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October 20, 2014
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Home > Environment > Green Building > Introduction

Green Building

Intro to Green Building

Building construction and operation requires vast amounts of resources. A study by the World Watch Institute suggests that these activities account for one-sixth of the world's fresh water withdrawals, one quarter of its wood harvest, and 40 percent of its material and energy flows. Green building techniques make more effective use of these resources and reduce the environmental impact of structures over their lifetime.

What is a Green Building?
A green building is any structure that is built, renovated, or operated in an environmentally-friendly fashion. This characterization is broad, but there are several specific standards that help define which buildings qualify as green. These standards typically focus on the following areas:

  • Site design
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Materials
  • Indoor environmental quality

A building exhibiting a combination of these benefits may qualify for various levels of certification by third party groups. The U.S. Green Building Council recently released the most widely accepted standard, which is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). A broad-based group comprised of all segments of the building industry developed LEED over a five-year period.

Benefits of Green Building
The goal of green building is to lessen the impact of a structure on the environment while improving the quality of life for its occupants. Some benefits are easy to economically quantify, such as reduced water and energy consumption. Often, the savings from these features over the life of the building will more than pay for the initial cost. Improved occupant health, increased productivity, reduced stormwater runoff and the use of recycled and sustainably harvested products are more difficult to assess financially. Since not all green buildings need to be built to the same level of certification, it is possible to construct a legitimate green building at little or no additional cost.

Examples Green Building Techniques
The following list provides a few examples of green building techniques.

Site design

  • Control erosion with silt fencing, sediment traps, construction phasing, stabilization of steep slopes, and maintenance of vegetated ground cover.
  • Utilize sites that are located within densely developed areas.
  • Rehabilitate brownfields sites.

Water efficiency

  • Use captured rain or recycled site water to reduce potable water consumption for irrigation or other non-potable applications.
  • Reduce water use with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.

Energy efficiency

  • Use ground-source geo-thermal heat pumps to reduce energy requirements
  • Purchase power generated from renewable sources.
  • Use high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment.

Materials

  • Reuse existing structures during redevelopment projects.
  • Provide a dedicated area for the collection and storage of recyclable materials.
  • Use recycled-content or rapidly renewable materials in building construction.

Indoor environmental quality

  • Establish minimum indoor air quality standards and routinely test for performance.
  • Increase the exchange of inside and outside air in the ventilation system.
  • Reduce the quantity of materials that emit indoor pollutants.

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