WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently honored six innovative green concepts designed to reduce the environmental and energy impacts of buildings. These concepts may assist the building industry in reducing more than 88 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris sent to U.S. landfills each year.
The EPA awards recognized student and professional designs for buildings and building projects, as well as special categories, including the creation of green jobs.
“Designing buildings and building products with front-end life-cycle thinking is the key to real green building,” says Lisa Heinzerling, associate administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation. “These innovators are great examples of how we can build sustainable structures that help meet the needs of this and future generations.”
Life-cycle building is designing structures to facilitate disassembly and material reuse to minimize waste, energy consumption, and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Also known as design for disassembly and design for deconstruction, life-cycle building describes the idea of creating high-performance buildings today that are stocks of resources for the future.
EPA recently reported that doubling the reuse and recycling of construction and demolition debris would result in an emissions savings of 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, equal to the entire annual carbon emissions from the state of North Carolina.
EPA, along with its partners, the American Institute of Architects, West Coast Green, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, and StopWaste.Org, invited professionals and students nationwide to submit designs and ideas that support cost-effective disassembly and anticipate future use of building materials. The competition was open to architects, reuse experts, engineers, designers, planners, contractors, builders, educators, environmental advocates and students. This year, the competition was extended to include international participants who hailed from Singapore, Taiwan, Argentina, Columbia, France, Egypt, and the United Kingdom.
U.S. winners included:
Student Building – [Un] Modular Design for Deconstruction
David Fleming, University of Cincinnati, Richfield, MN
This construction trade school design redefines "building" as a temporary resting place for materials to be traded, upgraded and reused. The project shows the potential for a building to evolve with time as materials, fashions, technologies, and uses change. The adaptable structural system can create almost any column, beam and wall configuration. Rather than attempting to find an infinitely reusable module, the project creates a framework for creative materials reuse.
Professional Building – Arboretum and Research Visitors' Center
Kira Gould, William McDonough + Partners, Charlottesville, VA
The visitors' center design roots the building firmly in its woodland context by blurring distinctions between the indoors and outdoors, and by incorporating the surrounding forest into the building's life-cycle analysis. Construction emphasized safe, closed material loops of biological nutrients, which break down to safely return to forest soil; and technical nutrients, which can be remanufactured into new objects. The mechanical connections and reconfigurable modules allow for building alterations. The project performs 51 percent better than the ASHRAE-compliant base case used to measure the greenhouse gas reduction.
More information, as well as a complete list of the winners, is available at www.lifecyclebuilding.org.
More information on green building can be found at www.epa.gov/greenbuilding.