Ideal Green building pre-requisite

Ideal Green Building is possible ONLY if CODE insists on ONE EXTRA FOOT for wall thickness past zoning envelope:, and excluded from rentable or buildable foot print’ as long as wall thickness reduces usable area for tenants, no sensible building can be built in USA.

Ideal Green Building, whether it’s high, middle, low rise or a house, would not look much different from current buildings if local zoning tax credits allowed them to be ‘smart’ without penalty to the owner. The construction industry is still a generation behind being truly able to apply current technical products and thus design innovations. Innovation is thought to add to costs due to changed thinking and procedures, and thus creating some initial procedures inconvenient to all parties. It takes a special client like Durst in NY City to be in meetings himself and make sure everybody plays their part correctly. But the end product can be up to 90% more efficient, 90% healthier and thus not only saving energy and related costs forever, but keep occupants healthier – which in studies save companies many times over the cost of building healthier. Daylight is truly number one, comfort in (fresh) air and heat and cool second.

I, for instance, could redesign the Philip Johnson’s ‘Glass House’ in New Canaan to be a zero carbon one with new details and new glass products that are on the market close to same look if I had a client for it. And it would be as comfortable temperature wise as any other building. But it is very difficult to renovate masonry buildings, or classic highly detailed Shingle style buildings of any kind to be state of the art without adding a new skin hiding the masonry or other ornate materials that conducts cold and heat like electricity.

So where is the difference and what should – could be done?

The current weakest link is the windows with R-3 to R-5 at best in every building type. In the South, shading is best initially combined with insulation that has a reflecting surface, along with glass that is R=13 or better (coming on the market shortly) combined with heavy insulation + masonry exterior. R-13 glass has been around for 15 years, but it is still considered an oddity.

In the Northern U.S windows for residential lowrise should be a combination of low-E GLASS shutters over low-E regular windows (R= 13 with film also in between glass panes) or better (like mine that is R-12+ which is 4 times better than best normal residential windows today). Northern climates benefit from R=40 and R= 60 to R-80 roof insulation most.

In office buildings double curtain walls are a must, but we do not have domestic manufacturers and thus a price point to make this possible without appropriate tax incentives. This would be a huge market for US industry if we allowed it to happen.

For existing buildings in general, zoning almost never allows for a thicker NEW outer wall, as the house or (commercial) building is already built to its maximum outline. And so we need ENERGY allowances for zoning for this to happen in houses, as well as in High Rise buildings. This outer wall would also stop the rusting of existing steel, and thus prolong the life of the building tremendously. Imagine the savings of being able to reuse structure these days with steel prices going through the roof.

Each building should have a ONE FOOT + curtain wall that is not calculated as part of the rentable or zoning area. Without this, the USA cannot advance. Southern USA should be able to shade the windows without zoning penalties — for instance, with a wrap-around porch or something similar to cut down the solar heat that creates most cooling needs.

This one foot extra thickness in commercial buildings of any kind would allow them to have internal shading between glass and curtain wall inner and outer planes planes and thus create proper insulation at the edge of the slab – which is the WEAKEST link in any current commercial or, especially, residential high rise project. By eliminating the thermal bridge, a building becomes almost indestructible! The integrity of any curtain wall in current buildings will fail within 3 decades. Sad indeed. The glass seals are currently designed to last 15 to 20 years, which with proper double wall construction can be doubled.

In houses, we can make them thermally active as well as properly insulated, as mentioned above. Between solar and geo, an emergency wood burning fireplace, and with a heat wheel ventilator one can survive a total electrical blackout for weeks or months, whether they are in the Southern or Northern U.S.

Apart from the fact that Geo heating and cooling are very quiet, they are also comfortable enough to grow orchids and collect art and antiques year round without the additional cost of mechanical heating, humidifying and cooling. One is also able to walk around the house with Adam’s dress even in zero degree weather!

This kind of comfort can be described best in car terms: it is like driving the best car on the market, whether it’s a Bentley, MB, or Ferrari for speed – but for very little cost!

Green building should be safe too. In the South, in tornado areas, by using insulated concrete blocks, green buildings become shelters, with an additional secondary shell preferably at ground level and surrounding the kitchen, bath and bedroom(s).

In the Northern U.S, the same rooms should be double insulated with fire-proof separation for safety, as well as sound. This way, in extreme loss of power, one barely needs a candle or two to keep living comfortably at key areas, and a single fireplace or equal keeps the house comfortable.

Sadly the weakest link in America is not in our building industry, but in our Senate and House

of Representatives. By not supporting tax and zoning as incentives that make truly innovations and practical building possible, we will keep trotting like Neanderthals.

THE WAY and infrastructure energy suppliers in their quest to give us more energy instead

of making us use 90% less, we cannot use our ingenuity, industry and energy to change our

Country for the better. And if we don’t, we will have to fight for our share of oil in the manner that

Mankind has done for too long in our history, manual fighting and losing our boys in vain.


Tapani Talo, AIA