Faced with environmental deterioration and depletion of resources, as well as community pressure, cities and nations around the world are filling their skylines with green buildings — structures made with sustainable materials and focused on energy conservation.
From Chicago to Tel Aviv and everywhere in between, these buildings represent more than just a new way of thinking about architecture or a commitment to environmental sensitivity. They’re also showpieces for a growing number of green building materials, strategies, and appliances that enable ecologically sound buildings to house facilities of all sorts.
A LEED-ing Tower
LEED certification, the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a US-centered set of design standards that offers tiered ranking levels and enjoys a growing recognition across the globe.
One of the recently completed projects is the Bridgestone Tower in Nashville, Tennessee. The headquarters of Bridgestone Americas, the tower was completed in December 2017 and emphasizes natural light, highlighted through the use of contemporary materials.
Windows have long been a challenge when energy conservation is a goal, because they tend to undercut effective insulation. But a variety of new window materials and technology, including windows that contain clear solar cells, are better designed to control the movement of light and heat between buildings and the environment.
The use of solar cells also helps these large buildings meet their energy needs organically.
Named after one of the nation’s founding fathers, Rush Medical College dates back to the 1830s. Its hospital holds itself to the most competitive standards of excellence –which includes the design of its buildings.
That’s why, in 2012, the hospital opened the doors to the largest LEED-certified health facility in the world. By integrating intensive water conservation practices, including a green roof and water-saving fixtures, and emphasizing the use of natural light and energy efficient lighting, the hospital is both beautiful and functional.
It also relies on one of the most common sustainable construction strategies: reclaimed materials. Reclaimed wood and metal are ideal green building materials, since they limit deforestation and pollution that results from metal extraction and processing, and many pieces can be repurposed in exactly the same form … as plumbing, structural framing, or roofing.
Wood also encourages designers to employ their creative faculties. Because it’s more prone to insect invasion, warping, and other deformities, reclaimed wood needs to be fitted to specific functions.
LEED Goes Global
Despite being an American standard, LEED certification is finding a place in global architecture. In Tel Aviv, for example, the new Totzeret Haaretz building, commonly referred to as ToHa, was designed to LEED platinum standards.
But what brought LEED to Israel? According to the development company, Amot Real Estate Enterprise & Development, the goal was to make a statement about the companies in that space and encourage the users to change their consumption habits. That starts with the materials used in construction.
LEED-certified buildings regularly turn to building materials that disrupt normal models of consumption. Instead of toxic insulation materials such as fiberglass, for example, the buildings make use of cellulose insulation, which usually contains 85% recycled content and comes from plants.
Similar to using repurposed wood and metal, cellulose insulation offers a simple way to reduce a building’s carbon footprint in a low-tech manner … because not all innovative building has to be revolutionary.
Green buildings, particularly LEED-certified ones, reduce our collective impact on the environment, but they also call on our ability to imagine our world differently. Yes, these building change our skylines, but they also drive innovation based on old materials, new processes, and the recognition of our limited resources.
This article is sponsored by Rush.edu.