Leading by design: 7 of the world’s most eye-catching green building innovations

Ahead of edie's special 'green buildings month' of editorial content, we round up the latest green innovations and low-carbon technologies being deployed on buildings by companies across the world in an effort to drive energy efficiency and engage with employees on sustainability.

Earlier this week, Apple – considered by some as one of the shining lights of an energy-efficient company – announced it was going to transform Battersea Power Station into its new London Headquarters.

Given the tech giant’s recent strong track record for promoting renewables, the potential transformation of the now-defunct coal-chugging power station into an energy-efficient building – likely to be powered by clean energy – perfectly encapsulates the global shift in how we source our energy and power our buildings.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, but the ideate is built on a history of large corporations retrofitting – or in some cases building from scratch – new hubs or facilities that allow the corporate and sustainability aspect of companies to practice what they preach.

Green buildings don’t just give corporates or designers the chance to push CSR as a success story, but rather adapt to future trends. This year, the World Green Building Council suggested that the number of green buildings nestled in cities would double by 2018. Clearly getting your own house in order is a priority for companies.

With this in mind, edie has rounded-up some exemplary examples of companies embracing the green building concept, and placing it at the heart of headquarters and facilities alike.

Green supply chains: Just do it

Nothing captures the willingness of responsible corporates to embrace new sustainability trends like the slogan “Just do it”. Not only can green buildings “maximise performance while minimising footprints” they can also utilise renewables and new business models.

That is the belief of Nike, at least. The global sportswear giant unveiled the latest expansion of its 100% renewable European Logistics Campus in Belgium earlier this year. The Logistics Campus aims to accelerate Nike’s drive towards creating a low-carbon and circular supply chain by utilising a range of renewable generation sources and innovative construction measures.

The campus runs on 100% renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric sources, and uses autonomous LED lighting systems that react to staff movement. An integrated closed-loop water strategy uses buffering, infiltration and recycling to lower consumption, while 95% of waste is recycled – some of it into the actual building. Innovative canal and biking systems have cut transport emissions to-and-from the building by 30% while sheep and bees have been added to naturally tend to the surrounding environment.

The Honsha house that hydrogen built

Even with the continuing rise of electric vehicles (EVs), it would be unwise to scoff at Toyota’s commitment to hydrogen-powered cars. Not only has the company pledged to cut average carbon emissions from all of its vehicles and products by more than 90% by 2050, but it was also ranked first in the inaugural Carbon Clean 200 rankings – which lists the world’s largest publicly listed companies by revenue generated from clean energy products.

On top of this, the Japanese company has also installed an array of static hydrogen fuel cells to power its Honsha Plant in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Using fuel cells with an output of 3.5kW – and similar to the ones found in the Toyota Mirai – Toyota claims that this marks the first time that fuel cells have been operational in a commercial environment.

The September announcement acts as a landmark moment for the plant, which is progressing towards becoming a zero-emissions facility. Natural light and ventilation systems were included in the design process, while the cells can also divert excess heat to air conditioning systems. Supplementary energy is sourced from on-site solar arrays, which can be stored using recycled Prius batteries.

Amazon brings the rainforest to Seattle

Iseems that expanding his business to account for drones and the access economy isn’t enough for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The online retailer is also developing ways for his staff to soak up the natural environment, by creating offices that put nature and the sustainability at the forefront of employee’s mind and vision.

As recently featured on edie’s regular green innovation round-up, Amazon is building three huge “biospheres” directly in front of its Seattle office buildings, which are currently under construction. The 100ft-tall domes are scheduled for completion in 2018 and will bring together more than 300 endangered plants to act as a carbon sink and a conservation dome.

The idea is to “link to the natural world” and Amazon will also construct walkways and encourage staff to walk around the domes during periods of downtime. Suspension bridges and meeting spaces that resemble “bird nests perched in mature trees” will be added to allow staff to interact with nature more intimately.

Bottoms up and carbon out

Fancy a beer with a net-zero carbon footprint? edie editor Luke Nicholls certainly did; journeying into the Austrian mountains for a behind-the-scenes tour of the first large-scale carbon-neutral brewery in the world.

Brewing stalwart Heineken showed edie around the Gösser beer brewery – which has reduced its carbon emissions from around 3,000 tonnes a year right down to zero – in the village of Göss.

The facility produces 1.4 million bottles of lager daily through 100% renewable and re-usable energy sources. A new boiling system uses less electricity and water, and 90% of waste heat is re-used to heat water. What’s more, hydropower, solar photovoltaics, biogass generated from spent grain fermentation and waste heat from a nearby sawmill have all contributed in reducing the facility’s footprint to zero.

Edging out London’s finest

While this building wasn’t’ designed by its occupants, the architects responsible do give professional services firm Deloitte some of the credit for designing the highest-ever BREEAM rated building.

Created by developer OVG Real Estate and London-based PLP Architecture, the Edge in Amsterdam was awarded a 98.36 accredited score in 2015 by BRE. The 430,000-sq.ft building acts as the offices for Deloitte and outscores PWC’s One Embankment Place in London.

A 15-story atrium is filled with natural light, while Philip’s Ethernet-powered LED lights can be controlled by employees from their smartphones. Load-bearing structures consist of smaller openings to provide “thermal mass” and shade, while solar panels are deployed on the roof. An underground aquifer thermal energy storage system generates 100% of the power required for heating and cooling.

Ford puts a lofty price on sustainability

Do many companies have the funds to relocate 30,000 employees from 70 offices in an effort to centralise management, while also generating more energy than they consume? Well, if a company has $1.2bn to spare then this might be worth considering.

That is the rumoured but unconfirmed price of Ford’s impressive revamp of its eye-catching Dearbon Campus, which will be transformed alongside global headquarters. The retrofit-of-sorts will equip the 60-year-old building with the tools to reduce water and energy use by 50%. The project is expected to take more than a decade to complete.

Autonomous cars and eBikes will transport employees around campus, with on-site gardens growing food and composting waste. Storm water management systems will use green roofs and harvesting techniques to reduce water consumption. Overall, the buildings will use less energy than it produces through renewable arrays. It seems Ford is going all out to promote its innovation drive on a wider scale.

Sustainability in the air on Air Street 

Nestled in the heart of one of London’s busiest shopping districts – and winner of edie’s Sustainable Building of the Year award at the 2015 E&E Awards – The Crown Estate’s 7 Air Street is the first Grade 2-listed building ever to achieve the notorious BREEAM 2011 Outstanding rating.

The 7 Air Street building is connected to a unique central energy centre powered by fuel-cell technology, which saves more than 350 tonnes of carbon emissions each year while providing power to 500,000sq.ft of commercial and residential accommodation along Regent Street. Low-energy air conditioning, LED lighting and 23kW rooftop solar panels add to the scheme’s energy efficiency initiatives, while and a highly-effective building envelope drastically reduces its heating and cooling requirements.

Additional sustainability features include extensive bicycle provision to promote worker health and wellbeing; and an ecological roof which is designed to attract insects, birds and bats, and offers workers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces during the day. The project has preserved and extended the usable lifespan of two listed buildings, massively enhancing occupier appeal and contributing to rental value and let-ability.

edie’s green buildings month

The month of October will see edie shift the editorial spotlight from energy efficiency to green buildings. From new-build to retrofit; construction to building controls, this month of content will highlight the array of options available to improve the performance of buildings.

Stay tuned for exclusive news stories, in-depth features and a special Sustainable Business Covered podcast episode which will investigate the latest techniques, the best management systems and the different steps UK businesses can take to increase the efficiency of their building stock and drive environmental performance.

Matt Mace

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