Posted: November 14, 2006

Nanotechnology, green buildings, and sustainable design

(Nanowerk News) Environmentally friendly real estate was a hot topic yesterday at the CoreNet Global Summit in Orlando, Fla.
The first sustainability panel, moderated by real estate technology consultant Keith Perske, focused on how increasingly affordable nanotechnology is changing development. "There are over 50 products available for the industry," he noted. "It's economically viable."
Nanotechnology has been improving what is already on the market, David Sykes, managing director of strategy firm Remington Partners, pointed out. He described products such as: nanotech steel, which is stronger, repels corrosion, withstands cold temperatures and has high plasticity; translucent concrete, which allows light into a building; self-cleaning glass, which breaks down organic material on its surface; and nanotech gypsum dry wall, which is stronger, lighter, more durable and more water-resistant than its non-nano counterpart.
One of the products more widely discussed was Aerogel, a translucent nanotech gel that is 97 percent comprised of air. In its propriety form, it could be used in glass, glazing, pipe insulation and more, making materials lightweight, hydrophobic, thin and an effective thermal and acoustic insulator.
Jim Satterwhite, business manager of buildings and construction for chemical manufacturer Cabot Corp., said that nanotechnology is becoming more of a focus for public areas, especially common spaces in office buildings, as facilities costs go up.
However, in order to bring nanotechnology into development, there has to be a game plan, from input to implementation, noted R.J. Brennan, director of strategic workplaces for IA Interior Architects. "Teamwork is essential," he said. "It's required between the client, the architect, the manufacturer, the expert and the supplier."
The reasons to go green are food for thought. "Environmental irresponsibility leads to social inequality, which leads to financial instability," said Colin Coyne, COO of real estate investment trust Melaver Inc., opening CoreNet's second sustainability panel, "Supply Side Green: Providing Sustainable Workplaces," moderated by Len Pilon, director of workplace strategy & facilities for Herman Miller.
A quick audience survey discovered that most of the attendees were building, or were thinking of building, green.
"You can build an amazing shopping center while still addressing the needs of the environment," Coyne said. But does building green cost more? "It depends," he said. "You can always build cheaper, depending on what materials you choose." He warned those considering developing green buildings that the first project will cost a lot of money, and that they have to be aware that how a building models and how a building operates are different. Melaver CFO Denis Blackburne added that green construction costs could be 1.8 percent more than regular construction—up to approximately 7 percent, if the developer is seeking Platinum LEED certification.
Coyne also urged the attendees to look at the social metrics—a building should be organic, catalytic, used as a source and used as disposal. "It drives a higher profit," he said. "If we take care of the community, they take care of us."
The Melaver CFO continued on the profit point. "When you build green, everyone profits," he said. "(The buildings) pay for themselves in three years." This can include up to a 30 percent savings in energy and a 30-to-50 percent savings in water. Not only does it save on resources, he pointed out, but improves performance in schools, productivity in the office, health in hospitals and increases in retail sales.
It is important to look at building green in the United States, contended Rachelle Schoessler-Lynn, vice president of interior design for Walsh Bishop. She pointed out that the U.S. has only 5 percent of the world's population, but consumes 25 percent of the world's resources and produces 40 percent of the world's waste—50 percent of which comes from the construction industry. Out of the 126 million buildings in the U.S., 393 are green, and over 3,200 are under construction. Building green "improves (the building's) employees, brings higher occupancy and makes for easier leasing," she added.
Green building and sustainable design "is not just a trend," Blackburne said. "It's a wave, and we're out there with our surfboard."
Source: Commercial Property News (Amanda Marsh)
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