Green design, sustainable architecture, smart buildings - these terms are quickly becoming commonplace for homes, as well as office buildings. Not only is the high cost of energy making such design decisions more economic, but increased productivity and decreased absenteeism are the often overlooked benefits of green office buildings. Who doesn't prefer to live and work in a naturally lit environment or to breathe fresh air?
Solar - A Natural Fit
So how does solar energy fit into sustainable architecture? Naturally, of course! Solar photovoltaic panels work actively to collect the sun's rays and convert them into electricity, to reduce the electricity needed to power lights, air circulation systems, computers and other power-hungry devices.
But solar energy can be used to do so much more. It can be used passively to keep the interior warm in winter and cool in summer, to light the interior, and to heat water for bathrooms and kitchens. In Europe and the Middle East it is commonplace to see solar-thermal water tanks on the roof of a building where the midday sun heats the water naturally. Additionally, skylights and light tubes are incorporated into designs to effectively increase the amount of natural interior light during the day. And although designing a building to benefit from heat transfer in winter, so that the sun's rays naturally heat the interior, is more obvious than passive solar cooling, with proper design one can slow the rate of heat transfer into a building and improve the removal of unwanted heat in the summer. Think of a green-grass roof instead of a black tar roof.
Such design considerations are now recognized and quantified in design standards, such as the most commonly known LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. A gold LEED certification reduces its environmental impact, as compared to a conventional building, by an estimated 50%. A platinum certification reduces it by an estimated 70%.
The future is now! According to the United States Green Building Council, since 2000, LEED projects have been successfully established in 135 countries, guiding the design, construction, operations and maintenance of more than 50,000 projects worldwide, comprising 9.3 billion square feet of commercial and institutional construction space, and more than 117,000 additional residential units.
How we can help
Are you considering a green home? Are you an architect designing a green building? Our Discover solar panel calculator and GO solar energy test drive can help you make better design decisions, by telling you how much solar energy is coming your way, the energy you can produce and the savings you can expect. We also provide a Buy or Lease Calculator and a list of highly-rated installers in your area.