Katri Parovuori is a Senior Business Advisor at Helsinki Business Hub and a smart & cleantech enthusiast.
Have you heard of a closed-loop waste water system, where grey water (water from showers and sinks) is returned after purification to the system as drinking water? Or a composting toilet system that uses only two tablespoons of water per flush?
The above examples are solutions implemented in the Bullitt Center in Seattle, where they’ve wanted to build the greenest office building in the world using existing commercial solutions. I recently visited the Bullitt Center and few other ecologically built green office buildings in North America. All buildings were equipped with energy, material and water solutions that seek to burden the environment as little as possible. We need this type of public showrooms in Finland too.
I think building technology is always interesting, especially if it aims to bring something totally new and different to design and construction. Solar panels, geothermal heat systems, natural ventilation, green roofs, daylight maximization and rainwater harvesting and purification are building blocks that can be used to minimize the environmental impacts of public buildings. Timber structures reduce the carbon footprint right from the construction phase. Other elements of a living, green building include harmless building materials, good access to public transport services and a closed-loop water system.
However, whether a building is ultimately environmentally friendly is determined by how it is used, and by the people who use it. The starting point for the design of the Bullitt Center has been to encourage and study changes in human behavior. The building is equipped with screens on which every visitor can monitor in real time its energy production and consumption as well as performance against targets. Those working in the building are encouraged to use the stairs instead of the lift and to come to work by public transport or by bike. In many office buildings the stairs are hidden, but in the Bullitt Center they are the first things that the visitor sees when arriving at the front entrance. Large windows and extended landings, on which you can greet a passing friend or enjoy the incredible views, attract people. The building provides parking for bikes only. It’s simply fascinating.
Buildings applying new environmentally friendly approaches are not only interesting for the people who build them or work in them, but also for the general public. The Bullitt Center organizes open tours in the building for the public that seems to be very keen to learn about the new green solutions. And no wonder. The similar solutions will become part of our everyday lives sooner or later.
Finland has an amazing amount of talent, competing solutions and revolutionary technologies available that are paving the way for smart green solutions. If you haven’t yet heard of such commercial products from Finland, it’s because we don’t make enough noise of the existing solutions. But we should, because we have a lot to show. Finland need’s its own Bullitt Centers to collectively open up our smart and clean innovations to the public and shout out loud, what exciting opportunities we have to offer. Anyone up for the challenge?
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