As innovative and complex green building technologies are developed, a key starting point of green construction remains to be a placement according to environment. This concept is known as “passive design”, a practice which not only lends greater energy efficiency, but also better environments for occupants.
This tendency to create a more comfortable environment for people has tremendous implications in the design of commercial buildings. The increase in productivity due to better air quality and more natural light have the potential to generate that much more in productivity.
The passive design approach dictates that building projects should be planned around the natural environment, not the reverse. In the passive design model, climate and related building positioning manages a significant amount of the energy management burden, simply by the use of efficient placement at the planning stage.
This placement removes that portion of heat maintenance and light ordinarily dependent on mechanical means. Examples are HVAC systems or extensive lighting systems.
Since an enormous portion of energy is consumed in major urban centres is from lighting which is mostly on during daylight hours, passive design incorporates strategic window placement, atriums, and skylights. Smart lighting systems work together with where daylight will be strongest in relation to building placement, which maximizes energy efficiency. This lowers the requirements for traditional lighting systems to manage comfortable levels of lighting during working hours. It also improves the quality of light in a workspace, creating a greater potential for increased productivity.
In addition to lighting, passive design also takes heat management into consideration. This works in conjunction with the important area of insulation, and with emerging technologies like geothermal heat. Use of solar panels are another technology which passive design can significantly augment.
Placement of the building in relation to sun and wind exposure are important factors in how those systems manage interior temperatures and airflow most efficiently. These passive elements make for less dependence on mechanical systems, greater savings on heating and cooling costs, and more room in budgets for amenities that make occupants more comfortable while at work.
Passive design is generally a European innovation, taken to the North American market by companies like Marken Projects in British Columbia who operates with LEED certification and with project management consulting principles set by Green Innovations Network Europe firmly in mind.
Transsolar out of Toronto is envisioning the construction of a carbon-neutral neighborhood in the waterfront district of the Lower Donlands area of the city.