Buildings are a cornerstone of human civilisation – people’s daily activities inevitably revolve around these structures and they are an inalienable part of urban life.
However, buildings are also one of the greatest contributors to climate change, with their construction, operation and maintenance consuming large amounts of energy and causing significant environmental impact.
A study conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that buildings are responsible for around 30 to 40 per cent of global energy usage, consume a third of total resources used, and generate 40 per cent of solid waste.
For that reason, recent years have seen increased interest in the concept of green buildings, which involves building and operating buildings in an efficient and sustainable way to minimise environmental impact.
The UNEP notes that the building industry has the greatest potential for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with current technology and at minimal cost.
Furthermore, green buildings also offer other significant social and economic benefits – for example, studies have found that workers in sustainable buildings enjoy improvements to both their health and productivity.
Pursuing green development
Presently, China is one of the countries most proactively pursuing green building projects globally.
Since 2008, total green building space in the country has grown 154 times to a total of about 320 million square metres, causing China to overtake the US in terms of green gross floor area, according to a report released by global real estate consultancy CBRE.
The report, titled “The New Era of Green Buildings in China”, found that as of January 2015, China had 2,538 projects certified by its domestic Green Building Evaluation Standard as well as 627 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects as of April 2015.
China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard is a set of guiding principles for the design, construction, operation and rating of green buildings in China. Projects are scored with one, two or three stars, with three stars being the best label. LEED, on the other hand, is a system developed by the US Green Building Council to promote sustainability in buildings, which rates green buildings, homes and even entire neighbourhoods in terms of their design, construction, operation and maintenance.
One of the most iconic green building projects in China is the recently completed Shanghai Tower. The structure, named the most beautiful skyscraper in the world by real estate data mining company Emporis, stands at 632 metres and is one of the tallest buildings in the world, second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The tower boasts a total of 43 different sustainable technologies, including renewable energy sources, extensive landscaping to help cool the building, and a unique shape which helps improve the building’s wind resistance. These technologies have allowed the building to reduce its total energy consumption by 21 per cent, slash its carbon footprint by an estimated 37,000 metric tonnes yearly, and save US$58 million in material costs.
These achievements have earned the structure both the American LEED Gold certification and China’s three-star Green Building award.
Impactful but invisible
Among the sustainable technologies implemented in the Shanghai Tower, the contributions from Danish engineering solutions company Danfoss stand out.
The company provided 6,700 water control valves, the highest number they have ever had in a single building, that contribute greatly to the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems within the tower.
The control valves work by automatically securing control and ensuring the right balance of water flow in the kilometres-long piping. This increases efficiency and reduces wastage, while also ensuring that people on any floor can get the temperature they want quickly, regardless of temperatures throughout the rest of the building.
“More than 50 per cent of the building’s energy consumption comes from the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. By using [Danfoss’] control valves, 20 per cent of this energy consumption can be saved, which means a lot to the owner,” says Lv Guosheng, Danfoss sales engineer, who is in charge of the project.
Buildings are responsible for around 30 to 40 per cent of global energy usage, consume a third of total resources used, and generate 40 per cent of solid waste.
Danfoss also provided 660 variable speed drives that ensure pumps, compressors and fans never run faster than is necessary to secure the right temperature. These drives offer an estimated additional energy savings of 20 to 40 per cent. Energy efficiency in the air-conditioning system is also boosted by pressure transmitters and filter driers from Danfoss.
In effect, the different types of Danfoss equipment installed contribute to and create a gigantic invisible circuit through which building operators can accurately control and optimise the ventilation, cooling and heating systems throughout the building.
Christian Overgaard, president of Danfoss in China, says: “In China, there is more and more focus on constructing and renovating buildings so they use the least possible amount of energy and reduce pollution, [and] here our energy-efficient products can really make a difference. The huge order for Shanghai Tower was an important milestone for Danfoss in China and make a good case, which can inspire others.”