- Bill Starkey
What Is Green Building, and Why Is It So Important?
Green buildings are structures that lessen or eliminate negative impacts on the environment through their design, construction, or operation. Some green buildings can even have an advantageous environmental impact. Green buildings enhance our quality of life as well as preserve precious natural resources.
Any building, including homes, offices, community centers, hospitals, and schools, can qualify as a green building. Green buildings can vary from one country or region to the next according to a variety of different factors, including distinctive climatic conditions; diverse building types; wide-ranging economic, environmental, and social priorities; and unique traditions and cultures.
What is a green building?
To qualify as a green building, a structure must meet several criteria, including:
Good indoor air quality
Incorporation of renewable energy, such as solar power
A design that facilitates adaptation to environmental changes
Consideration of the construction’s environmental impact in its operation, design, and construction
Measures to reduce waste and pollution and promote recycling and reuse
Adoption of ethical, sustainable, and non-toxic materials
Consideration of the occupants’ quality of life throughout operation, design, and construction
The growth and development of communities all over the world have had a massive impact on local environments. The design, construction, and operation of buildings in which people live and work necessitate the consumption of vast amounts of natural resources. For instance, in America, buildings account for 30 percent of landfill waste, 39 percent of overall energy use, 68 percent of electricity consumption, 12 percent of domestic water consumption, and 38 percent of CO2 emissions.
In addition to conserving and restoring natural resources, green building reduces waste streams, improves water and air quality, and enhances and protects ecosystems and biodiversity. As well as its numerous tangible ecological benefits, green building also confers a variety of economic advantages. These include reduced operational costs, improved occupant productivity, optimized economic performance through the building’s lifecycle, and increased asset value and profits.
At a societal level, green building enhances the comfort and health of building occupants by improving the quality of the air, minimizing strain on local utility infrastructure, and ultimately bettering the quality of life.
Large-scale green building programs underway
Operated by the Green Built Alliance, the Green Built Homes Certification Program is a residential green building rating program that relies on third-party inspectors to rate and certificate homes. Meanwhile, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, has established a standard green building measurement framework. Implemented by the US Green Building Council, LEED is a rating scheme for institutional and commercial constructions.
Green Gauge with Home Energy Score helps homeowners reduce energy usage, enabling them to not only minimize their carbon footprint but save money at the same time. Green Gauge analyzes a variety of different criteria, including building material sustainability, water and energy usage, indoor air quality, landscape ecology, and site walkability, to determine how green each home is. The assessment is completed using the US Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score, a systematic approach that provides reliable, science-based analysis of each home’s energy characteristics and total energy efficiency, graded on a scale of 1 to 10.
What strides are being made in the green building industry?
With the impact of climate change becoming increasingly visible in countries all over the world, more and more professionals have begun to prioritize energy efficiency in recent years across a variety of different industries. Research shows that the long-term growth and development of larger communities have a profound impact on the surrounding natural environment. Experts are starting to focus on the large-scale design and construction of green buildings to provide people with a more responsible way to consume natural resources, with green buildings not just improving the local environment but providing healthy atmospheres free from unnecessary waste and pollution.
When it opened in 2010, the Pixel Building in Melbourne, Australia, made history as the country’s first carbon-neutral office building. It independently generates all its water and power on-site; supports process wastewater, the roof captures rainwater, and a series of vertical wind turbines generate electricity. Meanwhile, the construction’s colorful panels maximize daylight as well as provide shade.
The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, may stand just six stories high, but it has had a colossal impact in sustainability circles since its unveiling on Earth Day 2013. The building’s 575 solar panels generate more energy than it consumes annually. The Bullitt Center creates 100 percent of its energy on-site, which has earned it a Living Building Certificate.
As we move through the 2020s beneath the shadow of global warming, sustainability is becoming increasingly important, particularly in construction. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are pivotal in terms of developing a new generation of green buildings.