Green building is a phrase which refers to the implementation and use of environmentally-friendly practices and materials in the location, design, construction, operation and disposal of buildings and homes.
This noble concept applies to both renovation and retrofitting of existing buildings and construction of new buildings, whether residential or commercial, public or private. The trend for creating greener buildings and structures is now viewed as an important instrument for positive change in the building industry.
Building Green Helps To Improve The Overall Quality Of Life
By continuously improving the process of locating, designing, building, operating and retrofitting buildings and homes, developers and policy makers would do a lot in improving the well-being of the community. The use of advanced energy-saving technologies applied in buildings could in effect result in considerable reductions in demand for fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases.
Implementing more-improved design and building practices can also aid in addressing environmental concerns like natural resource depletion, sewage and waste disposal, as well as air, water, and soil pollution. The concepts behind green building can also help assist the gains in human health and prosperity.
However, despite the huge potentials for transformation, going green in building homes and structures still represents a small percentage of building in North America. Some estimate that green building currently accounts for just around two percent of the new non-residential building segment in the US, and 0.3 percent of the residential market. In Canada, green building trends are generally thought to be similar to those in the US, while in Mexico, there are no reliable figures to show the extent or levels to which green building exists in the marketplace.
Applying Green Building Concepts Help Create Superior Work Environments
It’s a fact that buildings and structures created using green building principles have a lesser negative impact on the environment than conventional buildings. Applying environment-friendly construction methods help in minimizing the use of natural resources by using alternative building materials, and also recycles construction waste rather than sending these to landfills.
Majority of a green building’s interior spaces are also equipped with natural lighting and outdoor views, efficient heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, as well as in using low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials like paint, flooring, and furniture to create a superior and much healthier indoor air quality.
Just a few years ago, the term “green building” would generally evoke visions of tree-hugging, granola-munching individual who walks barefoot and sleeps on straw mats. These days however, the term goes beyond the usual hype, and offers developers and home builders concrete benefits like lower overhead costs, increased employee productivity, less absenteeism, and better employee attraction and retention.
New York released new guidelines to encourage the use of energy-efficient design when building and renovating schools.
The state will pay out more than $1.7 billion in building aid in 2007. Building aid can be used to help fund the construction and renovation of “green” schools. And, depending on the wealth of the district, the state may reimburse up to 98 percent of those costs.
The voluntary guidelines, known as the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NY-CHPS), were created through a joint effort between the New York State Education Department and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. NY-CHPS will help schools develop and maintain learning environments that contribute to improved academic achievement while reducing operating costs and protecting and conserving our natural resources.
“We know that green buildings use less energy, require less material costs, use less natural resources and emit less pollution ? including greenhouse gases,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis. “Initiatives such as these encourage schools across the state to move toward green buildings, helping to create smarter, cleaner, healthier communities and a stronger environment.”
Schools built according to the NY-CHPS guidelines are durable, easy to maintain, healthy, energy-efficient and comfortable. These improvements contribute to a better learning environment that has been shown to contribute to reduced absenteeism and better teacher and staff retention.
Some have argued that building energy efficient schools is too costly. But recent studies show that those arguments no longer hold up. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, for example, studied 30 high performance schools nationwide and showed that although additional upfront costs ranged between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent more than conventional schools, these green schools provided significant long-term financial benefits, saving the district many times that amount over the long term. Savings can accrue from reduced energy use, reduced water and sewer use, reduced equipment maintenance and replacement costs, reduced site maintenance, reduced liability costs, and even reduced costs due to lower teacher absenteeism.
“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.