Everything is going green from cars to clothes to what we eat and where we vacation. Green buildings are the next step in the crusade for the environment and are no longer restricted to private homes or eccentric designers.
Going green has several benefits for the building owners and for the environment. The only downside for many is construction cost since eco friendly building materials do tend to be slightly more expensive than traditional materials. Most are fine with the increase in prices since it will pay off in the long run with reductions in the price of utilities.
Going green is becoming very popular with over 50,000 such homes being constructed in just the past decade alone. Whole communities devoted to being ecologically friendly are springing up and even professional buildings are joining the cause. At this rate, many experts believe that a majority of new homes and buildings will soon be all green with older structures being converted in an effort to reduce energy costs and consumption.
There are a large number of materials available on the market today that can be used in the construction of environmentally friendly buildings. From the outside, to the inside, savvy builders are implementing new technology and reused materials in a way that benefits the environment. In fact, many cities and states are looking into implementing guidelines requiring new buildings to be more eco-friendly.
There are many companies offering green building materials for the exterior and interior. Before beginning construction it is important to consider a few key points that will help determine what type of eco friendly materials should be used in construction.
With the variety of construction materials some of the materials will not be suitable in every environment. Builders have to take into consideration what it will take to heat and cool buildings during the winter and summer months when energy consumption for homes and offices are higher. If the materials used make it more difficult to keep the home cool then it will still be damaging to the environment even if the material is eco-friendly in itself.
The importance of recycled materials is worth repeating. There are several building materials on the market that are created using recycled content. Concrete, pipes, carpet, all have recycled counterparts. By buying recycled goods, the consumer is helping complete the cycle that reduces landfill waste and strains on the environment.
Of course, it is wise to purchase eco-friendly materials locally when possible. Most do not take transportation cost into consideration when ordering construction materials. Purchasing local materials will cut down the effects of transportation such as gas usage and harmful emissions.
So, what are some specific benefits of building green? These vary in several fields but all have an overreaching benefit. With the reduction of waste and harmful effects that buildings have on the environment, it will improve the quality of life.
Building a green home or building will aid in improving air and water quality which is becoming a major concern for communities the world over. By using recycled materials, these green buildings will help to conserve natural resources that are being rapidly depleted. The overall operating costs of green buildings have proven to be cheaper in the long run then traditional buildings. As more green buildings sprout up, the demand for them grows creating a very healthy trend that is pretty much guaranteed to continue throughout the years.
“Green Building” is a broad term used to describe the design and construction of sustainable and environmentally conscious buildings.
The driving force behind this is to lower our negative impact on the environment and, at the same time, make the buildings we live and work in safer and healthier for us.
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) statistics, buildings are responsible for all of the following:
- 39% of US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
- 70% of US electricity consumption
- 15 trillion gallons of water consumption
Even though there is still some controversy over the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment, the last two statistics are very important for those of us living in urban areas experiencing continuous growth, especially the American Southwest. With our population expansion, aging water and electrical infrastructure, and shrinking landfills, designing and constructing green and sustainable buildings makes practical sense from a utilitarian perspective.
In fact, USGBC data shows that green buildings use 36% less energy, require fewer raw materials, and divert less waste to our landfills. Furthermore, the “increased” cost of green building is only one or two percent more expensive than a conventional building. This minute difference exemplifies the tangible and long-term benefits of sustainable design, primarily due to the fact that green buildings conserve water and electricity. Thus, while they are more expensive to build, green structures will save money by conserving more energy over time.
Another push towards the green build movement is by local governments. More and more municipalities are adopting the USGBC LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines for new and renovated buildings. In 2006, at the USGBC Greenbuild expo, the Mayor of Denver challenged other major cities to see who can have the most LEED® certified green buildings. They are accomplishing this by offering tax breaks to private corporations and mandating sustainable construction for city-financed projects.
This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of sustainable projects built by LEED® Certified general contractors. However, this growth has not come without challenges. Currently, the following issues are restricting the number of green projects being built:
- Increased demand for green products has lead to long lead times
- New and unspecified materials are labeled “green” products which are not necessarily certified
- Building officials are struggling with a steep learning curve on how to evaluate these new products and sustainable building techniques
Despite these difficulties, the USGBC, sustainability advocates, and green building construction management firms are meeting to overcome these challenges.
The LEED® process is constantly under review and continues to adopt the latest codes and products. This includes Standard 189, a new minimum standard for green building. The USGBC is currently developing LEED® 3.0 and working with national code writers to include new products and techniques.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has even rolled out a new initiative called “Sustainability 2030,” which at its roots, is looking to design all buildings by the year 2030 as carbon neutral. The USGBC has even initiated the Green Advantage Builders Certification for contractors to certify their knowledge in green building techniques.
So what does green building mean at the end of the day? It’s simple yet profound: Do the right thing for you, the environment, and the next generation. While most companies are concerned with their bottom line, they ought to embrace the idea that energy and water conservation, green building, and the use of “green materials” in construction stands to increase their savings over time while positioning them as a leader in environmental stewardship.
According to the USGBC, we spend 90% of our time indoors. Due to this fact, scientists have identified an increase in allergies, asthma, absenteeism from school, and even work. There have been numerous studies done on post occupancy productivity levels, which have increased within “green” built facilities. Not only does green adaptation result in less sick days taken, but also shows an increase in productivity, job
satisfaction, and in the case of schools, better grades.