High performance building design has always been fundamental to the B+H process, and since the mid-1990s, we have been committed to creating innovative sustainable designs for current and future developments across the globe. Minimizing resources and consumptives and their effects is fundamental to our process and an important factor for us and all of our clients. With new technology available, it is now possible to track and quantify building performance data in real time, which can be used to improve the performance and well-being of humans and our planet.
The next wave of sustainable building innovation—the accumulation, interpretation, and sharing of live data—is what will contribute the most value to humans and to companies going forward.
One of the most useful tools for sustainability-focused designers, architects, and builders is GIGA, a database system and app that comprehensively tracks building and material performance in real time. GIGA helps green building professionals find the best manufacturers and products that contribute to a sustainable design.
Created by a team of ex-pat, local architects and designers in China, GIGA was originally conceived to improve green building standards. Since receiving international recognition from the Clinton Foundation, it has evolved to incorporate data from several other countries as well. The resulting data provides design professionals, building owners and property managers a snapshot of what’s being done in several regions and how interior designers and architects are tackling green standards.
Beyond the literal nuts-and-bolts, monitoring the environmental health of building occupants is another stream of data that demonstrates the value of green standards. GIGA allows owners, tenants, and building professionals to monitor air quality and environmental conditions, such as ambient temperature, CO2, PM2.5 (pollutant particulates), and relative humidity using the RESET app.
Typically, industry standards analyze indoor quality in the “flush-out” phase that follows the completion of construction—preceding occupancy—and is not monitored as closely once occupancy begins. But with the database, professionals can predict the off-gassing period through material specifications and architectural data, potentially saving building owners and tenants time and money on move-in dates. Then once operational, through monitors and the app-tracking real time data, we can adjust building systems, such as fresh air intake and volume of air flow, to provide a healthier more productive environment. Monitoring data tells us when to replace equipment filters and change cleaning, printing, and other products to provide the best indoor environment for people to work, learn, live, and play in.
One could argue that the value of a building is only fully realized once it is inhabited, as the occupants are where the big money is and big data needs to be focused. But you can simply look at the RESET app and see the impact of cleaning products high in VOCs being used or the impact when cigarette smoke enters a monitored area through an open door. This app helps professionals to see the impact of buildings as they age and to anticipate how other environmental concerns can develop over time.
Data as a Tool
Although the wealth of data provided by GIGA is an important tool, it’s just a tool. Like any other resource, data like this remains useless if the industry does not learn from it, innovate from it, or choose to act on it. While the industry has expanded and grown significantly, it is also constantly evolving to accommodate changes in the economy and the environment. We at B+H are looking forward to further developments of the app to monitor acoustic performance, lighting levels, and energy to drive human comfort and social sustainability as we recognize the inhabitants of our designed buildings are our clients’ most valuable asset.
Lisa Bate is B+H Architects’ regional managing principal of North America. As an ambassador for sustainable design, Lisa has held various positions on environmental boards including Canada Green Building Council and the United Nations Environmental Protection–Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative. Lisa also currently sits on the Board of Directors for the World Green Building Council.
Connect with Lisa Bate: LinkedIn
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