“Green building” is a phrase often used in casual or professional conversation to refer to building structures that are made with environmentally responsible or “renewable” materials and are powered by environmentally-friendly systems. What the term actually means, however, is often vague.
What Does “Green Building” Mean?
There is no official definition of “green building.” According to the World Green Building Council (WBGC), a green building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment.
Green buildings should preserve natural resources and improve our quality of life. What makes a building green? The WBGC defines a green building as one that:
- Uses energy, water and other natural resources efficiently.
- Uses renewable energy, such as solar energy.
- Uses recycling and reduces pollution and waste.
- Uses systems that promote good indoor air quality.
- Uses construction materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable.
- Takes into consideration the environment in its design, construction and operation.
- Considers occupants’ quality of life in its design, construction and operation.
- Uses a design that enables adaptation to a changing environment.
A green building can be any kind of building — a home, office, school, hospital, hotel, or any other type of structure that fits the criteria listed above.
In the United States, a certification process is available for green buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a building certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes green building. The LEED certification process was developed to enhance environmental awareness among architects and building contractors, and to encourage the design and construction of energy-efficient, water-conserving buildings that use sustainable or green resources and materials.
The LEED certification process uses a point system to determine the environmental merits of a building. Points are awarded based on site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, location and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design, and regional priority. Different rating systems apply to homes, commercial buildings, renovations, public structures, and other projects. For most projects, there are four levels of LEED certification, depending on how many points the project has earned: certified, silver, gold, or platinum.
Benefits Of Green Building
There are many benefits of green buildings, some readily apparent and some less so.
One of the most important benefits of green buildings is the impact on the natural environment. The construction industry is one of several industries having the highest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By the year 2050, as CO2 emissions could be reduced by as much as 84 gigatonnes through improved energy efficiency and using renewable energy when feasible.
Green buildings can reduce, and in some cases eliminate, negative impacts on the environment. They use fewer natural resources than traditional buildings, and some green buildings can have a net positive impact on the environment by generating their own energy.
Green buildings produce less greenhouse gas emissions than average and use less potable water. Green buildings that have achieved LEED certification in the United States and other countries have been found to consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water than non-green buildings.
Green buildings provide economic benefits to the owners and occupants. These include cost savings on utility bills due to improved energy and water efficiency, lower construction costs, higher property values in response to the growing demand for green structures, and lower overall operating costs for building owners.
Global energy efficiency measures could reduce energy spending by almost double the United States’s annual electricity consumption, according to some estimates. Additionally, according to the USGBC, green building is projected to account for more jobs in the United States. Some building owners have reported that the value of their green buildings increased by as much as 7 per cent compared to traditional buildings.
Health & Social Benefits
Green buildings offer intangible benefits to the health and wellbeing of occupants. Workers in green homes have better indoor air quality, which means better sleep and improved cognitive performance.
Green buildings use non-toxic materials in their construction. Using carpet, drywall, insulation, and cabinets that do not emit carcinogens or harbor mold means the occupants will likely suffer fewer allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or other health issues. Many builders recognize that many people want environmentally safe building materials in their building, and they are willing to pay for it.
For most people, the cost of utilities and water consumption are some of the biggest monthly expenses. Cutting those costs through improved energy efficiency means more money in your pocket each month.
The United States Government uses Energy Star ratings for most appliances to encourage energy efficiency. Constructing a green building often involves using highly-rated Energy Star appliances to maximize efficiency.
Speak To A Wholesale Lumber Supplier Today!
For more information about green building and green materials, talk to the experts at Curtis Lumber and Plywood. They can answer your questions about all of the green products they have available, and help you decide how to best implement them in your building.