HVAC plays a vital role in the green building and construction industry, and HVAC technicians can help a building become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.1
Green building is no new idea. However, the green building industry is changing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, primarily in regard to LEED certification. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched a new vision that includes plans to change certifications to promote optimal health and safety in indoor environments.2
Of particular interest to aspiring technicians in HVAC training is the greater emphasis on indoor air quality with new LEED pilot credits.2
What Is Green Building?
What makes a building green and sustainable? A “green” building refers to a structure that may reduce or eliminate negative impacts or generate a positive impact on either the environment or climate by design, operation or construction.3 Examples of what makes a building green may include the following:4
- Energy is used in the most efficient ways possible.
- Proper ventilation allows fresh air inside to promote healthy indoor air quality (IAQ).
- Renewable energy, such as solar energy, is employed.3
- Structures are capable of adapting to climate change and events.
- Indoor climate control keeps building occupants as comfortable as possible. 4
Of course, HVAC may play a role in indoor air quality, energy conservation and comfort, all of which are important to green building standards.5
What is LEED green building? LEED is a building rating system created and maintained by the USGBC. Buildings can be judged using a LEED scorecard, which offers points in multiple categories like energy efficiency and overall design, to become LEED certified.6
HVAC can play a role in the LEED certification process because the HVAC system can contribute to a healthy indoor environment. HVAC technicians can also have a hand in installing and maintaining heating and cooling appliances that meet energy-efficiency standards.6
What are some environmental advantages of green building?
- Reducing carbon emissions.
- Minimizing energy consumption and energy waste.
- Lowering exposure to toxins.
- Using safer building materials.
- Conserving natural resources like water.7
How Is the Green Building and Construction Industry Changing?
In May 2020, in response to COVID-19, the U.S. Green Building Council released the new Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy strategy. The strategy involves steps meant to shape a future that is healthier and more sustainable for everyone.2
The USGBC is focusing on making spaces for living, working, learning and playing safer and healthier with better air quality. Some of the steps it outlined are upgrades to current LEED standards, offering new LEED pilot credits and amending the LEED review process.2
Of the four new Safety First pilot credits offered by USGBC, one is specifically focused on indoor air quality and could pertain to the HVAC industry. The Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19 credit enhances the current requirements for indoor air quality and the already established LEED credits. This credit includes the following criteria:8
- Ensuring systems for indoor air quality are operational and ventilation is adjusted to minimize the spread of illness like COVID-19 through airflow.
- Increasing air filtration and ventilation.
- Monitoring air quality in buildings on an ongoing basis.8
The Role of HVAC Technicians in a Greener Future
HVAC technicians are likely to play a role in the green building and construction industry for years to come. In light of the growing interest in a green economy, there may be changes in both the work and how it is performed in the HVAC field. HVAC techs could be tasked with installing, testing and servicing an array of green equipment:9
- Smart thermostats with programmable or wireless functions to lower energy usage.
- Dehumidifying equipment in places where cool and dry airflow are important to overall operational efficiency, such as computer labs.
- Cooling equipment like magnetic-centrifugal chillers that utilize recirculated water to lower air temperatures.
- Air purification systems.
- Ground source or hybrid ground and air source heat pumps to lower carbon emissions and reduce energy consumption.
- Zoned heating control systems in residential or commercial settings.9
Train to Play a Part in the Green Building Industry
HVAC technicians could play a vital role in the green building industry and new LEED certifications.
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