Characteristics of a Green Building
Standards are evolving around the world to help define, quantify and certify green compliance. We, at Green Living, Inc., work closely with the United States Green Building Council standard, which is the authority overseeing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process. Other sustainability measurement criteria systems exist around the world such as the ISO 9000/14000 standards, the European Building Performance Certificate Methodolgy, Energy Star and the U.K.'s BREEAM Assessment Standard.
In nature, there are many shades of green. Therefore, green living has to be about balance. Extreme green is not sustainable, particularly in developing countries where the practical reality of green is an evolving process that every day grows greener. We believe in green by example, through cooperation and collaboration.
Underlying all certification processes is the intent to educate and inspire everyone to be more green. After all, we are all in this together.
In practice, the following list summarizes the general principles that all builders can apply immediately to reduce their impact on the environment and thereby take real, concrete steps toward the goal of true sustainability.
Storm Water Management
Retention ponds and cisterns for harvesting runoff for irrigation, planted filtration strips, green roofs and lush foliage over impervious surfaces are systems which filter pollutants before water returns to the aquifer.
Water Efficient Landscaping
Landscaping with indigenous plants, native species that don’t depend on fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation cuts costs while reducing the introduction of chemicals and inorganic matter into the local ecosystem.
Rapidly Renewable Resources
Using building materials that regenerate quickly such as bamboo and cork reduces the depletion of limited resources and the velocity of ecosystem destruction around the world.
Low VOC Materials
Volatile Organic Compounds and other hazardous materials used in construction pose a risk to general health. Alternatives exist and are specified wherever possible.
Indoor Air Quality
Designing for proper airflow throughout indoor environments reduces the need for mechanical processing. Selecting green finishes, fixtures and furnishings reduces VOC contamination, energy costs and also contributes to the good health of occupants.
High Thermal Mass
Better heat transfer, therefore, cooling can be achieved within buildings constructed with a high thermal mass, consuming less energy than comparable conventional constructions.
Skylights, light wells and light windows along with the use of eaves, overhangs and other shading devices help reduce lighting energy costs by 20 to 60 percent.
Designed right, air cools as it flows into the building by displacing warm air, creating a natural convection that cools naturally while cutting down dependency on energy consuming electro-mechanical air conditioning systems.
Proper Building Siting
Going with Nature increases efficiency. Orienting a building to respond to the solar path optimizes the utilization of natural air convection as well as maximizing sunlight and shade where needed.
Reaching first for recycled materials reduces waste and cuts down the load on municipal infrastructures. Local economies expand as value is extracted from the transformation of waste into reusable materials.
For more information on green building design, review our resource list. Click here.
* Definition of Sustainable Development, U.N. Brundtland Commission, 1983.