It is almost impossible to flip through an industry magazine or visit an association website without finding a mention of going green or sustainability.
And it's easy to see why the green concept has staying power. Green buildings have many benefits to the environment, economy and the community. They reduce the effects of natural resource consumption, improve the bottom line, enhance the occupants' comfort and health, minimize strain on local infrastructures, and improve the quality of life for members of a community. Because the green initiative has had such overwhelming acceptance in the design and construction industries, people are taking notice – especially those in the concrete industry.
“We would be remiss as an industry trade association if we did not explore the basic tenets of this design concept," says Ed Sauter, executive director of TCA."Regardless of whether or not green affects your business, as a member of the concrete industry today, it is certainly a topic we must get our hands around so we can better understand the role of concrete in the trend."
LEED helps define green concept
The United States Green Building Council defines a green building as one that is"designed, constructed, and operated to boost environmental, economic, health and productivity performance over that of conventional buildings." Further, a green building's negative impact on the environment is significantly reduced or eliminated in the following five areas: sustainable site planning; safeguarding water and water efficiency; energy efficiency and renewable energy; conservation of materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality.
In order to quantify this definition, the Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system as the standard for green building. (See sidebar below.) LEED offers third-party certification of qualifying buildings, high-performance design guidelines, and professional training and accreditation services. Because LEED defines"green" by providing a standard for measurement, it helps prevent"greenwashing," which are false or exaggerated claims; promote whole-building, integrated design processes; and facilitate positive results for the environment, occupant health and financial return. LEED provides design guidelines, helps recognize leaders, stimulates green competition, establishes market value with a recognizable national"brand," and raises consumer awareness.
LEED and concrete
Although LEED may be the buzzword of choice today, if you are like many in the concrete industry, you are trying to figure out how, and if, it applies to you. The use of concrete in buildings does in fact dramatically help achieve a strong LEED rating.
According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), by using concrete as many as 21 LEED points are readily achievable. Of all the building materials, concrete has the lowest embodied energy and concrete itself can be recycled and can contain many recycled materials. Further, concrete is manufactured locally, so transportation costs are reduced. In other words, concrete uses less total energy from extraction of raw materials, transportation and production.
Many of concrete's inherent properties make it a solution for the green trend. The thermal mass properties of concrete, reduced air infiltration and higher energy-efficiency insulation systems allow concrete to be a viable green building product. By reducing air infiltration, a stable building environment can be created with specific temperature set points. Concrete's reflective surfaces save energy by reducing temperatures by 5 degrees, cutting air-conditioning usage by 18 percent, and requiring less power to light the area at night. Further, concrete ensures durable structures that can be built on sustainable sites, such as a brownfield redevelopment. These attributes will add points to a building's overall LEED point total.
Elements of concrete construction including cement stabilization, pervious concrete pavement, albedo pavement, insulated sandwich panels, reduction of construction waste, fly-ash pozzolans, reinforcing steel and use of local aggregate all help achieve LEED credits in categories such as construction waste management, recycled content and local/regional materials. When these factors are all added together, the 21 points are achievable.
Sustainability key to green
One of the key components of green design is the concept of sustainability. According to the World Commission on the Environment and Development (WCED), sustainability is"a form of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." Too often, construction professionals get trapped in the present with looming deadlines and demanding projects. With such challenging schedules and tight budgets, this is easy to do. However, green builders and designers must account for the impact their buildings have on future generations.
A systems approach should be used to determine a product's energy requirements – energy consumption at each state of a product's life cycle, beginning at the point of raw materials extraction from the earth and proceeding through processing, manufacturing and fabrication, end use and disposal.
In some instances, end use can account for as much as 90 percent of a product's impact on the environment. Transportation of materials and products to each process step also must be included in the assessment. These principles hold true for any construction project. To be a green builder or designer, sustainability must be at the forefront of your mind and early design consideration.
Does energy efficiency = green?
A common misconception that arises in many discussions of green building is that energy efficient is synonymous with green. We are all aware that tilt-up is an energy efficient solution, so the trend in debates about tilt-up's green attributes is to provide the standard laundry list of this construction method's energy efficient characteristics. However, energy efficiency is only one component of green design.
To truly be a green solution, all elements of the LEED project checklist must be considered to include sustainable sites, materials and resources, as well as innovation and the design process. Energy efficiency accounts for only 17 of the possible 69 points for a LEED registered project.
Beyond energy efficiency, tilt-up uses locally produced materials. This provides a tremendous savings in terms of transportation costs. And, since the panels are cast on-site, an even greater savings is realized. Further, tilt-up is extremely versatile and reuseable. So, the next time you are asked about tilt-up's green attributes, be sure to include these components, as well as energy efficiency in the discussion.
How to make it happen
The durable, thermal mass and recyclable attributes of concrete make it a key player in the search for green and sustainable solutions, which makes education about this topic critical. Concrete helps the quest for sustainable and green design through the use of recycled steel and fly ash. And, site cast tilt-up concrete construction is building upon these attributes.
The 2004 TCA Achievement Award winner in the Technical Innovation category is an example of how green is becoming more than just a buzzword, but rather a design principle. This project included the construction of a massive tilt-up wall in the center of the EPA Region VII Science and Technology Center in Kansas City, Kan. To meet the green building prerequisites, 20 percent fly ash was integrated into the mix design in lieu of cement. The project achieved the LEED Silver Certification rating.
One sure way to differentiate your firm from the competition is your knowledge of the latest trends in your industry. It is clear green is a trend that is here to stay, so taking the time to learn the basics now will set your firm up for success.
Charles M. Popovich, Jr., AIA, LEED-AP, CSI, is a project manager/architect in LJB Inc.'s architectural department.
Michael F. Sugrue, P.E., LEED-AP, is a principal in LJB Inc.'s Commercial and Institutional business. He is also a past president of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association and a member of a joint concrete industry task force that liasons with the Army Corps of Engineers.
This is the fourth article in a year-long series on the benefits of tilt-up construction presented by the TCA and Concrete Concepts. For more information about TCA, visit www.tilt-up.org or call (319) 895-6911.
The leed rating system
LEED covers many different types of buildings and construction. These include the following LEED products:
With LEED, a total of 69 points are available in six areas: Sustainable Site (14 points); Water Efficiency (5 points); Energy and Atmosphere (17 points); Materials and Resources (13 points); Environmental Quality (15 points) and Innovation and Design Process (5 points). A minimum of 26 points is required to be LEED-certified, with Silver (33 points), Gold (39 points) and Platinum (52 points) of certification available, as well.
LEED-NC certification is a three-step process. The first step is project registration involving initial application and documentation via the USGBC website. The second is technical support encompassing critical documentation and potential credit inquires and rulings. The third and final step is building certification where final documentation is submitted and subjected to the USGBC review board for evaluation. The benefits of LEED certification are many. Some of these advantages include having third-party validation for achievement, qualifying for a growing array of state and local government incentives, and receiving marketing exposure through the USGBC website, case studies and media announcements.
With more and more projects gaining LEED-NC certification, LEED-NC is transforming the marketplace. As of June 2004, 121 LEED-NC certified projects existed, and there were 1,481 registered LEED-NC projects across the United States. At 25 percent, the largest number of all LEED-NC registered projects are multi-use buildings. Commercial offices make up 16 percent of LEED-NC registered projects. And at 8 percent, higher education buildings make up the third largest group of LEED-NC registered projects.
Green experts to speak at tilt-up convention
David D. Shepherd, AIA, Director of Sustainable Development for the Portland Cement Association, has been selected as the keynote speaker for the first annual convention hosted by the Tilt-Up Concrete Association.
Shepherd's presentation, titled"Concrete Thinking for Sustainability," will highlight how sustainable development affects the construction materials decisions made by architects and specifiers. The presentation will detail the basics of sustainability, what is driving the movement, how concrete supports sustainability efforts and what attendees can do to ensure their company explores the market opportunities. He is joined by Michael F. Sugrue, PE, a principal in LJB Inc.'s Commercial and Institutional business. Sugrue will offer his expertise in a presentation about"Tilt-Up for LEEDS." Sugrue's seminar will cover the aspects of tilt-up construction that allow it to be a sustainable system for building construction. In addition, he will review key benefits and methods for selling these benefits to prospective owners or developers.
To be held Oct. 12-15 in Atlanta, Ga., the Tilt-Up Convention's theme,"Tilt-Up 4 Today: Energy, Environment, Economy, Efficiency," was selected to highlight the diverse and growing attributes of the site cast tilt-up method. Ed Sauter, TCA executive director, says Shepherd and Sugrue both bring tremendous expertise and experience to the program.
“Today's owners are selecting tilt-up as a solution for literally any end-use structure because the building method offers energy-efficiency and sustainable qualities, value, durability and great architectural appeal," Sauter says.