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Sustainability Topics


What is Sustainability

Sustainability is best thought of as a change process, rather than an end state.Sustainability and sustainable mean to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations. In order to achieve such conditions, new ways of designing, constructing and operating buildings and facilities must be identified.  Continue reading: What is Sustainability

Energy Management Systems (EnMS)

Energy Management Systems (EnMS) are a set of business processes that enable facility managers to act on energy usage data and optimize efficiency while identifying areas for improvement.

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Child Care Centers

Because children spend such long hours at child care centers, the design of their spaces is especially critical. The design effort must allow for, and be sensitive to, the differences in space attributes for children and those for adults as well as the differences in space usage by the children in different age groups.

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Plug Loads

Plug loads refer to energy used by equipment that is plugged into an outlet. In an office, key plug loads include computer and monitors, printers, and copiers. Plug loads can average approximately 30% of electricity use in office settings, much of which can be attributed to parasitic loads (or the power draw of a plug-load that is not performing useful work).

Plug loads as a share of overall building energy use is higher in energy efficient buildings. In minimally code-compliant office buildings, plug loads may account for up to 25% of total energy consumption. But in high efficiency buildings, plug loads may account for more than 50% of the total energy consumption.

You can reduce plug loads by up to 50% at your facility by utilizing an integrated team approach and implementing simple, no cost and low cost plug load control strategies.Explore the Plug Load section to discover the importance of advanced power strips (APS), occupant education and power management in combating these energy-wasters.

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Environmental Programs

Environmental programs, both federal and third party, help buyers identify products and services with positive environmental attributes.  Many federal environmental programs, such as ENERGY STAR and BioPreferred, are mandatory for federal buyers. 

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Sustainable Sites

Choosing a building's site and managing that site during construction are important to ensure a project’s sustainability. Environmentally responsible site selection discourages development of previously undeveloped land; minimizes a building's impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices; and controls stormwater runoff. Additionally, appropriate site management can reduce erosion, light pollution, the heat island effect and construction-related pollution. Buildings can be placed in various locations; project teams should choose the environmentally preferred option and follow up with responsible stewardship of the site.

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Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is most simply described as the conditions inside the building. It includes air quality, but also access to daylight and views, pleasant acoustic conditions, and occupant control over lighting and thermal comfort.

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Materials & Resources

In the construction and day-to-day operations of buildings, many materials and resources are used and a great deal of waste is generated.  The materials selected for use in a facility and the way they are disposed of impact the environment.

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Energy & Atmosphere

Buildings and facilities rely on the operation of mechanical systems and electrical systems to maintain a high level of indoor environmental quality for occupants. Building operations consume approximately 40% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Greenhouse gases are generated and released for the production and consumption of the fossil fuel energy used in buildings. These greenhouse gases directly contribute to air pollution and climate change. Therefore, atmospheric problems can be reduced by increasing the efficiency with which energy is used‚ optimizing the use of natural energy resources‚ and understanding the effects of energy technologies on the atmosphere.

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Water Efficiency

Buildings are significant users of the Earth’s freshwater supply. The goal of a responsible building operator should be to encourage a smarter use of water, both inside and outside the facility.  Indoor water use reduction is typically achieved through efficient plumbing fixtures, fittings, appliances and process equipment used to heat and cool the building; outdoor water use reduction efforts should focus on water-wise landscaping and efficient irrigation.

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Sustainability Program Development

Sustainability Programs incorporate all building stakeholders into the green design process, promoting awareness, goal development, implementation, acceptance, and effectiveness of facility sustainability efforts.

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Did You Know?

The U.S. generated approximately 251 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2012. Almost 87 million tons were recycled and composted, which represents a 34.5% recycling rate. Solid waste generated per capita is the lowest since the 1980s. This is a 3 percent increase in the tons recycled.

Source: US EPA, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012.


Case Study

Sense of Place

Skylight and Sculpture

What makes a workplace special? What fosters a sense of attachment, engagement and identity? These are the kinds of questions that underlie the sense of place. The workplace is increasingly seen as a “brand” that conveys not only a place, but also the mission and values of the organization. The GSA workplace program combines branding and sense of place with sustainable approaches to create special places imbued with meaning and purpose.

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