November 2010

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IT for intelligent building notches up Green points

“This illustration of the impact of IT on scoring green points, shows how beneficial IT can be in lowering energy consumption, minimizing environmental impact, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to green buildings and infrastructure here in Africa too,” says Hemphill.

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It is probably fair comment to state that we are living on the cusp of a Green technology revolution. But before we get too shaken up by revolutionary ideals, let’s take a look at what it’s all about.

A Green building is a building constructed in such a way that it mitigates ongoing negative environmental impact.  How to define and assess the Greenness of a building was considered highly subjective, until the US Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system in the United States in 1998.  Following on from this our very own Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) introduced its own system in South Africa in 2008, the Green Star SA rating tool.

 The purpose of these rating systems is to set standards and benchmarks for green buildings, providing the property development industry with an objective measurement for assessing Green buildings.  “They provide a concise framework, which when followed and implemented, facilitates ‘integrated, entire-building design and construction practices’,“ says Bradley Hemphill, Managing Director of Electrical Engineering Solutions.

Being an internationally recognized green building rating system, LEED provides credible third-party verification that a structure has been designed and built using technology intended to improve performance, specifically in terms of energy saving and environmentally friendly attributes.  So too with the GBCSA rating system.

“The Green Star SA rating amounts to scoring points in recognition of implementation of a range of eco-friendly building practices which counteract global warming and environmental degradation.  Green Star points encourage the use of a holistic approach to construction projects,” explains Hemphill.

A crucial means to scoring green points, enabling Green Star SA certification, is Information Technology (IT), a factor that is receiving growing emphasis.  “IT today works off an integrated architecture that enables stakeholders to obtain building intelligence natively, and then to measure the resulting effectiveness of Greening efforts,” says Hemphill.

 “Intelligent network architecture is vital for synchronized automation of the various building systems, such as ventilation, access, safety, power and lighting,” he continues.  “And if such a network is in place, the capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenditure (OPEX) of the lighting system would be significantly less than otherwise.”

It has been said that “IT has the power to transform how the world approaches environmental challenges”.  And the Internet and networking technology have been described as being at the heart of a global technological ecosystem.

As buildings developed, certain services became essential to the design architecture, enabling larger and more purposeful structures to be created. These services have traditionally been Plumbing & Drainage, Ventilation and Electricity.  IT has now become the fourth service.

Global IT solutions providers advocate using the power of the network to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce environmental impact and enhance sustainability in infrastructures, with the overall objective of transforming to a greener society.  Using an inherent IT network infrastructure as the fourth essential service of a building to achieve these benefits will of course assist users in scoring green points.

Some prominent technology providers in fact foresee a time when virtually all devices used for managing infrastructure will be able to communicate over the IT network.  Network technology, which is now being designed to reduce power consumption wherever possible, can transform the way people interact with and impact on the environment. IT service providers are now incorporating environmental standards into new site designs and existing site retrofits.  They are introducing software programs to achieve greater energy efficiency in a facility’s daily operation, going further towards the Green IT revolution.

A relevant example of efforts towards Green IT is the recently developed Sustainable Green Building Design program by CISCO, which was initiated with the goal of LEED-certifying every identified project that met the prerequisites within North America.  Within a year approximately 75% of approved projects in North America were registered for LEED certification.

“This illustration of the impact of IT on scoring green points, shows how beneficial IT can be in lowering energy consumption, minimizing environmental impact, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to green buildings and infrastructure here in Africa too,” says Hemphill.

 LEED has grown from one standard for new construction, to a comprehensive system of six standards covering all aspects of the development and construction process.  It rates performance in six key areas.

Green Star SA certification also includes far more than energy efficiency as a prerequisite to going green.  It also encompasses other essential elements that impact on the environment, rating performance in nine categories:

[an error occurred while processing this directive] • Management (14 points available)
• Indoor Environment Quality (28 points)
• Energy (30 points)
• Transport (14 points)
• Water (15 points)
• Materials (22 points)
• Land Use & Ecology (9 points)
• Emissions (17 points)
• Innovation (5 points)

The categories are divided into credits, each of which addresses an environmental performance initiative.  Credit criteria outline measures that must be addressed within a project in order to achieve the credit.  Points are awarded in each credit, for a building in which initiatives or measures have been incorporated, and after appropriate weighting, a total score is arrived at. This then determines the rating.

Green Star SA certified ratings are as follows:

• Four Star Green Star SA Certified Rating recognizes ‘Best Practice’
• Five Star Green Star SA Certified Rating recognizes ‘South African Excellence’
• Six Star Green Star SA Certified Rating recognizes ‘World Leadership’

If a project, building or facility believes it meets the requirements for a Green Star SA rating, the GBCSA will commission one or more third party certified assessors to validate the project and recommend a Green Star SA certified rating.



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