According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s buildings are responsible for more than forty percent of global energy use and up to one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Green building design reduces energy use, either through retro-fitting older buildings or designing new buildings that create surplus energy.
Green building design has evolved over time. Originally, the priority was to reduce utility and operational costs, now the world’s green build designers incorporate the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability, by reducing the negative environmental impact of their structures. It is hoped this broader remit that reduces the negative environmental impact of their construction will become the norm for green building design around the world.
Here are our suggestions for the best green buildings around the world that showcase sustainable architecture and ecological designs that protect and enhance the environment:
The Edge, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Edge in Amsterdam has the distinction of being awarded the highest score ever recorded by the BREEAM certification system. The rooftop panels keep it energy neutral and the “Power-over-Ethernet” (PoE)-based LED lighting allows network controls of the lighting and data gathering via sensors integrated in the light units. Workers in the building can regulate lighting in their individual work spaces by using an app on their smart-phones. The app also checks individual’s schedule and the building also recognizes their car when they arrive and directs them to a parking spot.
David & Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters, Los Altos, California
Not just a beautiful example of modern design, this building is the largest net-zero energy certified building in the world. Part of that efficiency comes from its effective use of daylight, as well as the nine-hundred photovoltaic panels installed on its roof.
The complex was constructed from ninety-five percent recycled materials from de-constructed buildings and is equipped with a rainwater collection system that can store 5 million litres of water collected from rooftop gutters, that is used for the smart-controlled drip irrigation of its living green roof as well as the building’s bathrooms.
Powerhouse Kjorbo, Oslo, Norway
Another older building that got a new and sustainable lease on life is Oslo’s Powerhouse Kjorbo, two buildings that were renovated and then rebuilt from recycled materials. The new building’s energy consumption has been reduced by an astonishing ninety percent, and it is now an “energy plus” building, meaning it generates more power than it requires to function.
Kjorbo has ground wells that serves as a water supply and also provides heat to radiators. The building also features a unique, eco-friendly charred wood exterior that helps keep maintenance costs low as it is resistant to fire and insects and rated to last eighty years.
Manitoba Hydro Place, Manitoba, Canada
Manitoba Hydro Place is Canada's only LEED Platinum office building, and the most energy efficient building in North America. The 115-metre solar chimney gives the building passive ventilation, while a double-skin façade with motorized computer-controlled vents regulates temperature. These features allow the building to save over seventy percent more energy than traditional commercial buildings.
New Orleans BioInnovation Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
With a design both elegant and smart, the BioInnovation Center has become a key player in the revitalization of the neighbourhood that surrounds it. Built on a brownfield site, this LEED-Gold research facility captures rainwater and diffuses it to plants and soils on site. It also collects up to 5 million litres per week of condensation which provides all landscape irrigation.
Empire State Building, New York City, New York
For many it is a surprise to see such an old building in a list of the best green buildings around the world. Yes the Empire State Building earned a LEED Gold Certification in 2011 after renovations that cut the building’s energy use and expenses by more than 4 million dollars per annum. By 2025 the aim is to reduce its carbon footprint by almost 10-thousand tonnes. All 6,514 of its glass windows were renovated to become energy efficient. Performance contracting allowed for the upgrades with no upfront costs and the ability to pay for the project with the savings.
International Renewable Energy Agency Headquarters, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Completed in 2015 the nearly 32,000-square-metre multi-use complex is comprised of three interconnected buildings. It is the first office building in Abu Dhabi to be awarded a 4 Pearl Estidama Construction Rating Certificate by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.
An external screen maximizes light while minimizing the amount of heat getting inside, the windows block ninety percent of solar radiation and the building’s rooftop has a photovoltaic system covering one-thousand square meters to help it produce its own energy.
The building also features solar thermal water heaters which are designed to provide seventy-five percent of the building’s annual hot water demand.