Five Essential Elements of a Sustainable Facility

January 1, 2011

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Now more than ever, the building industry is becoming more and more responsive to global environmental concerns. Technological advances have produced green coatings, renewable raw materials, and low-carbon impact construction products and methods for building designers to use. With further help from environmental protection agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the compliance infrastructure is already in place to encourage the green building transformation. One of the areas where the change is evident is in the construction of sustainable facilities.

The sustainable facility promotes the key pillars of sustainability as defined by the EPA. The pillars are:

1. Energy Consumption and Renewable Energy Use

A sustainable facility adopts innovative ways to reduce its energy consumption. The purchase of ENERGY STAR-compliant equipment and use of eco-friendly products like green coatings on roofs, walls and floors are the common practice. The facility also uses renewable sources of power generation, like solar photovoltaic installations.

A conventional facility gets its electricity from the traditional power grid, which uses coal for power generation. Coal is a fossil fuel that, when burned, emits harmful greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. Sustainable facilities attempt to move away from this dependence in traditional power, and instead utilize advances in technology to use cleaner sources of energy, like solar power, geothermal, wind and bio-mass energy.

Green coatings that support energy reduction efforts in the facility are also used in construction and maintenance. These green coatings are nanotechnology products with advanced properties that can protect surfaces from damage for longer periods of time. Some green coatings are self-cleaning and keep the building surfaces in good condition, saving the facility from frequent energy-consuming maintenance.

Green coatings also absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation and reflect the sun’s rays away from the building interior, maintaining comfortable interior temperatures even in the hottest months. Cooler temperatures make HVAC systems work less, saving on energy costs.

2. Water Consumption

The facility complies with the highest standards for efficient water utilization through the installation of a water-efficient plumbing and drainage system. The facility also implements a campaign for water consumption reduction and implements regular water conservation measures.

3. Sustainable Materials

As much as possible, green materials are used in the construction and renovation of the facility. These include cement or concrete, which are very eco-friendly because ash and other recycled components can be mixed in their composition.

For exterior painting and waterproofing, as well as interior finishes on walls and floors, green coatings and low- to zero-VOC coating materials are used. Even machines and tools used in green coatings application are eco-friendly. Disposal of unused green coatings is done with environmental protection in mind.

4. Waste Management

The sustainable facility implements a regular program to reduce, reuse, and recycle any waste products produced from day-to-day operations. During coatings application, materials such as old paint, excess green coatings, primers, sealants and paint equipment are disposed of properly.

5. Indoor Environmental Quality

The facility’s indoor environment offers maximum quality. This means that heating systems are at comfortable levels, ventilation systems provide clean air, furnishings are tenant- and environment-friendly, and even the chemicals and green coatings used in and around the property pass recognized standards in health and safety.

The building industry is slowly keeping step with sustainability efforts to protect the environment. The key is to implement sustainability features one facility at a time.

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