Renewable energy sources, including solar, are often included in green buildings. For example, some use photovoltaic panels for on-site solar energy generation. Others employ passive solar building design strategies that physically position building elements, such as windows, walls, awnings and gardens, to maximize the benefits of cooling shade in summer and solar heat in winter. The concept of natural lighting requires the windows to be oriented in such a way as to make the most of the natural light inside the building and reducing the need for electrical lighting.
In addition, solar-powered water heating reduces energy costs. The Pivot Energy team has extensive experience developing commercial solar projects that help buildings obtain LEED certification. In the area of advanced building controls, PNNL researchers have developed techniques that reveal all aspects of energy consumption and production in buildings. Green buildings are needed on a global scale to help dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve increasingly depleted energy resources and contribute to improving human health.
While the concept of green buildings originated in the commercial sector, more and more emphasis is being placed on the residential sector. Therefore, the more solar energy a building produces, the more energy consumption it compensates and the more points it can receive to obtain LEED certification (up to 5 points). PNNL researchers focus on several areas that support green buildings, including, among others, working to accelerate the commercialization of high-efficiency solid-state lighting products, developing and implementing building controls, and promoting the improvement of appliance standards and building energy codes. Buildings built under the current code use approximately half as much energy per square foot as a structure built in the late 1970s, when the Building Energy Code Program began, and carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by hundreds of millions of tons.
Since the 1990s, agencies and countries around the world have also adopted their own green building programs and standards. An interesting development that is emerging in the field of green building materials is the use of living materials. The Department of Energy, in collaboration with the National Institute of Construction Sciences, recently published a common definition for a zero energy building, also known as a net zero energy building or net zero energy building. In addition to that, the enormous industry and job creation that exists around the development of green buildings continue to grow.
Part of the demand is due to increased government investment in motivating green buildings by encouraging LEED and other certification programs, regulations and additional incentives, and supporting research and development to introduce technological improvements and refine codes and standards. LEED certification and solar energy also have a number of direct benefits for commercial buildings and businesses in general. Research on green buildings is multifaceted, with a great deal of recent activity in the areas of construction and construction technologies, energy and fuel, and civil engineering. Green buildings combine a variety of approaches to practices, technologies and materials at all stages of a building's life cycle.
Another important area of focus is advanced building controls, which can be applied to new buildings or modernized to existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency, increase the integration of clean energy sources, and coordinate electricity consumption within buildings and with the power grid. .