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European Green Building Technologies Could Improve U.S. High Performance Buildings


A number of green building techniques widely used in Europe but less well established in the U.S. may have the potential to deliver higher performance buildings without necessarily costing more, concludes a new study from the Mechanical Contractors Education and Research Foundation.

Broader use of radiant heating and cooling, is one of the technologies offering substantial benefits in the U.S., along with active building facades and building system operator user interfaces, the report states.

"Continued challenges with the availability of fossil fuels and the impact of global warming are pushing building owners and developers toward projects that have a much higher level of energy efficiency," the report says. "The challenge is that this efficiency needs to be provided, while at the same time supporting the overall building project goals including architectural and occupant comfort. The result is the need for a ‘high performance’ building where the building systems are pushed to deliver more, without necessarily costing more."

The report focuses on radiant heating and cooling technologies because of their excellent energy efficiency, virtually silent operation and ability to deliver human comfort.

"Radiant systems generally use less energy than forced air systems," says the report, ranging from 17% to 42% in North American climates, according to one reference cited.

Radiant systems don't provide for ventilation, the report points out. "A complementary outdoor air system is typically required for ventilation purposes," it states. However, this can also be a benefit. "Decoupling sensible temperature control from ventilation allows for potential improvement in indoor air quality, with elimination of air recirculation." states the report.

All three technologies examined pose challenges as well as potential benefits, the report concludes. Each must be properly designed, carefully selected based on project type, cost considerations and environmental conditions, and must be properly commissioned, serviced and maintained.

Click here to download the complete, 50-page report.