Meeting the Need to Be Green

July 1, 2007
Rapidly growing world population and developing Third World nations are increasing demands on limited natural resources, forcing fuel costs upward. Coupled

Rapidly growing world population and developing Third World nations are increasing demands on limited natural resources, forcing fuel costs upward. Coupled with growing environmental consciousness, the need for more-efficient resource consumption has resulted in a “green” awareness that pervades all segments of American industry, including the design and construction of buildings.

The practice of building green can lead to benefits such as reduced operating costs through decreased energy and water consumption, improvements in public and occupant health through better indoor-air quality, and reduced environmental impacts through more-efficient use of resources. Yet, there is a lack of information and training on green design and applications as they apply to mechanical systems. Two-thirds of the A/E/C community indicate current sources of information do not meet their green-product and green-project needs.1

With that in mind, HPAC Engineering is planning its fourth annual Engineering Green Buildings (EGB) Conference and Expo, which will be held Sept. 17 and 18 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.


To understand the scope and significance of the built environment on our natural environment, consider:

  • There are more than 5 million commercial buildings in the United States.2

  • In 2004, commercial buildings consumed 17 percent of all of the energy used in the United States (nearly 17 quadrillion Btu) and 34 percent of the electricity (about 4.2 quadrillion Btu).3

  • The built environment produces 30 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions and 30 percent of all waste output (136 million tons annually), uses 30 percent of all raw materials, and consumes 12 percent of all potable water (15 trillion gal. annually).4

In short, commercial buildings burn a lot of fuel, consume a lot of electricity, use a lot of water, and produce a lot of waste. They have a profound impact on our natural environment, economy, health, and productivity.

“The rising price of fuels, the scarcity of water, the growing waste streams, and our rising impact on global warming demand improvements in the way we design our buildings,” Dan Chiles, chairman of the Green Mechanical Council's (GreenMech's) board of directors, said. “The mechanical-systems industry can have a huge role in that. We can take green components, make them into green systems, and commission and service those systems to keep them green.”


Mechanical HVAC systems often are the largest consumers of electricity in commercial buildings, accounting for 50 to 70 percent of total energy costs. That is not surprising, given that 93 percent of commercial-building floor space is heated, and 88 percent is cooled. Yet, according to GreenMech, nearly all of the estimated 130 million mechanical rooms in the United States are obsolete because the majority of existing mechanical systems were built during a time of more-abundant energy and fresh water.

By adopting proven energy-efficiency measures and applying green-building principles to mechanical systems, commercial-building owners can reduce energy costs by 20 percent or more.4

In 2004, the energy commercial buildings consumed cost approximately $135 billion. Seventy-seven percent of that (about $104 billion) was spent on electricity. Forty-two percent of that electricity ($57 billion) was used for heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration. Therefore, a 20-percent savings would represent $11.4 billion annually.3

And that is just for electricity. Seventy-three percent of natural gas consumed by commercial buildings is used for heating. The commercial-buildings sector spent more than $14 billion in 2004 on natural gas and more than $10 billion on heating. A 20-percent reduction in natural-gas consumption would add another $2 billion in savings.3

It is apparent that mechanical systems play a significant role in a commercial building's overall energy consumption, environmental impact, and performance. It stands to reason, then, that the individuals responsible for designing and specifying mechanical systems can have a huge impact on the green-building movement.

In fact, they do. According to the Green Building SmartMarket Report, 85 percent of the A/E/C community participates in green-building activities, and nearly 60 percent specify green-building products in design and construction. Fifty-seven percent of the A/E/C community specifies mechanical systems, which rank third among product types most often specified.1


EGB 2007 is a must-attend event for all buildings professionals seeking to learn how green-building requirements apply to mechanical systems, how mechanical systems can be designed to help a project achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and how engineering/design companies can compete in the green-building arena. (Non-residential-building projects breaking ground in 2007 are valued at more than $400 billion.5)

The conference portion of this year's event will provide sessions on energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, and sustainability. The expo area will feature vendors demonstrating the green characteristics and applications of mechanical systems, components, software, and services.

For more information on the 2007 Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Expo, visit


  1. Green Building SmartMarket Report. (2006). McGraw-Hill Construction.

  2. Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. (2003). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy.

  3. Kelso, J.D. (Ed.) 2006 Buildings Energy Data Book. (2006). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy.

  4. U.S. Green Building Council. Retrieved from

  5. The U.S. Markets Construction Overview. (2007). Raleigh, N.C.: FMI Corp.