Designing with the Environment in Mind

Energy Positive Building

The environment and climate change are big topics in today’s world.  These topics are important to architects who are designing new homes and buildings every day.  As more and more people commit to environmental and energy conservation, they are looking for more sustainable options when it comes to building their homes and renovating their offices.  Consequently, Energy Positive buildings and Net Zero Energy structures are on the rise.

Generally speaking, Energy Positive buildings generate more energy from renewable sources than they consume. Net Zero Energy buildings are similar except their energy surplus also covers the energy used during the construction phase.  According to a study conducted by the USGS, the construction industry is responsible for about 75% of the consumption of earth’s natural resources.  Additionally, construction sites themselves generate enormous quantities of waste, whether through construction, demolition, or remodeling.

A Norway-based group of engineers, architects and designers called Powerhouse is championing the development of Energy Positive buildings, with the help of solar roof panels, efficient ventilation and geothermal power. Powerhouse’s Brattørkaia is the biggest new energy-positive building in Norway and will generate more energy in its operational phase than it consumed through the production of building materials, construction, operation and disposal of waste.  Brattørkaia is an eight-story office building that will produce 485,000 kWh annually. For reference, the average Norwegian home uses about 20,000 kWh of power a year. (In the U.S., the yearly household average is 10,399 kWh). Brattørkaia will, in effect, become a mini-power plant that can supply electricity to Norway’s publicly owned grid.

Over 80% of the world’s population lives in countries that use more resources than their own ecosystems can renew.  At this rate, many natural resources are going to be depleted within the next 30-40 years.  Sustainable development will significantly help to slow down the depletion of our natural resources with the reuse, recovery and recycling of materials, as well as producing buildings that generate more energy than consumed.

Amy Estrella