If you’re greening up existing buildings, or envision a campus of new LEED-certified facilities, it’s easy to imagine the possibilities. Sure, there are a lot of things you could do. And then reality sets in.
The question on many campuses evolves from “What can we do to achieve more sustainable student life buildings?” to “What can we realistically pay for?” A better question might be, “How can we build green in a way that actually adds money to our bottom line?”
The answer? Start where the money is. You can’t go wrong by grounding every building plan with these top three must-haves:
1. Start with the mechanical systems. No, they’re not sexy. But the Green Mechanical Council estimates there are 150 million inefficient mechanical systems operating in buildings across the United States. Keeping these systems running is like tossing money out the window. Even a small percentage increase in efficiency can reduce operating costs by as much as 50% to 75%. Audit them all, and plan your energy-reducing systems first.
2. Then, look at the building envelope. Once you’ve got strong systems in place, turn your attention to the building envelope. Think insulation. Which measures will reduce needs for heat or air conditioning? Areas to consider include waterproofing, thickness (and insulation of) wall cavities and making sure the building is designed to get a thermal break around the exterior.
3. Be creative with daylighting. Not only can effective use of natural light dramatically reduce the time you’re using expensive artificial lighting, it’s often the most noticeable feature to residents and users of the building. Residence halls and student spaces designed to take advantage of natural light offer a wealth of psychological and restorative benefits, improve aesthetics— and save money, too.
The bottom line: Going green doesn’t have to be a long-term budget breaker. Address these three key areas first, and you’ll be seeing savings for years to come.