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Consultant Says Europeans Lead in Green Building Practices

August 10, 2009
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TUCSON, Ariz. - Where should you look for the best examples of large-scale, energy-efficient green building today? Not New York or Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. Instead the greenest new buildings on the planet are located in London, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam. “The Europeans are now the leaders,” stated American green building consultant Jerry Yudelson. “It turns out they know a lot more about environmentally-aware architecture and construction than we do.”

Yudelson based his conclusions on the research he recently completed for his new book, Green Building Trends: Europe, which he said documents the latest European sustainable design techniques, cutting-edge ideas, and green building trends. Based on more than a year of on-the-ground research in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, Yudelson’s book chronicles the work of leading architects, engineers, and contractors involved with many of the continent’s exemplary green buildings.

“I found European approaches that would work in the U.S. and Canada,” said Yudelson, “even given the different cultural, political, economic, and climatic factors that influence building decisions.”

What he discovered is that many European green buildings routinely use 50 percent to 90 percent less energy than comparable certified green projects in the U.S. “These are mostly issues of design and emphasis,” said Yudelson, the founder and principal of the green building consulting firm, Yudelson Associates. “And we certainly have the knowledge and skills to emulate what’s being done abroad.”

In the new book, Yudelson uses extensive photographs and illustrations to show how European practitioners are applying energy-efficient construction. Readers can see examples of the leading contemporary green buildings in Europe, including the new Lufthansa headquarters in Frankfurt and the Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hannover, both in Germany; the Beaufort Court Zero-Emissions facility in the U.K. and a passive downdraft cooling system at University College London fully integrated with the building design. There’s also a look at an all-glass house in Stuttgart, Germany, that uses no net energy for heating and hot water on an annual basis.

So what can U.S. building industry professionals learn from Europe? Based on his conclusions, Yudelson makes three specific recommendations:

First, “The U.S. should adopt the European Union’s system of building energy labeling,” he said, “so that everyone can see the actual energy performance of each building. This practice will lead to a revolution in commercial and institutional building design and operations, almost like having to wear a Scarlet Letter with your energy crime out in plain sight.”

Second, North American architects and engineers should spend time in the U.K., Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, to see first-hand how their commercial buildings work. “There’s no question that seeing things first-hand and talking with the professionals who design and build them will change our design and construction practices rapidly,” commented Yudelson.

Third, home builders should study the German Passivhaus system for reducing energy use for heating and hot water by 90 percent. “For the most part, we could cut the energy use of new homes by 50 percent at no to little cost, just by adopting proven methods of building design and construction,” said Yudelson. This measure alone, he suggested, could lead to an enormous reduction in greenhouse gases if implemented over the next 25 years.

“Designing green buildings is not rocket science,” Yudelson said. “In this book, I’ve clearly demonstrated that we can have beautiful, high-performance, super-green buildings, using best-in-class technologies and systems, with the knowledge we already have, but don’t use very much. We just need to go across the pond and look at what’s already been done in the past 10 years by the Europeans.”

Green Building Trends: Europe is Yudelson’s ninth book on green buildings, green homes, and green development since 2006. Two more books, covering greening the retail sector and greening existing buildings are due out in the second half of 2009. For more information about Green Building Trends: Europe, go to www.greenbuildconsult.com/site/info/green-building-trends-europe.

Yudelson Associates is a leading international firm specializing in sustainability planning and green building consulting. For more information, visit www.greenbuildconsult.com.

Publication date: 08/10/2009

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