OpenCity’s Green Sky Thinking week (15-19 May) is designed to get people thinking about green issues in new ways. As the name implies, it’s an ‘anything goes’ opportunity to look at green principles and technology free of any baggage, and how they can be applied to make our lives more sustainable. CIBSE and the ARCC Network take part by, among other things, running the Green Infrastructure Challenge – a specific look at the way green technology can be applied to building services.
Green technology impacts just about every industry and profession connected to buildings, from the structure to the lighting and the drainage, but in my opinion it is facilities managers who got by far the most food for thought out of what we learned from the challenge. It’s clear that green infrastructure is now a serious consideration for FMs, not a gimmick.
|The radical design supports a wide range of green technologies|
The real eye-opener from me was how seamlessly the design worked for the building, green elements and all. For a long time, green infrastructure has had a gimmicky reputation – a solitary green wall in a design, but the real heavy lifting is still to be done by mechanical services. But here, the approach is striking: Heating and cooling provided by green walls and roofs that reflect heat in summer and insulate it in winter. Solar panel outputs increased by 10% when paired with a green roof, which cools the panels and maintains their efficiency. Rain gardens used as living wind breaks that cut wind borne pollution and actively remove it from the atmosphere.
|Green infrastructure produces greater gains when used|
in concert with mechanical services
It’s not all about energy, either – Facilities Managers are also responsible for the day to day comfort and well being of a building’s occupants, and it’s here that green infrastructure’s strengths really start to show.
A lot of research is currently ongoing into the financial benefits of promoting well being in improving staff health, cutting absenteeism and increasing productivity, but the broad consensus is that an office full of staff with higher well being is better both financially and as a working environment than one which is less pleasant to work in.
It also benefits the workplace by increasing staff engagement with the process of sustainability. Sustainable policies work best when the building’s occupants comply, whether that’s through turning off lights, shutting down computers or closing doors. These rules can seem arbitrary when presented on their own, but green elements create a pleasant and very physical addition to an office environment that staff can interact with. Just being around plants can boost task performance by 15%, but by watering them, smelling them and interacting with them, staff can actually see the benefits of sustainable policies right in front of them.
|Green infrastructure encourages interaction between occupants and services|
By being early adopters of this technology, FMs can corner the market as experts in green infrastructure – and stand to gain the most from its success.