environmental sciences

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The Sustainability Strategies For Commercial Buildings Environmental Sciences Essay

To make a change in the way commercial buildings are structured; and the way in which they are ergonomically designed takes commitment. Initially, there is only an interest in one’s approach to transform these strategies into long-term positive changes to the building industry. However when one stakeholder is merely interested in such changes, they would undertake them only when circumstances could permit. When a stakeholder is committed to something, they accept no excuses, only results. Such results can mean an overhaul in the way in which commercial buildings are not only researched, but which ensure that their ergonomic strategies are maintained.

Sustainability Strategies for Commercial Buildings

Sustainability is defined as:  is the ability to maintain balance of a certain process or state in any system. Maintenance of strategies would only occur with community approval and positivity; but which also guarantees community benefit as well as developer adherence in future strategies. Issues that would need to be addressed include energy, light efficiency, heating, cooling and ventilation; power monitoring and demand. Others include the way in which developers, designers, as well as owners and occupiers abide by the Building Code of Australia, they way in which waste is limited and water and land usage.

Energy Usage and Efficiency

A small quantity of Australia’s energy comes from renewable resources; evidently, most of Australia’s energy usage contributes to global warming.

If asked, most Australians would profess to wanting to lower greenhouse gas emissions, now among the highest per person in the world. They would also want to retain living standards, supported by an economy that has slipped largely unscathed through the global financial crisis. And most would want this without resorting to a largely greenhouse-free energy source that has gained favour in many other advanced or growing economies: nuclear power.

The Rudd Government (and most of the states) walk a strange tightrope: they admit generating 80 per cent of the country's electricity with coal creates huge environmental problems but, unlike most other countries, have pinned hopes of future energy supply on unproven technologies to clean up coal, which, incidentally, is also our biggest export earner. The Federal Government's favourite option, carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), has not worked on a large scale and, even if it proves feasible, might be decades away.

(http://www.theage.com.au/national/going-fission-20091012-gu24.html)

While strategies put forth by the Rudd Government such as CCS may be a long while before revelation on the Australia market, stakeholders can reduce the impact of energy usage by designing the building environment to use less energy (where possible), such as using natural ventilation instead of air-conditioning or allowing the buildings to have a number of “skylights” or passages. Increasing the amount of windows, and open spaces within a building can improve ventilation and allow the occupants to contribute towards reducing carbon emissions by choosing to open a window rather than turning on the air-conditioning. Light efficiency could also be applied in cases where a particular part of the building is used as an office space. “Light Shelves” at windows may be used to provide shade to windows, while reflecting sunlight up onto the ceiling- thus penetrating sunlight deeper into the building. Optimising passive strategies such as correct building orientation, fenestration to allow winter sun to warm buildings, shade to limit unwanted summer sun, and allow for thermal mass within interiors to store warmth in winter and cool in summer. Strategies such as these are manageable; and the maintenance is affordable.

Power Demand and Maintenance

Another way in which sustainability can be tackled is through power monitoring; being highlighted as an issue due to the strategy aimed at managing power demand. Tackling power in a commercial building can be done easily; as long as the framework is set.

That is the crux of the state's reliance on voluntary individual action — a parallel exists here with water saving — rather than mandating efficient, sustainable energy use across all sectors: residential (responsible for about 27% of use nationally), industry (47%) and small business and other users (24%). The Government should heed the findings of last year's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which highlighted the role of buildings in producing more than a third of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity. It found that residential and commercial buildings have the potential for the most dramatic and affordable cuts in energy use and emissions of any sector in the coming decade. Building emissions could be cut by almost a third by 2020 at zero net cost, but this depends on "stronger political commitment and more ambitious policy making" — namely, tougher building and planning codes, appliance standards and tax incentives.

(http://www.theage.com.au/news/editorial/heat-is-on-victoria-to-get-smart-about-energy-use/2008/01/13/1200159274552.html)

Initiatives can be taken by the Victorian Building Industry to lower the amount of energy consumption and usage such as implementing strategies which spread electrical loads during peak times; in an attempt to decrease the power usage across the demand of the building itself. Such initiatives can be as simple as installing electrical meters to all major circuits within the building so that areas of high energy usage can be recognised and thus allowing occupants and owners to understand the buildings actual energy usage; and to correct failures as they occur. This is another form of a management strategy which can better control the way in which the energy is used and ways to decrease energy usage.

Water and Land Usage

3.1 Water Usage

As the Victorian population continues to grow, and the impact of climate change (as well as the reliability of water) becomes intense, conserving and reusing water has become fundamental. Developers are encouraged to implement water-efficient tactics in an attempt to lower the overall Victorian water usage.

Melbourne's water consumption has plateaued despite a multi-million dollar State Government advertising campaign and continuing restrictions.

The city's residents consumed 368 billion litres of water in 2008, only slightly down on the 369 billion litres used in 2007.

This was in stark contrast to last year, when the Victorian Government praised restrictions for helping to cut water use by almost 16 per cent.

Water Minister Tim Holding today said Victoria's growing population had contributed to the levelling out of Melbourne's water consumption.

"Generally Victorians have responded well to stage 3A water restrictions and the Target 155 campaign, and are continuing to install water-saving devices like rainwater tanks and water efficient showerheads," he said.

Melbourne's water storages are 34.8 per cent full and holding 71 billion litres less than at the same time last year.

In 2008, 928 millimetres of rain fell over the city's major water catchments, 14 per cent below the long-term average.

(http://www.theage.com.au/national/melbournes-water-wisdom-hits-a-wall-20090106-7azn.html)

The successful implementation of these tactics would see the amount of water usage in Victoria drop significantly over a period of time; tactics such as collecting and re-suing onsite rainwater- a task which many Victorians are already undertaking. Developers would need to ensure that the building site itself allowed for an area that could hold a certain amount of rain-water tanks, so that the demand of water can be met within legislative allowances. Another option would to also ensure that all bathrooms are fitted with flow restrictors on taps; to not only measure what the building is using, but to also make predictions about how much water usage occurs at a particular site monthly, quarterly and yearly. In doing this, developers can also research ways in which to improve water usage constantly. Water meters on all major water units within the building can also be a helpful tool when measuring onsite water usage.

3.2 Land Usage

When a new building is built, or land is cleared, an impact is made on the environment; and it is usually a negative one. Re-using already disturbed land is the main way in which developers lessen the impact of land usage and improve the sustainability of a project.

Land use, changes to land use and forestry are all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Land clearing and farming can release carbon stored in the soil and vegetation into the atmosphere. And logging accounts for approximately one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand, changes to farming practices, or the growing of new forests, can reduce emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

(http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/content/land-use)

Initiatives which can be taken and that can make a difference include:

Siting

Developers should try to use land which has been previously built on, and should try to avoid land use of area of native vegetation, wetland or land within one hundred metres of waterways or agricultural land; where possible, existing vegetation such as deep-rooted trees should be retained.

Transport

Developers should limit the amount of car spaces to encourage greater use of public transport where possible. Car-sharing facilities could also be considered- such as designated parking for car-share vehicles.

Planning

Developers could be setting a new industry standard by adapting the “thin” building to maximise the potential for natural cross ventilation and lighting; alongside the need to provide all workspaces with a view to an external environment. Designers should be designing for adaptability, allowing for cost-effective future reconfiguration of spaces.

Individual Evaluation

It is easier to tackle a situation in parts rather than as a whole; this being the case the use of an individual evaluation of one’s own effect of the environment is a great way to create a more sustainable world. The Ecofootprint is a questionnaire normally completed on the internet that allows people to have an understanding of the impact of their habits on the environment. This awareness is used as a scare tactic to help change people’s habits to lessen their impact on the environment. The Ecofootprint is quick and easy to complete with all the questions asked being multiple choice and only having three to four options to choose from. Being quick and easy to complete allows for members of the community that may not have much time or be component with computers to still be able to find out the effect they have on the Earth. Below is a diagram of a complete Ecofootprint.

In a nutshell, the general way of thinking when it comes to sustaining commercial buildings, is that it’s too hard to manage. This is incorrect. This way of thinking, however, is contributed by the research conducted into global warming and greenhouse gas emissions; which is all relevant and concise but not very positive. This lack of positivity affects the way in which people think about tackling these issues by implementing strategies; generally, negativity drives laziness. As displayed throughout this essay however, these strategies are simple and easily maintained through commitment by all stakeholders- from the developers and designers to the occupants and management. A majority of these initiatives are low cost but others may prove to push the budget a little; yet you cannot put a price on the positive results they will have on the broader community. In the development of one building- a whole new standard can be created and maintained. This is the view to hold.


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