How to Build Green on a Budget

Construction experts from around the world reveal their top 25 cost-effective sustainable design and building tips, from procurement and planning to project maintenance and paints

Planning and procedures

•Emission testing on construction vehicles ensures they are meeting current standards for minimal carbon output.

•Monitoring and regularly reviewing waste output of sites helps to identify waste streams and areas that can be improved.

•Similarly, creating a ‘carbon map’ during the construction planning stages allows for the evaluation of possible carbon-saving technologies and identifies areas for carbon saving.

•Locally-produced building materials will help reduce materials transportation.

•Ensure sustainability is a key selection criteria in the procurement of materials and suppliers complete a procurement sustainability assessment matrix.

•Use onsite batching for plant concrete construction to minimise energy use.

•Providing a facility for the project waste to be recycled will encourage sustainable procedures.

Mark Schwedel, sustainability consultant, Sustainability ROI, US

Lighting and orientation

• Choose a light-colour external paint to increase heat reflection.

• Take into consideration the orientation of the building in relation to the sunlight.

Ron Brinkman, technical manager, Murray & Roberts Contractors (Abu Dhabi)

Efficient pumps

Replacement of pumps with correctly-sized alterna- tives featuring fixed-speed motors will make a posi- tive change to the carbon footprint. Much of the energy consumed by pumps, motors in particular, just goes to waste. Research shows that two thirds of all pumps use up to 60% too much energy because the pumps installed are larger than necessary. In addition, many pumps continuously run at the top speed regardless of requirements. Typically, most pump motors only have to run at their full speed 5% of the time, including those in commercial buildings, industrial applications, pub- lic buildings and water utilities.

Furthermore, a frequency converter that varies pump motor speed in response to workload can be added in two thirds of all industrial applications to minimise the industrial carbon footprint, increase efficiency and reduce electricity and water bills.

Mike Otten, general manager – Egypt, Grundfos Management, Egypt

Reduce transportation

Source durable materials as locally as possible and apply at, or above, trade standards. Furthermore, be sure to ‘right-size’ the project so that it does not consume more materials and natural resources than necessary.

Mike Moore, Construction Business Owner Magazine, US

Buy products that are manufactured close to your building site to reduce trucking requirements.

Katherine Leavens, architectural representative at Daltile, Canada

Solar power

A structure’s solar orientation should be considered for opti- mal solar gain in the winter months and shading in summer. Thermal mass is also a very beneficial building concept, in cases where the structure is part of the system.

Dave Frentress, marketing director — northwest division, Calportland, US

Local materials

Use durable materials that suit the building’s local environment and that allow for low lifecycle costs.

Ted Matson, director of sales & marketing, Lafarge, Canada

Budget basics

Consider budget shedding. Look at the budget and con- sider the areas where funds should be spent and those whereby more appropriate finishes or systems could be considered. For example, it is preferred to have a high- performance facade than using expensive materials in locations that are not functionally required.

Daniel Hajjar, senior vice president — regional manager MEA — HOK

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s richest countries in Pozzolan. It can be used as an additive instead of chemicals such as micro-silicon”

HVAC and technology

• The optimisation of chiller cooling plants and associated equipment can provide investment savings in the range of 5-10% of the overall HVAC cost.

• Consideration of efficient heat-recovery systems for fresh-air HVAC application during design phase can reduce the project cost by up to 5%.

• Efficient lightings, internally and externally, can reduce investment costs by 20%.

Khaled Bushnaq, CEO, Energy Management Services Int.

Pozzolan as a substitute

Use green concrete, in particular products that contain Pozzolan (a volcanic ash that can be combined with calcium hydroxide to exhibit cementitious properties). Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s richest countries in Pozzolan.

It can be used as an additive instead of chemicals such as micro-silicon. The material strengthens concrete and has been suggested in Saudi Arabia’s building code for 26 years. Today, four out of 17 cement factories in the Kingdom use Pozzolan, but it is utilised in only one concrete factory. It costs the same as alternatives.

Sultan Faden, head of founding group, Saudi Green Building Council

Reuse and recruit

• Reuse existing materials. In our line of work we reuse everything from old kitchens to cabinets and stone work surfaces.

• Implement quality workmanship to avoid loss of energy through leaking ducts, I’d suggest conducting a blower test on all duct works.

David Popoff, realtor, William Raveis Real Estate, US

Quality assurance

• Incorporate green thinking at the beginning of the design process, often options for green solutions can beadded at no additional cost if done so early.

• Ensure the construction management team, architectsand commissioning agents hold contractors fully responsible for their contractual and qualityrequirements throughout the construction process.

• Finally, the greenest building is the one already built, look into renovating as opposed to new construction.

Steven Schoenknecht, construction manager, US

Recycling myths

Be careful using recycled materials as this isn’t necessarily more sustainable, for example, it would be counterproductive to haul recycled aggregate 200 miles by road when there is a local primary aggregate source nearby.

When it comes to concrete, the best tip is to make sure you use slag or fly ash-based cement. These are industrial byproducts and will significantly reduce the embodied CO? of concrete, at the same time as enhancing its durability to the aggressive environment in the Middle East.

Ian Gibb, principal materials engineer, URS Scott Wilson, UK


Orientating the building so it is in the shadow of adjacent buildings can help minimise energy consumption. If the whole building energy simulation can demonstrate that there is a significant improvement as a result of the above, the design should qualify to obtain credits in the Energy & Atmosphere section of the LEED Rating system. The orientation of the building should have minimum or no additional impact in terms of cost incurred in the design.

David Chua Kiat, planning manager, Al Habtoor — Murray & Roberts JV

Concrete slabs

Replacing concrete in slabs with ‘Cobiax’ air-filled plastic void formers can reduce the CO2 contents linked to cement production. Research shows that one m3 of concrete saved by ‘Cobiax’ technology equals 210kg of CO2 savings. In buildings where Cobiax is used the cost balance is at least neutral, so the cost of the products are offset by the savings in concrete and associated savings due to the subsequent reduction in dead load (typically a concrete flat slab fitted with Cobiax is 25% to 30% lighter than a conventional solid slab). These associated savings include the reduction of rebar volumes for the slab and the reduction of the necessary foundation volume.

In the Middle East, Cobiax is still a new product. However, it is currently being applied for one of the first times in the construction of the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi.

Michael Stuecklin, business development director, Cobiax Technologies AG

On form

It is critical to get the building envelope correct, after that everything is easier.

Even though some say Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) are more costly, which I would disagree with, they will still give the biggest bang for your buck.

Ron Ardres, technical representative, ReddiForm World Wide, Bahamas

Be careful using recycled materials. It’s counterproductive to haul recycled aggregate 200 miles when there is a local primary aggregate source”

Consider coatings

Keeping buildings cool in hot climates without consuming large quantities of electricity to power air conditioning units has long been a headache for architects and consultants.

However, this can be partially achieved through powder coatings with heat-management properties that reduce surface temperatures by up to 15 degrees.

Such coatings reflect sunlight in the infra-red spectrum, which makes up around 45% of all energy radiated by the sun, thus reducing the temperature. Furthermore, low-VOC coatings that are also leadfree should be opted for.

Claudio Lurilli, divisional marketing director, Jotun Powder Coatings

Insulation decisions

Some insulated concrete forms (ICFs) cost less than the bare concrete foundations without any insulation (the insulation is a required additional cost for bare concrete), and some ICFs are of comparable costs to a well-insulated home. They don’t quite compete with a 2×4 wall with minimal insulation. ICFs reduce energy consumption by as much as 60% compared to convention home-building methods.

Rick Hansen, owner, ICF Supply, US

Orientation and reuse

• Every piece of land has a north, south, east or west exposure. The east and west are the most intense. No matter where you are in the world, the rising sun and setting sun needs to be controlled. There are many ways to do that, some involve overhangs, sun screens, shading devices or proper landscaping, but orienting gives you the most opportunity.

• You can also increase green credentials at no additional cost by balancing cut and fill. Do not truck in or truck out topsoil. Excavated soil can be used for grading, landscaping and so on.

Jim Del Grosso, president, Residential Energy Professionals, US

Research shows that two thirds of all pumps use up to 60% too much energy because the pumps installed are larger than necessary”

Intelligent interior

•Use light shades instead of dark shades on exterior finishes, including paint, stone, decorative concrete and so on.

•Review the lighting schedule as designers tend to over-illuminate spaces.

•Design the air-conditioning control system to prevent it being set below 22°C.

•Use drip irrigation in place of sprinklers.

•Use plants that demand less water.

•Use low-flow water fixtures and low-flush water closets.

•Use movement sensor switches in corridors, car parks and public areas.

•Use locally-produced exposed aggregate concrete, manufactured stone or decorative concrete (all incorporating fly ash or slag if cost effective) to replace stone finishes, which are usually imported.

Brian Davies, president, X-Calibur International, US

On your bike

Add a bike rack in front of your building. It is worth a point and does not costs very much.

Marty Downs, EWP engineering software manager, Boise Cascade, US

Procurement planning

•Plan more before ordering materials. If you need seven-inch studs (i.e. not standard size) order 14 inch studs and cut in half.

•A material used for bracing in the early part of the shell can be used for blocking, drywall backing, short studs and so on later in the project.

•Adopt a ‘there is no such thing as waste’ philosophy. The scrap pile should be the first place checked for any material needed.

•What remains when material orders are correct and used responsibly will not fill a small dumpster, and most of this waste can be recycled.

Dale Horvey, construction services and building materials professional, US

Paints and waste

Low-VOC coatings and recycling construction waste have been proven not to add coststo the project. However, this may not be the same for all regions where the materials and recycling facilities are not as accessible as they are in the US.

Evan RosenBlatt, assistant development manager, Stiles, US

Education first

The real industry challenge is how to overcome years of slowly-changing codes and rapidly-changing green and sustainable technologies. Unfortunately, most of the support for change comes from the top of the food chain, while many of the ideas and solutions come from the bottom. As an industry, we must work on middle management, contractors, engineers and architects. We need to offer more education and provide more facts to help the top management with the decision-making process.

Richard Szecsy, president, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association

Sustainable sub-bases

If the specifications allow (and many do) the use of recycled concrete and asphalt in the sub-base and base course can contribute to your “green score”. Often these materials cost no more than virgin.

Brad Rucker, general manager, Sky Ute Sand & Gravel, US

Fly ash

Use a cladding product that contains fly ash. This would usually only cost the same or less than similar products or alternatives.

Tim Seims, territory manager, Nichiha, US

Fly ash, a waste material, can be a major component of your structure, including foundation concrete, superstructure concrete, floor slab, screeds, lintols, paving slabs and roof tiles. Two goals in the construction phase should be to minimise production of waste and maximise the consumption of waste.

David Edwards, independent construction and waste-management professional, UK
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