Reduce, recycle, re-use, oh my! Does the discussion of everyone talking about “going green” make you feel a little green? Are you being faced with the challenge of becoming LEED AP certified so that you risk not being left out of the bigger and better jobs in your area? Well, do not feel like you are alone. Being that this is my first article for Masonry Design, I thought that I would share my own experience with the latest design trend of going green.
Currently, design professionals, including myself, are taking a step back and looking at how we practice architecture, and how the green movement is going to play a role in our current and future design projects. The building design industry as a whole is seeking new ways to cut back on energy consumption, and is looking for materials that can be more sustainable over the lifecycle of the building being designed.
Though the green revolution dates back to the 1960s, renewed federal interest is now focusing on protecting the environment as well as decreasing energy consumption in buildings. Buildings are by far the largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.
With global warming and the resultant climate change it has been become well publicized that our planet is facing “environmental doom” if we do not start making significant changes now. Greenhouse gas emissions from construction and building materials contribute to more than 50 percent of the greenhouse emissions. So how does the green movement impact masonry design? In many instances, 55 percent of the energy-related emissions on a building are from masonry.
So how do we as design professionals decide how to use green masonry in our buildings? There is not a simple answer, and building material manufacturers flood us daily with their product presentations. Their pages of data make it overwhelming to review, and not to mention that we are all busy trying to meet our clients’ deadlines.
The masonry industry as a whole is making great strides in easing the selection process for green masonry for the design professional or general contractor. Both the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Brick Industry Association have sections of their websites setup to allow for easy access to selecting green masonry products. Additionally, my best source of green information is making a personal connection with local brick and masonry vendors. They too are becoming more familiar with LEED and LEED Accreditation information, and oftentimes are the quickest resource for your inquiries.
Additionally, the green movement is making us re-think and also consider re-using existing building materials in manners that we may have not considered. If you already are LEED AP certified, or making the move into becoming LEED AP, the ability to re-use existing masonry on new or existing projects gives you credit for multiple categories.
I will admit that when our firm decided to make a move to go green, I was resistant. I thought it was a waste of time and just another “layer” added to my already “loaded” plate. However, now that I have started the process of my own green journey, I have taken on a new appreciation for the movement. As I work on my projects, I am now looking for methods to recycle or re-use masonry materials that minimize the impact on the environment.