In an era when climate change is getting more undeniable by the day, more companies are beginning to join the green building movement. But what does it mean when a building is green? A paint job? Well, no – well, arguably yes, it can help with addressing the effects of climate change, but that’s not actually what I’m talking about. Shocker.
As you may have guessed from the context clues, it has nothing to do with a building’s literal color. It’s more about certain components of the building that are designed to be more eco-friendly.
The Work Green Building Council defines a green building as “a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.”
Green buildings not only tend to have a more positive impact on the environment, but they also take advantage of the many resources the natural environment has to offer. By using resources more efficiently, green buildings can serve as a win-win for both Mother Nature and the building’s occupants.
Not only can they help cut energy costs, but they also often include resources protecting occupants’ health. But before we get into their benefits, let’s take a closer look at exactly what makes a building green.
What Makes a Building a Green Building?
What are Green Buildings? Technically, any building can utilize green components, such as sustainable building materials or the use of natural energy to improve efficiency. But some buildings are greener than others.
There are now several green building rating systems, the most popular of which is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED rating system, which was developed in 1993 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). When a building hopes to achieve LEED certification, it’s graded on a number of different factors. While a score of 40-49 points is technically enough to earn the lowest level of LEED certification, buildings that earn over 80 points can achieve LEED’s coveted platinum status.
Understanding what the organization is looking for throughout its grading process can be a great way to get familiar with what exactly makes a building green. When it comes to sizing up what a building has to offer, LEED focuses on several things.
As the organization itself states, “One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change. High-performing green buildings, particularly LEED-certified buildings, play a key role in reducing the negative climate impacts of the built environment. For this reason, 35 of the 100 total points in LEED v4 are distributed to reward climate change mitigation strategies.”
One of the interesting things to note here is that while 35 out of 100 points are awarded to buildings that efficiently combat climate change, there’s a great deal more to consider. LEED takes a comprehensive approach to its green building rating system, considering everything from the construction process to a full-on life cycle assessment.
The grading system looks at things like how well the building in question:
- Uses green building design techniques throughout its planning and construction phase.
- Makes use of sustainable building materials.
- Uses energy efficiency resources that reduce its contribution to climate change.
- Contributes to the health of its human inhabitants.
- Promotes indoor environmental quality.
- Effectively uses water resources.
- Promotes energy sustainability.
- Promotes biodiversity and positive contributions to the ecosystem in which it’s located.
- Enhances the quality of life of the surrounding community.
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Designing a Green Building
While we have given a general overview of what LEED is looking for above, let’s take a more specific look at how some of these concepts might manifest in the real world. What is building green and what is green architecture all about? As you’ll quickly see, their green building rating system takes into account a lot more than energy efficiency alone.
If you want to begin a new construction project on what you hope will be a green building, then you’ll first want to start by considering its location. Deciding to bulldoze a park or the habitat of an endangered species is not likely to score you points with the environmental community.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends opting instead for vacant existing buildings in areas that are already well established. By moving into a vacant property or even revamping sites like brownfields or grayfields, you can cut down on the need for new streets and utilities to be installed. In a perfect world, you’d also be able to choose a site that offers indirect environmental perks.
One example might be choosing a building site for a green office building that’s within easy walking distance from a public transit station. This factor alone could contribute to the environment by making employees less reliant on their gas-guzzling cars to commute to work.
Even something as simple as the layout of a building can go a long way toward encouraging energy-efficient habits. As the concept of sustainable development continues to catch on in the building and construction industry, architects are learning tricks to help building owners better utilize their natural environment.
For instance, simply angling a building in a way that allows for the most sun exposure can help cut down the use of electric lights in favor of natural light. In colder climates, this can also help cut down on the need for excessive heating.
In hotter climates, a green building design might orient the building very differently. By angling it in the opposite direction, the builder could minimize the building’s heat intake and reduce the need for excessive air conditioning.
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It’s no accident that many green buildings tend to be surrounded by trees, grass, and other plants. As it turns out, it’s not just a way to make them stand out from typical commercial buildings.
A little strategic landscaping can go a long way when it comes to increasing air quality and energy performance. In addition to green building materials, actual greenery can be a great way to help combat something known as “heat islands.”
As the EPA explains, heat islands tend to occur in urban areas, where buildings and other structures absorb or re-emit sunlight instead at a higher rate than in a natural environment. This can lead to an increase in temperature, the use of more air conditioning, and higher energy bills.
Many green buildings offset this phenomenon by incorporating large shade trees into their landscaping or planting vines that grow along the exterior walls. Some green buildings even plant grass or other plants on their roofs to reduce the solar energy absorbed by direct sunlight.
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Sustainable Construction Materials
When it comes to designing an eco-friendly building, construction materials are also a key consideration. As it turns out, all kinds of harmful products are commonly used in the building sector, some of which are more obvious than others.
Things like volatile organic compounds are commonly used in everything from paint to furniture and can result in nasty side effects like nausea and liver or kidney damage. Formaldehyde also shows up more often than you’d think in building materials such as pressed wood, particle board adhesives, and plywood paneling.
Obviously, creating a sustainable environment means cutting out these toxins in favor of resources protecting occupant health. Sustainable materials also can have plenty of long-term benefits for both a structure and its inhabitants.
Some of these include lower construction costs throughout the building’s life cycle, improved indoor air quality, and reduced environmental impact. Green buildings also tend to be far more resourceful when it comes to energy consumption than non-green buildings.
But what type of materials are we referring to, exactly? According to the Sustainable Living Association, the top three most environmentally friendly materials for green buildings include:
- Bamboo – great for constructing walls and floors.
- Recycled Steel – one of the major drawbacks of steel is that it takes a huge amount of energy to create. By using recycled steel, you can enjoy all the same benefits and make a positive impact on the environment.
- Sheep’s Wool – makes for great all-natural insulation. Not only does it contain less potentially harmful materials than man-made insulation, but it also lasts longer and absorbs even more moisture and heat. And the sheep will be grateful for the shave!
- Reclaimed Wood – an excellent way to give new life to old wood without sacrificing additional trees.
- Recycled Plastic – recycled plastic can be used to create anything from plastic sheets to bricks, all while cutting back on the massive amounts of plastic dumped into our oceans.
- Plant-based Polyurethane Foam – provides insulation that can help significantly reduce energy costs.
- Cork – an excellent material for thermal insulation. Cork can be harvested from the bark of cork oak trees without harming the trees themselves.
- HempCrete – among many, many other uses, hemp plant fibers are incredibly strong and can be used to produce bricks for buildings.
- Pre-cast Concrete Slabs – pre-cast concrete is produced through a process designed to minimize waste.
- Adobe Brick – a noncombustible material made from clay and straw. It’s positively ancient, as well as incredibly durable, and great for insulation.
- Stone – an all-natural, chemical-free material that doesn’t require any other resources to produce!
- Rammed Earth – an ancient technique that utilizes natural materials such as gravel, earth, and chalk to create building foundations.
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Green Technologies and Energy Efficiency
These days, there are plenty of green features that can be utilized to increase efficiency throughout a building’s life cycle. Aside from the use of sustainable building materials, one of the most common ways that green buildings contribute to the environment is by producing their own electricity.
They might utilize things like solar, wind, or even energy to generate electricity from natural resources. Even if a building doesn’t rely 100% on natural resources for energy, it can still cut operating costs by incorporating energy-efficient features.
Using smart windows can contribute to a boost in sunlight while increasing heating and cooling energy efficiency. Meanwhile, using LED lightbulbs results in both cost savings and sustainability.
Many green buildings also incorporate features like dual flush toilets, motion sensing lights, and natural ventilation to improve sustainability performance. Even things as simple as really great insulation can have a positive impact on the environment.
By preventing air from escaping the building, insulation materials can help a building maintain a consistent temperature and reduce reliance on air conditioning and heating units.
Sustainable design even goes back to how building owners choose to handle the construction waste from their building site. LEED gives out bonus points to new building owners who choose to recycle the debris produced during construction.
This can also have tangible benefits, such as lower construction costs. For instance, consider a building site that was created by demolishing a previously existing building.
After the old building is torn down, there’s probably going to be plenty of spare concrete lying around. Why not consider crushing it into gravel that can then be used as structural fill for the new building?
Even if there are elements that can’t be recycled on-site, they may be able to be used by a recycling facility. This option is often more cost-effective than simply having waste hauled away to the nearest landfill.
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Green Building Benefits
The building and construction industry is beginning to catch on to sustainable development, but why should buildings go green in the first place? Aside from the positive environmental impacts of green buildings, it turns out that plenty of other great perks come from going the eco-friendly route.
Let’s delve a little deeper into exactly why green building practices are becoming so popular.
Health Benefits of Green Buildings
As it turns out, living or working in a green building can have positive effects on your health. Part of it goes back to the use of sustainable building materials. Green buildings are designed to ensure that occupants don’t have to worry about co-existing with harmful toxins, such as plastic by-products or VOCs.
Such products can be responsible for releasing toxins that result in poor indoor air quality and the many health problems that go along with it. These can include things like allergies and respiratory issues, and may even increase the risk of cancer.
A recent study by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) also revealed that “employees who work in LEED-certified green buildings are happier, healthier, and more productive than employees in conventional and non-LEED buildings.”
The survey revealed that better indoor air quality was highly correlated to increased employee productivity and health. Additionally, 85% of employees surveyed reported that having access to natural sunlight and quality outdoor views increased their overall happiness and productivity level.
Many green buildings are also designed to foster a sense of community. By focusing more on open, communal environments, green buildings can foster a sense of community. For many people, this also comes with a decreased risk of anxiety and depression.
Economic Benefits of Green Building Architecture
Building owners are becoming increasingly attracted to the idea of green construction for a variety of reasons. Aside from ethical and health considerations, embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle can also come with its own share of economic benefits.
According to research from the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the upfront investments that go into green buildings can result in a higher property value of up to 10% in the long run. As demand continues to grow for healthier indoor environmental quality, green building owners are seeing major financial benefits in the form of asset appreciation.
Then, of course, there are the financial benefits of energy efficiency to consider. The USGBC also found that green buildings enjoyed an average 10.5% reduction in operating cost savings in the first year alone and savings of 16.9% over a 5-year period.
Even traditional buildings that incorporated green retrofits were able to cut operation costs by nearly 10% within a year.
Additionally, the high-quality sustainable building materials used in green construction hold up incredibly well over time. LEED-certified buildings have reported nearly 20% maintenance cost savings as compared to their non-green commercial counterparts.
Last but not least, the organization even found that a company’s decision to operate in a LEED-certified building could even influence potential job applicants. As Mahesh Ramanujam, the President and CEO of USGBC explained,
“We discovered that today’s employees are more motivated than ever to work for a company that promotes not just a higher standard of living for its employees, but also of its community. In today’s highly competitive job market, if companies want to attract and retain highly-skilled, talented employees, they must demonstrate a commitment to environmental, human, and economic sustainability.”
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Why All the Environmental Urgency for Green Buildings?
Before we get into the environmental benefits of green buildings, let’s take a moment to really understand why they’re so important. The truth is that the buildings we construct today will have a huge impact on the environment of tomorrow. According to statistics from the environmental protection agency, in the US alone, buildings account for:
- 39% of total energy use
- 12% of the total water consumption
- 68% of total electricity consumption
- 38% of the carbon dioxide emissions
As the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction points out, the world continues to launch new construction projects every day. According to their research, “The equivalent of Paris is added in floor space every 5 days and that of Japan every year until 2060! Half of the buildings standing in 2060 have not yet been built!”
The above statistics could be either very good or very bad news, depending on how many new building owners take the opportunity to address sustainable building now. According to LEED, 97% of climate scientists now agree that the earth’s changing climate is due to human activities.
While many of the existing buildings of today may not exactly be nailing the ideals of the green building movement, it’s not too late to make sustainable buildings all the rage moving forward. History itself shows that it’s never too late to change course.
Consider living conditions during the height of the industrial revolution. From 1800 – 1900, major cities were flooded with new inhabitants looking to take advantage of the opportunities created by innovations of the time.
Unfortunately, in many of these areas, the rise of industry came at the cost of human health and environmental quality. Pollution was pumped into the air with the enthusiasm of a power plant and basic sanitation was a major issue. As a result, countless health issues arose, not to mention miserable living conditions for everyday workers.
While the idea of living in such an environment sounds unthinkable to most people today, it was once the norm for all too many people. You can’t help but wonder if the generations of tomorrow will express just as much shock over the fundamental principles still embraced by many of the buildings of today.
One of the reasons that so many groups are advocating so strongly for green design is that it’s highly possible we stand on the brink of a turning point in history.
Future generations may look back gratefully on the choices we make today to move towards a more sustainable future. Or they may suffer the consequences of the environmental impact of our refusal to adopt fundamental principles that create a better tomorrow.
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Environmental Benefits of Green Buildings
Now we get to the real heart of the matter. How much impact on the environment do green buildings really have? Fortunately, plenty of studies have already been conducted that can provide evidence of how the fundamental principles of green buildings can reduce greenhouse gases, utilize more energy-efficient resources, and positively impact human health and the environment alike.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By this point, we’ve all heard of greenhouse gas emissions. While we may all know that they’re bad, few people can tell you exactly why. So let’s take a look at exactly what they are and why they’re so harmful.
Greenhouse gas emissions or “GHGs” are gases such as Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), and Fluorinated gases (F-gases) that are commonly released due to human activities. Of all these gases, carbon emissions tend to be the worst offenders, accounting for 65% of all the GHGs being released into the environment.
The problem is that these gases tend to be major contributors to climate change, due to their ability to trap heat. They can also impact human health by increasing smog and pollution, which leads to lower air quality. Last but not least, all that trapped heat can contribute to things like extreme weather, drought, and wildfires.
Ironically, Mother Nature is best equipped to combat the carbon emissions constantly pouring out of vehicles and industrial buildings. The bad news is that, for far too long, humans have yet to fully consider this when it comes to industrialization. In an attempt to build bigger cities, we’ve cut down countless forests, removing natural ecosystems and degrading endless acres of soil in the process.
In effect, we’ve completely thrown the environment out of whack. How can green buildings help reverse the impact and restore environmental quality? According to a study by UC Berkeley, LEED-certified buildings produced cut GHG production by 50% due to water consumption and 48% due to solid waste production.
Another study (Re‐Assessing Green Building Performance: A Post Occupancy Evaluation of 22 GSA Buildings) showed similar findings. In a study of 22 green buildings, researchers found that eco-friendly buildings were able to lower carbon emissions 34% overall, divert 80 million tons of waste from landfills, and increase energy efficiency by 25%.
Let’s face it, humans haven’t exactly been considerate of the fact that we share our planet with other species over the last few centuries. Not only have we gone around spewing greenhouse gas emissions into the air, but we’ve also put a strain on our natural resources while destroying the ecosystems of countless birds and animals.
One of the goals of the green buildings movement is to bring balance back to the building sector. This starts by ensuring that green buildings don’t come at the cost of environmentally protected or sensitive ecosystems.
Sustainable construction often takes place on properties where previous commercial buildings have already been developed. If they are built in greener environments, then great pains are taken to ensure that they have minimal impact on the environment throughout their life cycle.
Throughout the building design and construction process, sustainable building projects take measures to help rather than hinder the flourishing of surrounding natural ecosystems. For instance, if a sustainable building is constructed on top of an old commercial property, then its plans often include decreasing the size of the parking lot in favor of natural landscaping.
A green building might even incorporate green design into the structural elements of the building itself. Many feature green roofs, where drought-resistant plants flourish, hanging gardens that help combat carbon emissions, or even interior plants that contribute to better indoor air quality.
The building sector is beginning to realize that a sustainably built environment can contribute a lot more than just better energy performance. It’s all about inviting Mother Nature back into our cities so that we can enjoy the many benefits she’s had to offer since time began.
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Increasing Outdoor and Indoor Environmental Quality
Green building design can have a positive impact on both a structure and its surrounding area. Aside from positive environmental impacts, one of the reasons that green buildings are often built on top of previously developed sites is that they can have a positive impact on the surrounding community.
Not only do they encourage more businesses to move into the area, but they serve as living evidence of just how nice living or working near a green building can be. Rather than parking lots, green buildings opt for natural green gathering spaces for the community.
Instead of contributing to smog and urban heat islands, they create better air quality. Not to mention that they tend to be a lot more beautiful than many other commercial buildings.
By fostering stronger neighborhoods, green buildings can help encourage other building owners to enjoy the benefits of sustainable building practices as well.
Investing In Green Building Projects Made Easy
Not everyone is in a position to launch a green construction project of their own. But there are now several platforms that offer investors the opportunity to grow their wealth while supporting projects that align with their values.
We’ve found that these real estate investment platforms are worth looking into and may present opportunities to invest in green real estate.
- Fundrise – Fundrise offers accredited and non-accredited investors alike the opportunity to enjoy the returns generated by crowdfunded real estate loans.
- Streitwise – While Steitwise requires a $5,000 minimum investment, it’s a great way to invest in the commercial real estate market through equity REITs.
- Diversyfund – Diversyfund allows investors of any level to invest in multifamily real estate properties right from their phone.
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Green Building Examples
Sustainable building practices sound pretty cool in theory, but how are they utilized in existing buildings around the world? Fortunately, there are plenty of great LEED-certified buildings out there that are already proving just how many benefits the average green building has to offer throughout its life cycle.
Let’s take a look at examples of green buildings that are setting new standards for a sustainable future.
1. Shanghai Tower- Shanghai, China
Not only is the Shanghai Tower China’s tallest building and the second tallest in the world, but it’s also a testament to the country’s commitment to a greener future. A true powerhouse of sustainable design, the Shanghai Tower uses over 40 different green technologies. The US Green Building Council estimates that its intelligent lighting system alone will result in an annual cost savings of over $556,000.
Impressively, the tower uses 80% less energy for internal heat and cooling than other comparable skyscrapers. The tower was built with transparent double walls that allow for more sunlight and increased air ventilation, as well as extensive internal and external landscaping. It also makes use of cutting-edge green technology in order to utilize as many natural resources as possible. While these sustainable building measures initially increased the tower’s construction costs by 5%, they’re estimated to generate a long-term 54% savings in energy efficiency.
2. The Crystal – London, United Kingdom
The Crystal was originally built in London as part of Siemens’ sustainable cities initiative but was reopened in 2022 as the new home of London’s City Hall and London Assembly. Boasting a reputation as one of the greenest buildings on the planet, the all-glass green building was constructed with six different varieties of insulated glass, each with a varying level of transparency.
Siemens outfitted the green building with everything from solar panels and ground-source heat pumps, allowing its heating to rely exclusively on natural resources. The building is also equipped with self-shading facades and a management system that’s constantly monitored to ensure the minimal use of energy. Any excess energy it produces can even be returned to the National Grid.
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3. TAIPEI 101 – Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan’s TAIPEI 101 towers 1,285 feet into the clouds and serves as a venue for office space, gourmet restaurants, a high-end shopping mall, and an incredible 89th-floor observation deck. The skyscraper also features some of the latest technological advancements, such as a 4D experience space, a flight simulator, and high-speed elevators that can take you from the 5th floor to the 89th in 37 seconds.
What’s so impressive is that it still manages to rank in the top 30% of ENERGY STAR’s top high-rise office buildings in the world. The TAIPEI 101 uses fundamental principles of green building to reduce its annual energy consumption by 33.41 million kWh. To put that into perspective, it’s an annual cost savings of over $2 million in USD and a reduction of 28 million liters of water each year.
4. Facebook Headquarters – Menlo Park, California
Regardless of your personal feelings about the social media giant, you’ve got to hand it to Facebook – the company is on it when it comes to pioneering sustainable workplaces. As of 2021, over 20 of Facebook’s global office locations had achieved a LEED gold certification or higher.
Take, for instance, their Menlo Park location. Its 30+ buildings sprawl across 250 acres where wild foxes freely roam. Over half of Facebook’s employees commute to work via alternative transportation, including a regular shuttle that the company runs to the Menlo Park Caltrain station. Employees also enjoy a 12.6-acre rooftop park complete with jogging paths and the services of an eco-friendly dry cleaning and laundry company. The campus is also fully equipped with solar panels that generate nearly 2 million kW of electricity annually.
5. Vancouver Convention Centre – Vancouver, Canada
The Vancouver Convention Centre has been awarded LEED’s highest possible certification level not once, but twice. The centre earned its first platinum certification in 2010 and was then awarded a second in 2017 after a comprehensive sustainability re-evaluation in 2017. The building design of the convention centre features a six-acre living rooftop, a marine habitat, and multiple sustainable technologies.
Throughout their latest upgrades, they also managed to make advances, such as a 30% increase in the building’s blackwater treatment plant, a waste diversion rate of 75%, and upgraded 900 LED light fixtures with motion sensors.
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6. Bank of America Tower – Houston, Texas
Houston’s Bank of America Tower is a groundbreaking green office building. It became the first in the history of the US to earn both LEED Platinum certification and Shell certification due to its innovative eco-friendly features. Though it composes a massive 78,000 square feet, the tower uses 32% less energy than similar non-green buildings and is crowned with a beautiful 24,000-square-foot park.
It also boasts a 50,000-gallon collection system for rainwater, which is then recycled for use in the tower’s restrooms and rooftop irrigation system. The building design also features a facade that was specifically developed to reduce solar heat gain as well as an energy recovery wheel designed to condition fresh indoor air. The tower also promotes sustainability with a bicycle storage room and nearby access to three Metro stations.
7. Pixel Building – Melbourne, Australia
The Pixel Building was constructed with the goal of being the first carbon-neutral green building in Australia but ended up becoming even more. Now regarded as one of the most iconic green buildings in the world, the four-story office building scored a LEED platinum certification and a perfect 6-stars from Green Star.
The building design incorporated both recycled materials and low-carbon concrete in order to reduce the building’s carbon footprint. The Pixel Buiding also incorporates pretty much every green building design in the book, from photovoltaic panels and wind turbines to an extensive green roof. It also features a cutting-edge greywater system that filters rainwater onsite for use in the building’s toilets, showers, and basins.
If needed, the Pixel building could self-generate enough energy and water to be self-sustaining, with the only exception being drinking water.
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8. The Change Initiative Building (TCI) – Dubai
For a while, Australia’s Pixel Building held the record for the most sustainable building design in the world with a LEED score of 105/110. But in 2013, it was dethroned by Dubai’s Change Initiative building, which scored a staggering 107/11o points. The building is inarguably an incredible feat of green building design, as it uses 26 different sustainable technologies.
The green building includes features ranging from three times the usual insulation to reflective paint and heat-reflective window films. It also utilizes enough solar panels to power 40% of its own energy requirements and a built-in water recycling system. Many of its indoor environmental features were even constructed using recycled materials.
9. Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate Headquarters – Pune, India
Suzlon One Earth set out to create the greenest corporate headquarters in India and ended up constructing one of the greenest in the world. Situated on a 10-acre campus, the headquarters is made up of five buildings, each of which is named after a natural element (Sun, Sky, Tree, Sea, and Aqua.)
The LEED platinum-certified green building is completely self-sufficient and is powered by a mixture of photovoltaic cells, solar panels, and even wind turbines. The sustainably built environment also harvests rainwater and encourages employee productivity with plenty of natural sunlight and an “office garden” design. Overall, the campus has been able to use sustainable solutions to decrease its operating costs by 35%.
10. PARKROYAL on Pickering – Singapore
Singapore has a surprising number of green buildings, including the PARKROYAL on Pickering- which may be one of the world’s most literal green buildings. The building functions as the ultimate garden hotel with an incredible indoor environment featuring endless cascades of plants, trees, waterfalls, pools, and sky gardens.
From top to bottom, the hotel features corridors that look more like gardens, plenty of sunlight, and an all-around superb indoor environmental quality. The building also features an irrigation system with built-in rain sensors, light sensors, and a hotel-wide recycling program. It was also the first green building in Singapore to utilize Cobiaz technology, which uses recycled plastic “void formers'” to reduce the use of concrete.
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11. The Museum of Tomorrow – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While residential and commercial buildings account for many of the world’s green buildings, Brazil’s Museum of Tomorrow is designed to teach visitors about sustainability while serving as a great example itself. The unique LEED-certified building was constructed primarily with local sustainable materials and features plenty of green features.
Alongside its use of energy-efficient solar panels, the museum incorporates several brilliant water conversion techniques. Not only does it collect rainwater, but it also uses water from the nearby Guanabara Bay to power its air conditioning system before filtering and returning the water back to the Bay through a waterfall. The museum recycles all of its wastewater, which can save up to 4,000 liters of water daily.
Each year the museum’s sustainable features are estimated to save 24,000 MWh of energy and 9.6 million liters of water.
12. Bosco Verticale – Milan, Italy
Italy’s Bosco Verticale, which translates to “vertical forest”, is a stunning, two-tower residential building that was constructed in 2014 by Stefano Boeri Architects. The idea behind the apartment complex was to construct a home for trees that also happened to allow human occupants. The green building achieved its aim, as the World Green Building Council reports that it boasts “a ratio of two trees, eight shrubs and 40 bushes for each occupant.”
According to its architects, the Bosco Verticale now also recognizes around 1,600 bird and butterfly residents. The sustainably built environment also offers plenty of benefits for its human inhabitants. The lush greenery that encases the building acts as a natural buffer from pollution and excess sunlight, all while promoting higher indoor air quality. The natural insulation provided by the building’s plant is also estimated to increase energy efficiency by an average of 7.5% each year.
13. The Edge – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Edge, Deloitte’s Amsterdam headquarters, is a true architectural wonder for several reasons. Not only did it achieve a BREEAM environmental rating score of 98.4%, but it’s also one of the smartest office buildings in the world. Its unique combination of smart technology and eco-friendly resources has made it a case study for architects around the world. The 430,000 square foot office building not only uses 70% less energy than the average office building in the area, but it’s also net energy positive.
That means that the building actually creates even more energy than it uses. How does it go about such a feat? The first has to do with the building’s orientation, which was designed to soak up the maximum amount of sunlight via its 65,000 square feet worth of exterior solar panels. It also utilizes cutting-edge green designs like Ethernet-powered LED lighting and an aquifer thermal energy system to maintain comfortable temperatures.
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14. Bullitt Center – Seattle, Washington
Seattle’s Bullitt Center goes above and beyond the call of the average green building, as it achieved certification from the ILFI’s incredibly stringent Living Building Challenge. The center was not only built on a site that includes greyfields and brownfields but was mostly constructed using local, sustainably harvested wood. It also happens to be a self-sustaining net zero water and energy masterpiece.
The building’s 575 solar panels produce not only enough energy to make it self-sustaining but 60% more than it actually needs each year. Its roof also functions as a rainwater collection system, which directs water to a 56,000-gallon storage facility under the building. The water is then treated to supply all of the building’s water needs. Even the restrooms of the center feature composting toilets and sinks and showers that allow wastewater to be recycled on-site.
With a full bike station, a kinetic energy converting elevator, and automated blinds, the Bullitt Center is a groundbreaking example of what’s possible in a sustainable future.