My building is GREENER! No!! My building is GREENER!
Speak to any entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur, an unsuccessful entrepreneur or a wannabe entrepreneur and they will admit to one thing, they are big dreamers. In fact most of them spend more time dreaming than doing something about those dreams and thoughts. One of the reason is that quite often the entrepreneur is way ahead of himself and its often found that its hard for him to physically keep up with everything he is thinking. Dreams are a state of mind and for an entrepreneur the mind works like a machine, a business development machine, a marketing machine, an accounting machine or quite often a tax evasion machine. The point I am trying to make is when an individual has an overwhelming desire to achieve a perceived level of greatness in their chosen field of work, all his/her thoughts and dreams start to revolve around that field and some of its characteristics and this process is almost relentless. These dreams are often unrealistic and full of fictional characters.
Just like every other entrepreneur I dream a lot and lately I have found myself seeing a lot of green all around. Not necessarily eco-friendly but green colour nonetheless. I recently had one of these dreams and I thought it makes sense to put it in words instead of just letting it go. As far as I remember, it went like this: I was at a coffee shop called GREEN DAY sipping my green coffee in a green coloured mug. Then I saw two alien looking men walk in and they were green, green skin, green clothes, green shoes, green everything (they were probably aliens, not sure). I thought I must have seen these characters somewhere to have dreamt about them, so I searched the internet and the closest match I found are these two characters. Anyway, back to the dream. So these two men walk in buy a green coffee each and start talking about their respective office buildings and how green they were. I started eavesdropping as soon as I heard the word green. I noted both their buildings had some excellent environmentally responsible features and they had done everything possible to ensure their office buildings have minimal impact on the environment.Both the buildings were very well located with close proximity to public transport links and excellent community connectivity.
Both men had made absolutely sure that there was no soil erosion, sedimentation or air pollution with dust and particulate matter during construction.
Both offices sufficiently encouraged their employees to commute using bicycles or low emitting and fuel efficient vehicles.
Both the buildings had maximised open spaces and restored the natural habitat within them, they had also built roof gardens with local plant species to make up for the loss of habitat on the built up surface.
Both buildings had taken measures to more or less eliminate the use of municipal potable water by harvesting and filtering all the rain water within the site, using ultra low flow bathroom fixtures, waterless urinals, efficient flushing mechanisms, treatment of greywater and reusing that for flushing and irrigation. Even the sewage was treated using biological methods.
Both green men had paid special attention to make sure their buildings were as energy efficient as possible. The building envelopes were sufficiently insulated, the doors and windows were of the highest quality, the glazing was the most efficient for their respective climatic conditions.
Both buildings saved over 90% of their lighting power requirements by using LED lights, attention was also paid to make sure the appliances and devices used in the buildings were the most energy efficient available in the market.
Above all this both buildings generated some of their power from solar energy systems and they also invested in purchasing RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) from the market.
Both buildings had similar waste management and recycling policies.
Both the offices had ensured all the material and resources were produced regionally and contained as much recycled content as possible. Some of the material was also salvaged from other places and all the remaining requirements were met using environmentally conscious virgin materials like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and carpets in compliance with CRIs (Carpet and Rug Institute) indoor air quality test program.
Both the buildings seemed to have followed most of the best practises to ensure that the indoor air quality was optimum.
Going by their conversation, there was nothing I could pick on to conclude one building was greener than the other until they started talking about their HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems. There was no mention of their names in my dream so I am just going to call them Green man 1 and Green man 2.
Green man 1: I have a state of the art VAV (Variable Air Volume) air cooled system with a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating of 15. My building is also mechanically ventilated and each zone has its own temperature control.
Green Man 2: I do not have a HVAC system. My building is naturally ventilated enabling it to use 25% less energy than yours. My building is GREENER.
Green man 1: This does not make sense! what about employee comfort? How do they work in peak summers and peak winters?
Green Man 2: My employees really care for the environment. They sweat it out in the summer and wear warm clothes in the winter. My building is the GREENEST!
Green Man 1: No!! My Building is GREENER!
The next thing I know, a massive argument breaks out between the two and soon there is a fist fight. They started kicking and punching. They threw their green mugs at each other spilling the green coffee all over the floor. I had to intervene, I asked them to stop, I pushed away Green man 1 and turned around only to find a massive green alien hand planted on my nose. The Green Man 2 punched me so hard that I woke up only to realise it was all a dream.
The dream aside, lets put the argument into perspective. Many of you might think the Green Man 2 building is more environmentally friendly, if you are one of them, you are absolutely correct. The Green Man 2 building saves all the energy needed to condition the occupied spaces which can range anywhere between 25% - 45% of the buildings energy load. In no scenario is the Green Man 1 building going to consume less energy than Green Man 2 building. Hence, the Green Man 2 building has a smaller carbon footprint and it has a lesser impact on the environment.
Having said that, in spite of the Green Man 2 building being more environmentally friendly it is the Green Man 1 building that is actually GREEN. A green building is one which reduces energy consumption and causes minimal damage to natural systems without sacrificing the human comfort levels. Any green building designer will tell you that the primary purpose of a green building is to provide a comfortable, healthy and a productive environment for its occupants. All the other eco-friendly features are only meant contribute towards this primary purpose along with achieving the broader goal called sustainability. There are very few places on earth where ideal thermal comfort can be maintained using natural means throughout the year. A building that saves energy at the cost of human comfort and productivity is not GREEN just as a building that provides a great work environment at the cost of energy efficiency.
The bottom line is: Environmentally friendly is not necessarily the same as GREEN and GREEN is not the only option to save the environment. But it is the only option that takes account of all the stakeholders' interests. The whole point of this upcoming Green Revolution is not go back and start living like the way we did in the 1800s but it is to improve the living standards of people, only this time we have to do it more smartly. So if tomorrow your friend comes to you and says that he cares too much for the environment and he is going to do his bit by turning into a nomad and starting to live in the caves on the Himalayas, you need to tell him that he is not going GREEN but he is actually going MAD.
Article by: Yusuf Turab