April 27, 2022

5 Technologies for Green Building Certifications

Green Buildings

There’s a wave of new building technologies available today that help facility managers obtain green building certifications like WELL and LEED. These PropTech systems include ways to manage indoor air quality and provide more energy-efficient lighting.

Obtaining certifications leads to additional costs, but studies show it’s worth it. For example, rents at healthy buildings are up to 7.7% higher per square foot than nearby peers that aren’t WELL or Fitwel certified. That’s according to a recent study by MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab.

The process of obtaining a building certification is different for each one. However, some requirements partially overlap. 

LEED is perhaps the most well-known certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

U.S. Green Building Council certification is available to older, renovated buildings and new developments. Property owners obtain LEED green building certification through a points system. Everything done in a building project, from the materials used to HVAC efficiency, is factored in.

The tech used in a building is critical to meeting green and healthy certifications standards. Technology that improves air quality, like IAQ monitors, helps property managers accumulate points in multiple standards like LEED, Fitwel, WELL, and others. Earning a healthy building certification means your property is among the highest performing in the country.

Here are 5 of the best types of technologies that help obtain green building certifications.

Keeping indoor air clean

Atmocube

Indoor air quality (IAQ) plays a pivotal role in green and healthy buildings standards. Strategies to improve indoor air have also been a hot topic throughout the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control has released guidance for airborne transmission of COVID in building ventilation systems. And numerous surveys show that employees returning to the office want better IAQ. Air quality is a major focus in the post-pandemic office workplace.

IAQ monitoring is incorporated into green building standards and certification systems via:

  • LEED v4: CO2 monitoring and sensors for additional contaminants are a part of enhanced air quality strategies that might result in 2 additional points.
  • WELL Building Standard: Besides yearly testing, continuous air quality monitoring is acceptable as a precondition. Installing air quality and raising awareness brings 2 points as optimization.
  • Living Building Challenge 4.0 Standard: For the Health and Happiness petal, air quality tests and air quality data from stationary air quality monitors should be submitted.
  • RESET Air Standard: Fully dedicated to air quality monitoring, this standard focuses on PM2.5, TVOC, CO2, temperature, and relative humidity measurements.

Ventilation and IAQ monitoring are tested on-site for the WELL Standard. A WELL Testing Agent examines these features after buildings submit necessary documents. However, the Standard promotes real-time air quality monitoring as it helps fix the HVAC problems quickly and educate people.

There’s a heavy emphasis on indoor air in green building certification requirements. PropTech, like IAQ monitors, go a long way toward helping facility managers clean indoor air and obtain certifications.

IAQ monitors, like Atmocube, check air quality through continuous, 24/7 monitoring. The technology tracks trends, identifies red flags, and makes necessary adjustments.

The WELL Standard requires monitoring for at least 3 air pollutants, including PM2.5 or PM10, carbon dioxide, and ozone. Atmocube measures 4 air pollutants by default and gauges others if customized. Atmocube also promotes air quality awareness by broadcasting data on a public screen.

How smart are your windows?

Photo by Scott Webb

Smart windows have various benefits that help obtain green building certifications. Smart glass like View uses advanced tech to block light and insulate buildings. It changes from translucent to transparent. Through this process, the glass blocks some or all light wavelengths. 

Smart glass controls light, heat, and privacy in residential homes and commercial buildings. The tech has become increasingly popular.

Smart windows are incorporated into healthy buildings certifications by:

  • Reducing the heat load in a building. This helps a building’s HVAC system not drain as much energy. This benefit affects the Energy Petal in the Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification.
  • Enhancing thermal comfort and reducing glare. Both benefits impact the comfort of building occupants and residents. These benefits impact the Health & Happiness Petal in LBC.
  • Smart window energy-reduction benefits help obtain DBJ green building certification. The DBJ certification was established in 2011 by the Development Bank of Japan.

The LBC certification is one of the industry’s most rigorous green and healthy building standards. LBC requires net-zero energy, water, and waste. The standard is performance-based. That means the building must meet the criteria for 12 consecutive months before obtaining certification.

Smart windows create healthy indoor spaces that help buildings get to net-zero energy. So, the tech is an excellent way to help achieve LBC and other green certifications.

Does furniture have to be brand new?

Office furniture also factors into green building certification systems. Workstations are often manufactured with high-embodied carbon materials that impact climate change. Choosing recycled furniture earns green building certification points.

Furniture is incorporated into green building certifications by:

  • Active workstations like standing desks enhance employee wellbeing. This helps earn credits in the Fitwel certification.
  • Recycled furniture earns LEED points. By buying recycled materials, facility managers divert materials from landfills.

Buying recycled furniture helps contribute to the circular economy. This means goods and services are produced while energy and waste are limited.

The EPA estimates that up to 8.5 million tons of office furniture are discarded in landfills every year. Buying recycled furniture is a small effort that also reduces carbon emissions from the manufacturing of new materials.

Flooring affects IAQ, too

Photo by Microsoft Edge

Flooring choice is one factor that, perhaps surprisingly, impacts indoor air quality. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in flooring materials contaminate IAQ. So, choosing low-VOC flooring helps earn healthy building points.

Low-VOC flooring impacts building certifications by:

  • Keeping IAQ clean. The RESET certification is explicitly focused on indoor air quality. Low-VOC flooring leads to better IAQ and RESET points. Better IAQ can also help obtain LEED and WELL certifications.

VOCs lead to toxic gases being trapped inside indoor spaces. That “new car smell” of a freshly painted room isn’t such a great thing. It’s evidence of “out-gassing” of toxic VOCs from paints and adhesives. These gases can linger for hours, causing health effects like headaches and nausea.

Facility managers should choose no- or low-VOC flooring options. It’s vital for indoor air quality and will help obtain healthy building certifications.

The best bet is to go with pre-finished solid hardwood floors. They sometimes have virtually no VOCs. Pre-finishing means the coatings have had time to cure, typically in a warehouse, before being installed in your building.

Taking control of lighting

Photo by Israel Andrade

Smart lighting systems come with many benefits, including earning points for LEED certification. Lighting accounts for the largest share (17%) of total electricity use in the average U.S. commercial building. That’s according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Smart lighting reduces energy, a significant criterion in LEED. Smart lighting factors into green building certifications by:

  • Reducing electricity. Lowering overall building energy consumption earns LEED points. Lighting accounts for a large share of building power, so smart lighting systems can help cut it down.
  • Providing lighting control. Lighting control is assigned 2 points in LEED if 90% of interior lighting has access to individual controls to adjust light levels.
  • Improving illumination quality. LEED v4 emphasizes new lighting requirements, such as color rendering and illumination uniformity ratios. Smart lighting enables betters lighting quality.

Even though light intensity is measured with light meters, it’s worth considering comprehensive environmental monitoring. For example, Atmocube measures light intensity along with major pollutants and noise levels.

Smart lighting systems make decisions, follow schedules, and can be controlled remotely via desktop and mobile apps. This enhanced control lowers electricity consumption and earns LEED points.

***

Obtaining green building professional certification comes with huge benefits. Your building will be healthier and more energy-efficient. A green building is also better for the planet because it’s less carbon-intensive, so it helps fight climate change.

But you’ll need the right technology to obtain healthy building certifications. Property owners can utilize tech like smart lighting and IAQ monitoring to create valuable and robust buildings for employees and residents.

Green and healthy buildings are good for the bottom line, too. Studies show they frequently lead to higher property values and effective rents. And higher-performing buildings save significant costs on energy.

Even if you try for green certification and miss the mark, pushing to meet standards leads to great indoor spaces. Healthier IAQ and energy savings always result in happier tenants and better business outcomes.

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