Greener and smarter?

Still digging out from an end of the year crush of emails, we came across new on a recent study done by green building consultant Jerry Yudelson. Despite advances in green building in the U.S., Europe is still leading the pack, according to the study. In it, Yudelson documents a range of green building practices that engineers and builders are employing overseas but have yet to catch on in the U.S. 

Some European systems that have already made their way over to the U.S., Yudelson notes, include underfloor air distribution systems, building-integrated photovoltaic panels, and chilled beam technology for radiant cooling. With this in mind, the study "set out to discover what was happening 'over the horizon' and to profile a few of the more important mechanical and systems technology that mechanical contractors were likely to see showing up in U.S. projects, especially those with high-performance goals, such as LEED Gold or LEED platinum." The study, however, is not, its author notes, "a comprehensive view of European technology, but our best guess as to which technologies American and Canadian design engineers are likely to be using in the near future. The purpose of the study is both to give North American designers and contractors a 'heads up' about future technology changes and also to encourage them to go to Europe and see for themselves how these systems work."

Among the techniques noted are 10 technologies and approaches that might transfer well from Europe to North America. They are:

1. Design briefs concentrating on low-carbon design rather than solely a low-energy design, where the low-carbon design would include reducing embodied energy

2. Use of earth tubes for preheating/precooling outdoor air.

3. Decoupling of ventilation and cooling, predominantly using displacement ventilation with

radiant cooling (chilled ceilings, radiant-slab systems for low-temperature heating and higher temperature


4. Increased incidence of using extensive thermal mass in thermally active building systems,

including slabs.

5. Mixed-mode (fan-assisted) natural ventilation through central stack atrium also used for


6. Chilled beams (to a limited extent in the right applications).

7. On-site use of renewable energy from wind and solar, to geothermal, and moving toward

cogeneration/tri-generation systems with biomass fuel.

8. District cooling and heating to allow for more effective application of renewable energy towards a low-carbon approach.

9. A well developed market that can support equipment manufacturers providing space-effective,

modular packaged systems that provide high efficiency and reliability (for such applications

as gray-water reuse, rainwater reuse, heat recovery ventilation, solar domestic water packages,

integrated boiler heating systems).

10. Exterior active solar control systems, such as moveable shades and shutters.

Interested in reading more? The study can be downloaded as a whole here.

One Comment

  1. I work with a national research lab that performs extensive, research and R&D on several of the technologies you mention above. As our nations energy requirements and costs rise, I think will see a true adoption of new technologies, especially those based on renewable energy that reduce emissions and pollutants.