What does society know about sustainability. For this purpose, I asked five people to answer three simple questions:
What is green engineering / human-friendly construction?
“Environmental friendly, cooperating with nature, building that helps us live easily and sparingly.” (Stanisława, 57)
“Warm in winter and cool in summer.” (Wioletta, 28)
“It’s nice and beautiful, and you want to live there, because it’s fun, and it has a garden that’s also nice and there’s a rainbow all the time, and it’s cosy, and you can meet animals there.” (Roksana, 8 and Dagmara, 9)
“Building that protects people from rain.” (Helena, 4)
How does electricity and water reach our homes?
“Electricity comes from electric cables attached to power network led from power station, and water, hmm…water flows” (Aleksandra 27)
“Water comes from the sea, they did the plumbing and ran the water. (Helena, 4)
Where does rubbish goes when we throw it away?
“First, it goes to the bin, then into the rubbish dump, some off it goes underground where it vanishes and some of it is transformed into other things” (Roksana, 8 and Dagmara, 9)
“And what is it called?” (Dad)
“Transformationing” (Roksana, 8 and Dagmara, 9)
“To the rubbish truck, and then on the rubbish mountain, after that they do things: sweaters, shoes. (Helena, 4)
“Do we segregate waste?” (Mum)
“Plastic to plastic, glass to glass, paper to paper” (Helena, 4)
“So where would you throw a strawberry?” (Mum)
“To strawberries” (Helena, 4)
From these answers, I can tell that our society has a decent knowledge about sustainability. Most people know that the concept of ‘green’ building deals with energy in an intelligent way, maintains water resources and minimises waste production. Even the youngest generation has already learned that human-friendly buildings improves user comfort, maintain green landscapes and adjust to changing weather conditions. While middle-aged people don’t pay much too attention to water management, even a four year-old knows that our consumables and the buildings we build should be recyclable and reused, and that waste should be segregated. It demonstrates real awareness and represents the positive change that can be brought about by teaching our children and society that rubbish doesn’t simply vanish, old buildings can have a second life.
Yet despite this, we still don’t have a binding definition of what ‘green building’ is. It refers to both a structure and the use of environmentally responsible and resource-efficient processes throughout a building's life-cycle, from design through construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. Perhaps put simply we can say that it’s living in harmony with the planet.
If I’ve not convinced you already about the importance of sustainability, here’s a little story. We’ll look at the two different lives of two different people.
Three years ago George Green graduated from a University of Technology that was definitely human friendly. The classrooms were designed for the appropriate number of students. They were suited for individual and group study. Every work station was ergonomic and easy to use just to focus student attention only on the case studies. They had this green courtyard and canteen where he met his till today friends. George loved his sustainable university building. Since graduating from civil engineering, he has started working for Gleeds.
He chose Gleeds not because of wages but because he knew that sustainability and corporate social responsibility are deeply rooted in its approach. He checked that it provides solutions for every stage of the property lifecycle, ensuring that sustainability is embedded into the projects – and is mastered during design, construction and operation stage. After completing his green education, George learned how important a part Gleeds plays in the future of the built environment. After only few weeks of work he told me he wasn’t mistaken. “Why?”, I asked?
He told me that even though the building isn’t new, his office recently underwent a renovation in the LEED for Commercial Interiors system, and is now perfect. He travels to work by bike, because his employer installed bicycle racks and a changing room with showers in the building. The architects designed the space to maximise the amount of natural lighting. George can always take a break from the computer and look out the window to let his eyes rest. He can control temperature at his work station. Two desks ahead, Jane likes a sub-tropical 25C as she is always cold. Thankfully she has her own controller. For lunch George goes to a restaurant nearby or, if his wife is in good mood, he eats home-made sandwiches in a relax space. Of course everybody in the firm knows that sandwiches taste best on a green patio. His sustainable office fulfils all the requirements the employers have.
We even once wondered, how much that kind of office may cost. We even asked our boss at our annual meeting. He told us: “No less than average, but instead we have grey water installation and toilets that provide 30% water reduction. Thanks to solar panels on the roof we use less electric energy and good architecture gives us more sun energy in winter, so we don’t need to turn up the heating a lot. In the end, the benefits exceed the costs.”
In the meanwhile, George’s son was born in in a city hospital The hospital had just been renovated, significantly raising its standard and was awarded a sustainability certificate. There was natural ventilation, on-demand user controlled heating, and every room had view over the beautiful gardens. Specialists from all over Europe wanted to work in such a modern medical centre, so George’s son got the best care possible.
George told me a story of his other friend, Ben Black. Bens wife Judy is always whining about him being tired after work and not playing with their son.
“Ben sits in an old, unmodernised building all day long. His office is partially underground, with only a few windows with a view of a wall of another building, and with very little sunlight It is located out of reach of public transport so he has to commute by car, and deal with traffic jams, which takes three hours out of his day. There is a courtyard but workers are not allowed access to it. Every day he sits in an open space with 10 other co-workers where everyone has different preference to the temperature settings, resulting in it being either very hot, or very cold. Because of this, Ben is often sick, and has to miss work. People say that there is still asbestos in these walls, which may indeed be the truth. The only break he has during the day he spends in a fast food bar, as there’s no kitchen or canteen area in his building.
As you may have already figured out, the story of George Green and Ben Black isn’t only fiction, written to help you understand how a sustainable building influences its users. Human being spend most of their time within buildings, whether its home, school or work. We must recognise that we have the power to change our world and create a comfortable environment to live and work in. I leave it for your personal consideration whether you want to be George Green or Ben Black.
In Poland, with our seven offices and over 100 professionals including sustainability experts, we can help you choose the way. Gleeds has the scale, strength and expertise to successfully manage green projects by offering sustainability advice and ensure our clients and the communities in which they operate benefit financially, economically and socially. In Poland you can find buildings that are certified BREEAM (British), LEED (American), DGNB (German) or HQE (French). We are happy to see that in European cities sustainability is desirable by users, and quickly becomes a standard.
Join the green side and enjoy it with us!