U.S. Green Building Council

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leafIntroduction to Green Building: (Getting Started)
Green building design involves the efficient use of resources so that the building and the construction methods used have a reduced negative impact on human health and the natural environment. Green building design accomplishes this goal through the use of efficiently using energy, water and other natural resources and reducing waste and pollution through the use of sustainable, renewable, and recyclable materials. Green building design takes into account the building’s entire lifecycle, and focuses on aspects throughout that lifecycle, such as better citing, demolition, design, construction, operation and maintenance. Effective green building design can lead to reduced environmental impacts, improved health and lower operating costs.

Why build green? The built environment has a vast impact on the natural environment, human health, and the economy. By adopting Sustainable or “green building” design and construction strategies we can maximize both economic and environmental performance, creating healthier and more energy-efficient homes. Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction. However, the most significant benefits can be obtained if the design and construction team takes an integrated approach from the earliest stages of a building project. Although there is no magic formula, success comes in the form of leaving a lighter footprint on the environment through conservation of resources, while at the same time balancing energy-efficient, cost-effective, low-maintenance products for our construction needs.

Green building design is often referred to as sustainable building or Eco-friendly architecture. Eco-friendly architecture is becoming more popular all over the country. This form of sustainable building takes into account a larger view of the world and the impact we have on it. Eco-friendly architecture aims to maintain environmental balance in its buildings and in surrounding areas (as well as preserve non-renewable resources). With the growing interest in “green” building over the past several decades, there are more options to choose from if you want to incorporate some eco-friendly designs into your next project.

The Basics:
Despite more awareness about green building, there is still a lot of confusion about exactly what green building is. For most experts, there are five main characteristics that define it:

  • Having an environmentally friendly site selection or "footprint." Some of the factors involved are orientation of the house to maximize natural sunlight for heat and light, as well as shade for cooling. As a result, the home's furnace and air conditioning don't have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable house. Another goal is making a minimal impact on the area in which the house is built. Forget clear-cutting the entire lot; take down only the trees and bushes that would interfere with construction. The remaining trees can help cool the house in the summer and act as a windbreak in the winter. And locating the home near shopping and other services will keep the amount of driving down — a win for the entire environment.

  • Using energy efficient designs and materials while building a "tighter" home to prevent HVAC loss. The use of sunlight and shade for heating and cooling is as old as mankind, but there are designs and materials specifically designed to keep the house nearly air-tight. With less outside air infiltrating the home, the indoor climate is much easier to control. LED lights use a fraction of regular incandescent bulbs, while Energy Star appliances are certified to meet strict guidelines about how much electricity they require to operate. Because higher insulation standards and Energy-Star-compliant appliances have evolved over the last few decades, energy efficiency is often the first place builders start when going green.

  • Reducing a home's water consumption through low-flow fixtures. It's true that the earliest low-flow plumbing fixtures caused problems for some homeowners, but today's versions are as good — if not better — than the old water hogs. One technology is the incorporation of air into the process; the result is a low-flow shower that feels just as strong as the one using much more water.

  • Promoting a healthy indoor air environment. Yes, air-tight houses are critical to energy efficiency, but an unwelcome result is indoor air quality that is five times more polluted than the air outdoors. Green builders often use some kind of fresh-air ventilation to exhaust the stale indoor air to the outside, bring in fresh air and conserve energy.

  • Emphasizing material conservation and waste reduction while using sustainable products in design and construction. Engineers in the building-materials business have designed all kinds of products to save lumber by using optimal value engineered (OVE) joists and beams that require minimal trimming and boring for mechanical runs. Green builders can go as far as recycling job-site waste and using it for mulch in the newly planted yard.
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