W100.

Contact: Ronald Rovers
Fax: 31 46 452 8260

Other Locations

23-24 November, 2000
Construction and Environment
So Paulo, Brazil
This conference is co-sponsored by the CIB and the University of So Pulo.
The aims of the event are to discuss market-driven public policies and practical solutions to assist the construction industry in meeting environmental demands.



November 8-22, 2000
World Congress on Environmental Design for the New Millenium

Seoul, Korea
That s right, this event is scheduled to occupy two weeks,so bring a big suitcase.
It is sponsored by Yonsei University and the Ministry of Construction and Transportation,
and is intended to generate new visions for the new Millenium.
The conference involves three distinct but related events:

  • the World Conference on Universal Design,
  • the World Conference on Green Design and
  • the World Conference on Cultural Design. Ambitious, but worth exploring.

Fax::+822 3452 7292


April 2-6, 2001
CIB World Building Congress 2001

Wellington, New Zealand
The program is not yet finalized, but you might want to start thinking
about this event. the theme is Performance - ways to regulate it, to achieve
itand to assess it. Contact:


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 ABN - Advanced Buildings Newsletter (Canada)
Architronic: the Electronic Journal of Architecture.
Buildings Online (USA) .
Ecocycle - A newsletter on life-cycle tools, management and product policy.
 Energy Design Update (USA) .
Energy Ideas Contents (UK) .
ENDS Environmental Newsletter (UK) .
 Environmental Building News (USA) - The leading newsletter on environmentally responsible      design & construction

R-2000 fact sheets. (Canada)
Retro-Vision (Canada) - information about residential energy retrofit activities.
 Sustainable Business Insider (USA).

Woytek Kujawski -  INPOL Consulting

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