Elegant designs show building efficiency can be beautiful

Architects and designers are continuing to push the limits of energy efficiency, according to a recent article from AlterNet which takes a look at ten of the most energy efficient buildings in the world.

The list features a mix of building types, some of which are new builds that create more energy than they require, while others are older buildings that have been retrofitted to reduce their energy usage. All of them are inspiring examples of what can be done to reduce energy consumption in the built environment.

  1. One Angel Square, Manchester, UK

The 15-storey headquarters of the Co-Operative Group is a new building that features several sustainable elements, including rainwater and greywater recycling systems and a heat recovery system that helps increase energy efficiency. It was rated “Outstanding” by BREEAM, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

  1. David & Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters, Los Altos, California

Another new build, this is the largest net-zero energy certified building in the world. It was built from 95% recycled materials and has 915 solar panels on its roof, offsetting 100% of the building’s energy needs. Its rainwater collection system can store up to 20,000 gallons of water for irrigation and toilet flushing.

  1. One Embankment Place, London, UK

Built in the early 1990s on top of an existing structure, One Embankment Place underwent a major renovation in the 2000s and was awarded BREEAM’s highest recorded score worldwide in 2013. One of the largest tri-generation systems in the world produces electricity, heat and cooling in one process, allowing the building to cut its carbon emissions by more than half.

  1. Powerhouse Kjorbo, Oslo, Norway

Recipient of the 2014 Norwegian Technology Award, this is another older building that was renovated to increase its sustainability credentials. Energy consumption has been reduced by 90% and it is now an “energy plus” building, meaning it generates more power than it requires to function.

  1. Manitoba Hydro Place, Manitoba, Canada

Manitoba Hydro Place is the most energy efficient building in North America, saving over 70% more energy than traditional commercial buildings, AlterNet says. It features a 115-metre solar chimney providing passive ventilation, and a double-skin facade with motorised computer-controlled vents for regulating temperature.

  1. The Edge, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Described by Bloomberg Businessweek as the “smartest building in the world”, The Edge has around 28,000 sensors collecting data on conditions such as motion, light, temperature and humidity.

  1. The Bullitt Center, Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s Bullitt Center was opened in 2013. It is naturally lit in the daytime and smartly ventilated, and all of its power comes from renewable energy.

  1. New Orleans BioInnovation Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

The BioInnovation Center, a LEED-Gold research facility, is a hub for biotech startups. Features include air-conditioning condensate recovery, providing up to 20,000 gallons per week for landscape irrigation.

  1. Empire State Building, New York City, New York

The world-famous New York landmark earned LEED Gold Certification in 2011 after a $550m investment to make the building more energy efficient. This renovation — which included the replacement of all 6,514 of its glass windows — cut the building’s energy use and expenses by $4.4m annually.

  1. International Renewable Energy Agency Headquarters, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The only building on the list outside North America and Europe, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) headquarters is described as “one of the most futuristic and energy efficient buildings on the planet”. Built in 2015, the complex has an external screen that maximises light while minimising the amount of heat getting inside. Additionally, the windows block 90% of solar radiation and the building also features 1,000 square metres of rooftop solar panels as well as solar thermal water heaters.

These ten buildings elegantly address the issue of sustainability through a combination of function and beauty, proving that smart design, cutting-edge technology and green architecture can significantly increase a building’s energy efficiency and reduce its environmental footprint, AlterNet concludes.

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