Green buildings: Elements of sustainable structures

May 23, 2012

The number of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings has increased each year, as companies and organizations across America are looking to retrofit their structures in order to cut costs and consumption levels.

Triple Pundit reported that many people hear of these energy efficient buildings, but lack a knowledge of exactly what this certification means in terms of what products are installed and what changes are made to the structure.

According to the news outlet, administers of the LEED program evaluate how a building is designed, constructed and operated as part of an effort to save energy and limit the negative environmental impact of the facility.

Although there is a difference in opinion on what type of retrofit project or energy efficient upgrade is most effective, installing building automation systems and new lighting systems can help to drastically reduce energy use. These are agreed-upon ways to limit operating costs and consumption, and many structures have transitioned to using these products to limit waste.

Not only do these upgrades help to limit operating costs for any organization using the building, as LED lights and energy controls sharply reduce waste and energy consumption due to their efficient design, but they help to save the environment by cutting emissions.

The dual benefits of energy efficient upgrades to buildings have led many organizations to make improvements to their current facilities in the form of a retrofit, as Pennsylvania State University Berks decided to make changes to many structures on its campus.

Reading Eagle Business Weekly reported that the satellite campus made energy efficient upgrades to several buildings as a way to deal with budget cuts and save on long-term energy costs.

"We are working very hard to advocate for no further cuts to PSU," R. Keith Hillkirk, chancellor of the Berks campus, told the news source. "The tuition at Penn State Berks is lower than at University Park, and the state appropriation enables us to do that. If a student wants to come and is admitted, we want that student to be able to come. We really do need the state support."

Pennsylvania State University is a leading organization for the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), a Department of Energy-sponsored innovation center for the design, development and implementation of technology for the sector. This effort hopes to change the commercial real estate market through demonstrating the benefits of upgrades and retrofit projects.