What Makes a Building Green ?
At Freshome we’ve talked a great deal about about green homes and buildings. And while we know that you understand that “green” means environmentally friendly – we wanted to help you better understand what it really means for a building to be green. In the paragraphs below we break down for you what a building must have to be “green.” We go beyond talking about the raw, eco-friendly materials used for building, such as cork, bamboo, brick, reclaimed wood and granite.
What makes a building “green?”
A building that is green is often referred to as being sustainable, or environmentally friendly. This means that the design, construction and materials used for construction employ and incorporate an array of strategies that, together, make the building more energy efficient, healthier and don’t deplete natural resources. The use of sustainable materials is very important in building construction. But this is just one aspect of the overall process.
These materials must be used in such a manner that a building’s maintenance and costs are reduced. These materials will aid in energy conservation and improve occupant health and productivity. Greater design flexibility may result as well.
The description of a “green” building:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) best describes green building as “the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.” We were rather surprised to learn that in the United States there is no singular comprehensive federal green program. LEED has become the standard in the US, and there are others including The Green Building Initiative and The Architecture 2030 Initiative, both whom have their own practices and requirements.
The federal government offers tax breaks for those replacing older, low-efficiency appliances with new more energy-friendly models. Individually, state by state, new programs are being implemented. California seems to be leading this movement as its governor recently signed an executive order mandating that all new and renovated facilities must have a silver LEED or higher.
What is LEED?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. It has set the standard for today’s new building criteria – construction and design. It is the building tool that addresses the needs of the entire building and life-cycle from initial conception and design to maintenance.
Europe is ahead of the United States in sustainable building:
Europe, especially Germany and the Netherlands, and Asia, especially Japan, are considerably more advanced in sustainable building than the US is. For example, the Miho Museu in Kyoto, Japan (designed by Chinese architect IM Pei) was built with 80% of the structure underground so as to preserve the natural landscape. It is traditional for Asian buildings to be designed with the land in mind.
The US joins forces with International forces
On July 16, 2013 The US Green Buildings Council issued a press release announcing that the World Group Bank and The World Green Building Committee “will collaborate and rapidly scale up the construction of green buildings to emerging markets.” This new partnership reveals a mutual commitment to “playing a leadership role in transforming the built environment and mitigating climate change.” World Group Bank will connect its network of green building councils to IFC’s investment and advisory program with the intention of disclosing solutions to reduce energy, water and material usage bt 20%.
Furthermore this partnership “will focus on urbanizing countries with surging population growth that need to build sustainably.” Emphasis will be made to avoid emissions growth, bolster energy and minimize resource depletion. The built environment is expected to double by 2050 with China alone adding a potential 53 billion square feet – approximately the size of the entire building stock of Latin America!
In short, Green Materials will offer:
Specific benefits to owners and occupants which include but are not limited to:
Improved occupant health
Green materials are composed of renewable resources and they must:
Improve air quality
Be energy efficient
Conserve water, and
Green materials are:
Made up of recycled content
Contain natural, plentiful or renewable content
Salvaged or refurbished or remanufactured
Reusable or recycled
Durable – The must last longer than their conventional counterparts.
Worldwide building and construction activities consume 3 billion tons of raw (unprocessed) material which equals 40% of total building usage.