Eating Sustainably in an Effort to Give Back to the Environment

You might be reading this because you have decided to make a change and live more sustainably. While food trends come and go, there is always an opportunity to thank the environment for providing us with all of the delicious plants, meat, herbs, and spices we consume.

No matter which way you decide to eat, there is a bigger issue we must remember – and that is the toll our eating habits take on the environment. Food production affects the environment in serious ways, having an impact on climate change and habitat destruction. Knowing ways to eat sustainably will ultimately be a positive choice for both your health and the environment.

How Eating Sustainably Can Help Your Health

The main value in almost any diet is to avoid intaking loads of processed foods, which are linked to many autoimmune diseases and health conditions. Turning to whole, sustainable foods will dramatically reduce an individual’s consumption of sodium, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Since many people eating processed foods face weight gain and feeling fatigued throughout the day, individuals turning to foods from the Earth can consequently lose weight. In the long term, this may help a person to avoid diabetes, cancer, and even allergies. Eating sustainable meats, fruits, and vegetables can also help sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as eating less dairy, which is usually a cause of indigestion and stomach pain, should help relieve the symptoms. These types of dietary choices are a staple of the paleo diet, which is one of the known diets to help people gain more muscle and lose unneeded fat.

Sustainable Ways to Maintain Your Diet

While eating less processed foods will help our health, it will also help us give back to the environment. After all, the Earth is the source of our well-being, and finding ways to utilize its sources in a mindful way is crucial to our avoidance of sickness and the verdure of the environment.

The best way to eat sustainably on any diet is to eat locally and seasonally, which will support local farmers, plant diversity, and the freshness of your diet. Prioritizing fruits and vegetables will reduce deforestation and freshwater withdrawals, and doing so is said to help prevent cancer, and to lower high blood pressure and blood sugar. Choosing foods that are organic is also good for the environment, as organically-grown food is produced with less potential harm and exploitation on the workers and the land.

Making small adjustments to eat more sustainably can have a great effect on the environment over time. Eating can always be done in an environmentally-friendly way, leading to positive benefits for both your body and the world around you.

Polluting the Brain: What You Need to Know About Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Air Pollution

Medical experts are beginning to link Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to pollution in the air we breathe. Forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, can affect several aspects of one’s cognitive abilities, such as logical reasoning, memory, and performing necessary daily tasks. Dementia can be the result of infection, stroke, and other medical issues that affect the brain, but it seems that air pollution and the environment can also play a significant role.

air pollution and dementia

Pollution’s Effects on the Brain

A recent published study in Translational Psychiatry found that women, especially, had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease the more that they were exposed to air pollution. Women who had a particular genetic variant, known as APOE-e4, were about three times as likely to develop the disease or another form of dementia due to pollution exposure.

The study also found a link between pollution and women with the genetic variant as creating a higher probability that those women would at least suffer some cognitive decline. Although their symptoms did not fit the bill for any form of dementia, their reasoning and memory skills were significantly lower than those of women without the gene variant or high pollution exposure.

Another study researched the effects of traffic pollution on Swedish residents. Researchers examined the air quality in which the 1,806 participants lived for a 15-year period. 191 participants had an Alzheimer’s diagnosis by the study’s follow-up, and 111 others had a vascular dementia diagnosis. Those who lived in areas with higher traffic pollution were more likely to receive a diagnosis.

Is It Too Late to Go Green?

As environmental policies grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the United States and Europe saw a steady decrease in dementia diagnoses. Researchers have more recently studied the trends in dementia and air pollution throughout the decades to prove the effects of pollution on the brain further. What they’ve found thus far is that an increase in eco-friendly policies and lifestyle changes has been steadily decreasing the incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s all over the world.

Although creating an eco-friendly environment doesn’t happen overnight, working toward making cleaner, more breathable air may impact the future of those most at-risk for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Supporting important environmental policies can be the first step towards creating a better outlook for the future of the air we breathe and the toll it takes on the health of the brain.

Reduce Allergies By Switching to Eco Cleaning Products

Did you know that using many big-name brand household cleaners, is actually similar to using hazardous waste? The stark reality is that each time you clean, you could be spreading toxic chemicals around your home. If you want to reduce the risk of your family developing allergies, then think about switching from toxic household cleaners. Many of the big-name cleaners contain a dangerous level of toxicity. Some cause immediate reactions like headaches. But continuous exposure could lead to serious disease. Toxic chemicals in household cleaning products that you should avoid include:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

 

Reduce Allergies By Switching to Eco Cleaning Products

Reduce Allergies By Switching to Eco Cleaning Products

Alternative healthy ways to clean

Even if the product claims to contain natural ingredients, you should always read the label first. But you can make your own products using natural ingredients. After all, it’s amazing what some vinegar and lemon juice can do. Knowing what ingredients to avoid in your cleaning products will help protect the health of your family and your home.

BEE’s New Service: Intelligent Building Management w/ QLEAR

BEE is pleased to offer QLEAR, a cloud-based intelligent building management platform for analyzing building performance in real time.

QLEAR pulls building data together including energy, water and gas consumption and indoor air quality, acoustic and lighting performance to help monitor, analyze, communicate and derive strategies for optimizing building operations, identifying cost savings and maximizing occupant health.

QLEAR Intelligent Building Management

QLEAR Intelligent Building Management

The platform includes analytic tools for tracking trends, alerts to identify problems and inefficiencies and performance averages for benchmarking against historic trends and international standards.

QLEAR also provides direct integration with green building certifications including LEED, WELL, RESET and Arc.

“Intelligent Building Management is the future of green building,” says Mika Kania, Director of Business Development for BEE; “once a building is built it’s vital to measure, monitor and improve building performance to ensure the maximum benefits implemented at the design phase are realized.”

BEE is currently implementing QLEAR to help their clients in the retail, commercial, and hospitality industry measure key aspects of their projects, such as energy consumption and indoor air quality, in real-time. Benefits from QLEAR have already been achieved; one of BEE’s retail clients saw a 15% increase in energy savings and improvements to the overall IAQ performance in a flagship store just weeks after implementation.

Real-time performance monitoring is the next frontier of the green building industry. It will transform the way we design, build, and manage buildings to maximize efficiency and occupant health & well-being.

QLEAR Healthy Building Data

QLEAR Healthy Building Data

 

Cx is the Rx: The Importance of Commissioning Your Project.

I’m closing out the year by discussing a subject that I think needs to hit the mainstream already! Commissioning (Cx) – it’s too often overlooked. I could write pages and pages on this stuff so definitely look for future posts on the issue. For today, an introduction on the importance of commissioning:

What Exactly IS Commissioning?

When planning this post I asked a few people what their associations were with the term.

…“Like in ship building?”

Exactly. The immediate association was with “building things” and then to “having things built” (the latter indicates an ownership perspective). More or less along the right path – it seems to be a process that most people are aware of but aren’t particularly familiar with.

Commissioning started out as a practice in naval construction. It oversaw the building of a ship with the intention of making sure the ship was seaworthy before it ever hit the water. Failure was expensive and possibly unsalvageable – clearly best to be avoided.

Moving on to the construction industry – commissioning was first practiced on construction projects by Public Works Canada. ASHRAE was the next major proponent by developing a guideline for the commissioning of HVAC systems. A decade later, the USGBC provided a major boost when they added commissioning to LEED criteria.

So,

Why Commission?

Why not just make a list of specs and go on and build? Well…you could do that (and many people do) but will probably quite quickly learn that a lot can go wrong.

WORSE than things going wrong is when things go wrong and no one notices (or someone notices but the issue is ignored/buried/denied).

Commissioning is intended to protect the interest of the owner by assuring that a project is delivered and can be operated to meet the stated project requirements. It aims to prevent issues by ensuring that the design and construction are subject to checks from the beginning. One way to look at commissioning is to consider it as the establishment of iterative quality assurance processes throughout the LIFECYCLE of the building. The iterative nature of commissioning prevents costly corrections

It also happens to make sure that the Owner Project Requirements (OPRs) are clearly established in the first place. Handy, that.

Now,

How Do You Commission a Project?

Commissioning is a process that can begin even before you have a formalized project. A commissioning lead, typically known as the commissioning authority (CxA), should be appointed early and should be available to work with the owner, the design team and the construction team throughout the project.

As I mentioned above, the OPRs must be established early as they dictate the project scope and key design requirements. Other typical commissioning requirements are:

  • Identifying a CxA
  • Development and implementation of a commissioning plan (parties involved, schedule, tasks)
  • Outline of commissioning specifications (expectations) to be included in bid documents
  • Quality and performance checks and verifications of construction and installations
  • Developing an operations and maintenance manual
  • Post-occupancy/warranty review

This is getting somewhat technical, I know. It conveniently leads me to the question I want you to consider,

Who Should Manage the Commissioning?

A broad knowledge base is required for the delivery commissioning process to be reliably executed. The CxA may be appointed internally or externally and may be a person, team or firm. Specific requirements of this position vary depending on the needs of the project and any certifications that are being sought. A LEED project, for example has specific requirements (I’ll discuss commissioning in a LEED context another day).

While there are certifications for both professionals and organizations the most important qualification is knowledge and experience.

For a large or complex project you should definitely consider the services of professionals with expertise in the field either to handle the entire commissioning process or as a consultancy resource.

With the CxA identified, commissioning then proceeds through all stages of the project from initialization/pre-design right through to the handover. The CxA stays involved past project completion and into the operations phase by working with the building operations and maintenance teams to ensure smooth operation.

What else should you know?

Commissioning is not just a process for new buildings. If you are taking ownership of an existing building OR are in ownership of a building that is experiencing issues, recommissioning or retrocommissioning applies the process of commissioning to an existing building. These open an avenue for addressing, in a manner sustainable over the long term, problems that resulted from design or construction issues or that have developed over the lifetime of the building.

Talk to us about our commissioning services or ask about we can integrate commissioning with your ongoing project.

8 Easy Steps to Towards a Green Home in the City

You’re probably reading this because you’re interested in living as responsibly as you can. There’s so much we can do in so many areas of our lives that it can get overwhelming. Still, you have to start somewhere…let’s get you a green home!

The steps you’re going to take very much depend on your available resources and how much control you have over the dwelling itself. There are some fantastic design decisions that you can make if you’re building or renovating your (soon-to-be) green home that of course aren’t an option for others. Still, most things fall under one of the following basic principles:

  • Reduce Waste
  • Minimize Energy Usage
  • Control Emissions
  • Limit Consumption

 


Step 1: Stop Buying Bottled Water

A personal pet peeve of mine is when people with access to safe drinking water buy massive amounts of bottled water. Think of how much plastic that is over the course of a lifetime. It’s unnecessary. Using a filter and boiling your water is an easy way to improve taste and safety if you feel necessary.

Step 2: Update Your Water Fixtures

High efficiency faucets and fixtures are another way to save water – you will like the impact it has on your bills too.

Toilet cisterns with high and low volume flushes are something to consider if you’re renovating your bathroom.

Step 3: Check the Thermostat

You do not need it to be at 17 degrees C.

Indoor climate control is a HUGE drain on the energy grid in the hot months. You’re in a particularly tough spot if you live somewhere where every month is a hot month. Use fans, wear shorts, turn off the air conditioning when you’re out of the house.

Rely when you can on passive cooling and ventilation if your home was designed with it. If you’re lucky enough to be in the design phases – talk to your project team about options climate control for a green home.

Step 4: Look at Your Lights

Make the switch to Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs(CFLs) or LED bulbs. Yes, they’re pricier but they last a good while longer than the older incandescent bulbs. Keep those bulbs out of your landfills.

Install dimmer switches. This is a quick, easy and cheap DIY. I taught myself with a youtube video. Make sure your bulbs and fixtures are compatible beforehand. If necessary, consult an electrician – it’s an easy job.

Step 5: Buy Energy Efficient Appliances

Long term savings, reduced energy waste AND possibly tax incentives. Definitely something to look into.

Wash with cold water and line dry when you can. It’s better for the lifespan of your clothes too.

Step 6: Be Picky over Furnishings

So you’re choosing paint. Note that the ‘green’ in ‘green home’ doesn’t have to be taken literally but that green is a lovely soothing colour. DO opt for low emissions. Your lungs and the ozone will be grateful.

I’m lumping everything from furniture to paint to construction adhesives under this heading. Do your research on the products you bring into your home.

Opt for responsibly sourced wood for everything from your cabinets to your cutting board.

Local, recycled or upcycled construction materials are another solid choice.

Step 7: Use the Space You Have

If you’re living in a city, this is probably very limited. If you have the option, consider installing some solar panels. Carefully landscape your yard (if you have one) with native plants.

Here, do take “green home” literally – grow some of your own food. This applies even if you live in an apartment. Plants can improve your indoor air quality and reduce your grocery bill. A pot of coriander that you can pick a few leaves off of is better in so many ways than buying a bunch at the grocery store which will mostly end up in the garbage. Locally grown food may be the most responsible way to eat – it doesn’t get more local than your home. Pots of lettuce, tomatoes or herbs look to pretty too!

Step 8: Get an Expert Opinion

There are often government resources dedicated to improving the energy efficiency of dwellings. Some municipalities will go as far as to send a consultant team to your home.

Speak to the professionals involved in any home improvements you’re making. Many are very knowledgeable within their areas and will be happy to make suggestions or give advice.


The above are really just small but potentially high impact steps that anyone immediately implement in their existing home.

If you’re looking for a new home you probably have a list of criteria in mind – sustainability or green design may be among them. Where do you start?

Pro-tip: Do some market research. Look at designers and contractors that specialize in green buildings, LEED buildings, high performance buildings, sustainable design and construction (yes, these are all search terms you can start with).

With new developments coming all the time, look at past projects that were brought to market by the design/engineering/construction team. Look for a history of excellence and expertise. For example, BEE is the only LEED® Proven Provider ™ in China and one of a very elite list worldwide. Designations like this can be a good indicator of performance.

The Implications of the 2016 LEED Price Increase

A popular topic of discussion recently among green building professionals has been the LEED price increase that the USGBC announced earlier this month for the registration and certification of LEED projects. This is the first LEED price increase since 2010. What does this mean for your project? Odds are, you wont be too badly effected – the increase is nominal.

According to the USGBC, the price increase is meant to support:

  • Continued development of LEED;
  • Development of tools, guidance and education programs;
  • Increased engagement with stakeholders including enhanced communication tools and protocols to better support owners of LEED projects.

What you need to know:

  • The new pricing schedule will be implemented on December 1st, 2016
  • You can lock in current rates for projects registered by Dec 1st and following up with on-time certification payments (by March 1st, 2017)
  • Need more time? It seems that some leeway may be given at the discretion of the USGBC. Doesn’t hurt to contact them or ask your building team if the registration of your project can be expedited.

Key changes:

  • USD300 increase for registration
  • New minimum thresholds introduced for fee categories
  • All currently registered or certified projects will have access to Arc as of December 1st.
  • All new projects will have access to Arc upon registration.
  • Optimized pricing considerations for large-scale projects, portfolios and campus and volume program participants.

The increase in registration fees will impact all new projects but for specifics on how this new schedule will impact your budget you can check the old pricing schedule.

The major value added tied in with this price increase is the implementation of Arc. The platform (announced in October 2016) is meant to integrate current and future standards, guidelines, protocols and systems that frame and support LEED projects. Arc is meant to simplify the comparison of performance metrics and allow for real-time monitoring of progress.

Arc will allow you to evaluate your building or project against other comparable certified buildings OR against its own past performance. It allows for the measurement of incremental improvement

The cost of certification is typically a minor contributor to the cost of building – especially for major projects. Don’t be overly concerned about this price increase and definitely don’t let it stop you from considering sustainable design options or certification.

If you have questions, please contact your design/construction team or the USGBC. They’re very quick to respond!

A Business Case for Healthy Buildings – Productivity, Health and Happiness

There used to be a misconception that sustainability was expensive. While true that many of the practices involved in the process of building sustainably (for example, the use of new technologies and materials) required a higher initial investment, collection of long-term performance data and the increasing acceptance of life-cycle costing methods has allowed for the demonstration of the worth of the initial investment. A business case was established. We now look at a newer concept – Healthy Buildings.

In the last decade or so, it has become accepted that designing and constructing our built environment for sustainability can positively impact bottom lines. Both in the construction and design community as well as among investors and consumers, “green” design elements are becoming an expectation. A new issue of concern is now coming into focus – the need for the design of “healthy buildings”, conducive both towards environmental health but also that of its occupants.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a recognized condition in which occupants of a building experience significant health issues that can be tied to the operation or design of a building. According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution causes 14-times more deaths than outdoor air pollution. Use of daylighting and availability of line-of-sight to the outdoors has been linked to mental health and productivity. Privacy, comfort control and ambient noise levels are all factors in occupant satisfaction.

Since most of us spend roughly 90% of our days inside, the indoor environment is a critical health factor.

While it is intuitively grasped that health is important, the move towards better living and work environments can be strongly supported by establishing strategic business drivers. Consider:

  • Financial Impact

    • Hundreds of billions of dollars lost worldwide due to low productivity, service quality, work absences, disability and health claims.
    • Market data shows that healthier building practices allow owners to lease space more quickly, charge a premium rent and increases building value
  • Public Profile and Perception

    • Public goodwill is arguably an important factor in determining the success of an organization.
    • Organizations becoming employers of choice will attract the top talent and achieve higher employee retention rate.
    • Desirable buildings demand higher market prices and attract owners and tenants more invested in the maintenance of the building.
  • The Legal Case

    • Requirements vary but generally establish the expectation that a building is safe for its inhabitants. “Safe” is an encompassing term.
    • Due diligence is the absolute minimum requirement but there is an increasing burden of responsibility towards owners and employers.
    • Some jurisdictions have or are considering instituting legislative provisions to protect the health of building occupants

These uncontestable business arguments trump any gut feeling.

While general wisdom and best practice can be used to achieve a healthful building environment, designers and contractors that are well versed in current technology and market trends can bring huge value to a project. Established building certification systems, among which LEED is an industry leader, are a very useful tool that can contribute to project profile and success.

LEED has already established the economic benefit of healthy buildings. General improvements via retrofit design have been demonstrated to increase productivity by up to 6 percent. Of course, maximum impact can be achieved during the initial design process.

LEED sets prerequisites (minimum criteria) for indoor air quality performance, environmental tobacco smoke control and awards credits for features such as bicycle facilities, shower access, use of low-emitting materials, interior lighting, thermal comfort, integrated pest management, daylight and quality views. Expectations are more rigorous than ever in LEED v4.

Other trends in healthy building design include spaces that enhance social interaction, biophillic design principles, layouts that promote movement and encourage physical activity.

As an aside, it is interesting to consider how healthy building practices can be observed in the elements of traditional architecture across many cultures and regions. Consider ancient Moorish design and Chinese Feng Shui principles that both focus on the importance of air flow and quality and the use of water features and courtyards in quadrangle constructions to maintain thermal regulation and comfort. The world has a tradition of sophisticated design principles that have been abandoned but that we are slowly rediscovering.

Whatever the size and purpose of your project, discuss health and sustainability issues with your design team.

It is in the interest of owners and users to insist on the rigorous application of responsible and intelligent design. There is so much research and development ongoing and a wealth of information available. Partners in design and construction that are educated and experienced are invaluable assets to a successful project.

Building Performance Data: USA trying to catch up to China

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) – the organization that develops LEED certification for buildings – has just announced the upcoming launch of ‘arc’, a data driven platform designed to collect and report performance data of buildings. Once it is up and running, it will herald the dawn of a new era for buildings. During the launch, current and future supporting technologies were also announced, technologies necessary for this new era to rise.

Meanwhile in China, this is already well under way and the technologies are already available. While the USA is announcing the dawn of a new era, China is already moving onto lunch.

At the forefront of this is an innovative building standard called RESET. Born in China, it is the world’s first sensor-based, real-time, performance driven building standard. Over three years ago, RESET also developed the world’s first (and only) international standard for building monitors and sensors tracking indoor environmental quality.

But this is not just a China story: RESET is also the first building standard to grow internationally from the China.

Although this may seem surprising to many in the West, it really shouldn’t be. Necessity is the mother of innovation, and nowhere is the need for building performance data greater than in China, particularly when it comes to healthy indoor environments. The market adoption of RESET has been inspiring and provides insights for the rest of the world.

RESET is levelling the playing field for real-estate developers by providing a transparent monitoring and communication standard for the health performance of buildings. Several months ago, the standard was adopted by UBAN, the world’s largest commercial real-estate platform, providing them with the ability to benchmark buildings. The adoption cemented RESET as the market standard – a testament to the power of open and actionable building data.

UBAN has adopted RESET as a benchmarking and rating tool.

UBAN has adopted RESET as a benchmarking and rating tool.

Seeing as data from RESET certified projects is reported in real-time it means the data is actionable, aligning building owners, employers and employees towards achieving the most high performance spaces possible. Although real-time data may seem like a threat and liability to many building owners and employers in the West, in China it has proved to be the opposite, enabling these parties to take action and fix issues before employees monitor and report issues themselves. It is also enabling developers to attract tenants, as evidenced by UBAN.

The adoption of RESET’s monitoring standard has also been impressive – a subject the USA has not yet even breached. While the USA has primarily focused on how to get low-cost consumer grade monitors into buildings, the scale of China has allowed RESET to define a whole new tier of high-quality building grade sensors. At the time of writing, seven hardware companies are actively working towards the standard. So far only four have passed, with three being Chinese and only one being American. RESET has also correctly separated hardware and software standards, prioritizing platforms that are open to collaboration. This enables hardware agnostic platforms such as Qlear to stream data from the world’s increasing number of hardware makers, compare results, plug into the RESET cloud for certification analytics while also serving WELL and LEED projects. The future is here.

RESET links with data aggregators such as QLEAR and helps with LEED and WELL certification.

RESET links with data aggregators such as QLEAR and helps with LEED and WELL certification.

The world is increasingly becoming flat and large scale innovations are now flowing out of China – in areas the world does not associate with the country – such as open data and transparency. While the USA is busy thinking through how all the pieces of a green/healthy building data ecosystem will fit together, it is worth taking a moment to learn from what is happening in China – and now flowing to the rest of the world.