New Building tools detect different shades of "green"

The growing green buildings movement is taking a new direction with the development of computer models that go beyond measuring a building’s carbon footprint and attempt to quantify the amount of energy people consume to reach that building.Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be green because transportation emissions account for 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation over so-called greenfields.

Take Exelon’s uber-green headquarters in Chicago’s Loop, with its energy-efficient lighting, intelligent heating, ventilation and cooling systems that power down on command, and lights that shut off automatically when a room is unoccupied. If we could airlift that building to Hoffman Estates, how green would it be?

A calculator developed recently by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology shows that with Exelon in the Loop, 55 percent of its employees take public transportation to work and a small percentage bike or walk. But in Hoffman Estates, where public transportation is scarce, 99 percent of those employees would drive to work, with only 10 percent carpooling.

The energy spent commuting to Hoffman Estates, measured in British thermal units, would double. And each employee would add22.9 pounds of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere per day just getting to and from work there as opposed to 16.2 pounds to the Loop site. (As a point of reference, cars emit about 25 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gas.)

Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be “green.” Transportation emissions account for 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation over so-called greenfields.

Commutes to work matter, said Emma Stewart, senior manager for sustainability at Autodesk, a California-based maker of 3-D design software applications. Overall, one out of five trips and one out of four miles are traveled in commutes, according to Census Transportation Planning Products. For work, people fly to conferences, hail cabs on lunch breaks and drive to far-flung suburbs.

Source: www.BDCnetwork.com

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