Close to 200 property developers, manufacturers, researchers, as well as public authorities, energy utilities, and trade associations representatives gathered in Dublin on 26th April to learn more about the latest trends on sustainable buildings at Green Room 17.
Acting for the Climate
Mentioning the risk of “Clexit”- the US pulling out of the Paris agreement, Terri Wills CEO of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) opened the event with a presentation on the role buildings must play in mitigating climate change. According to Wills under a “building as usual” scenario, “we are on track for a 6 degrees increase in temperature”. In fact, to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees, 100% of our buildings must be net zero by 2050.
NZEB becomes reality in Ireland
Sean Armstrong of the Department of Housing subsequently explained the proposed definition of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) for non-residential buildings in Ireland. As per EU requirements, the definition will include both energy savings and onsite renewable targets*.
Ciaran O’Connor of the OPW added that the renewable requirements were particularly challenging for the public sector due to lack of roof space. With regard to low energy ventilation options for NZEB, Chris Croly of BDP advocated hybrid ventilation combining natural ventilation for cooling and MVHR to recover heat. Croly also expressed his feeling that air conditioning was often unnecessary in Dublin offices and leads to significant increase in energy use (+40% on average).
It became clear during the panel discussion on the impact of NZEB for commercial buildings that this last point was slightly controversial. Trevor Smyth of Google highlighted that when we talk about ventilation, we talk about people and that there is no simple formula: With 60 nationalities in the work force in an organisation like Google, staff have highly diverse expectations when it comes to comfort.
Finally, Shane Caldwell of IPUT called for better data on actual energy performance as opposed to simple energy rating certificates.
The wellness imperative
The concept of a healthy workplace is coming up more and more in the corporate social responsibility and prospective employees are taking the whole issue of wellness more seriously.
However, as highlighted by Richard Francis of the Monomoy company while “We all know what is in a tin of peppa pig spaghetti, we often don’t know what is in our buildings and how this impact occupants”. This is even more surprising in an age when new technologies enable ordinary people to record environmental conditions on an unprecedented scale.
Julie Hirigoyen of UK Green Building Council spoke about the recently launched “Offices: Wellbeing Labs”. As part of this process, 11 companies met on a periodic basis for 6 months to receive advice and support to implement key health and wellbeing principles.
A case study on the renovation of the Miesian Plaza showed how health and wellbeing was considered in a renovation project. Architect Ronan Phelan of Scott Tallon Walker architects explained how the project team is working towards LEED Platinum and WELL certifications for this iconic modernist masterpiece built in the 1970’s.
Sustainable buildings in Europe: Emerging trends
The Green Room 17 conference closed with a panel discussion on the latest sustainable building trends in Europe with UKGBC CEO, Julie Hirigoyen, Swedish GBC CEO, Bengt Wagram and German GBC (DGNB) CEO, Christine Lemaitre. All of them highlighted health & wellbeing – including healthy materials, as well as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as the new trends in sustainable buildings. Julie Hirigoyen lamented the impact of Brexit on UK’s environmental laws, whilst the Swedish GBC CEO spoke about how Swedish banks are now considering sustainability as a key risk factor in lending decisions.
A copy of the presentations is available here.
* A consultation on this topic is currently open – closing 26th May. IGBC is currently gathering members’ input in order to make a comprehensive submission. Read more.