Definition of Green Building

What Is a Green Building?


Based on sustainable design principles, green buildings are those that are designed and built in a way that have minimal environmental impact throughout the entire building life-cycle. Green building designs can be applied to any kind of building, including residential homes, schools, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, laboratories, and many others.

Constructing more sustainable buildings is very important as they use an enormous amount of energy, water, electricity, and resources.  The WBDG’s report states that building in the United States use “39% of America's energy and 68% of its electricity. Furthermore, buildings emit 38% of the carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas associated with climate change).”[1]

The environmental issues addressed in green building design broadly include:

  • Energy efficiency: This includes the energy used for manufacturing building components, the energy used during construction and deconstruction, and building maintenance. Also included in this category is the goal to have the building generating some of its own renewable energy through solar, wind, geothermal, etc.
  • Water efficiency: A green building will be one that manages local water efficiently, including fresh and marine water sources, groundwater, rainwater, stormwater runoff, landscape water, and grey water. Green buildings will also endeavor to minimize water pollution.
  • Eco building materials: During construction and renovation, green buildings should make use of environmentally-preferable materials, such as those made from renewable resources, locally-available materials, recycled materials, biodegradable materials, nontoxic materials, and recyclable materials.
  • Waste reduction: A green building construction and deconstruction site will manage waste to reduce it as much as possible and divert what remains to recycling and reuse facilities. Waste must also be managed during the regular operation of the building.
  • Toxics reduction: Understanding that nontoxic buildings are healthier for occupants and the planet, green buildings are those that minimize the use of health-harming materials.
  • Indoor air quality: In addition to reducing materials that might pollute indoor air, green buildings will have exceptional air movement and filtration systems to maintain healthy indoor air quality for its occupants.

Green buildings are good for the environment by protecting local ecosystems, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air and water quality, and conserving natural resources, but they’re also good for people:

  • Green buildings help boost employee productivity and health
  • Green buildings reduce operating costs
  • Green buildings are beautiful to look at, live in, and work in
  • Green buildings fit into larger sustainable development infrastructure for cities and human communities

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the most widely used green building program in the world. However, many countries have developed their own green building standards:

References

1. Optimize Energy Use. December 21, 2010. WBDG Sustainable Committee. Retrieved February 7, 2011. http://www.wbdg.org/design/minimize_consumption.php
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