Our Favorite Ted Talk on the Tradeoffs of Green Building
“Sometimes it’s the things that you are not expecting to be the biggest changes… that are.”
– Catherine Mohr
The Ted Talk by next-generation surgical robot and robotic surgical procedure developer, Catherine Mohr, has quickly become one of our favorites at PMA Technologies.
Mohr’s topic of choice here, however, isn’t about the science of surgery. Rather, it’s about the science of energy through green building. As she and her husband were building a new home with an emphasis on green, they asked themselves the question: “How green can we be?”
Most green-building articles focus on green finishes like using hardwood vs. carpeting and don’t require tremendous lifestyle alterations. Mohr realized that if she wanted an optimally green home, she couldn’t merely make minor “tweaks” to surface materials. Those are the kinds of surface level changes that come to mind first, but don’t move the needle significantly.
A Project Built On Data Vs. Fluff
While the most popular improvements are easy, the real strides are made by complex, intensive efforts driven by measurable data; thus in lies the trade-off of green building.
Impacting energy numbers in a meaningful way meant Mohr and her husband would have to start from the ground up. So they focused on limiting the amount of embodied energy in the building process.
What does this type of energy entail? Consider all of the processes utilized in a building’s production, including the extraction of natural resources, processing, manufacturing, transport, and construction. The total amount of non-renewable energy involved in this part of the building cycle is embodied energy. If the embodied energy from the building is lower, the impact on the environment is much lower as well, in turn yielding a greener home.
With this in mind, Mohr took calculated measures to:
- Reduce embodied energy by 25% by using high fly ash concrete
- Halve energy by using wood vs. aluminum windows
- Identify energy alternatives such as sprayed in cellulose instead of spray foam insulation, EcoRock instead of standard sheetrock, and wood instead of carpeting.
In total, Mohr and her husband built a house for less than half of the typical embodied energy used for normally building a house of the same type.
Imagine if she had only worried about addressing the finishes which only account for about 10-20% of a homes embodied energy use. Surely, the results would’ve been quite different.
Drilling down to value true data in a more practical manner is a concept we can relate well to at PMA Technologies. There are many articles that focus on project management innovation but in most cases, we question how deeply these advancements can improve execution and move a project forward.
Conversely, tools such as NetPoint and NetRisk are powered by sophisticated algorithms so project managers can act on precise data in real time to make better decisions. Just as Mohr was able to optimize green building on her home project based on measurable energy numbers, the sophisticated data found within our software creates strong opportunities to optimize project schedules.
To facilitate collaboration, arrive at quality scheduling and communicate project characteristics faster, we are always better served to rely on the power of deeper metrics. Not hype.