High-Performance Green Building & Sustainability

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

With increasing amounts of scientific research regarding global warming and the resulting heightened public awareness of the role humans play in processes of environmental degradation, it has become apparent that effective solutions must involve ubiquitous and comprehensive transformation. We are an integral part of our natural environment and with an awakened understanding of our uniqueness as planetary stewards, we must envision and create our present and future in harmony with nature. Since the founding of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993 research has shown that buildings account for up to 48% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings also consume significant amounts of water, raw materials and electricity and produce large quantities of waste. High-performance properties (green buildings) significantly reduce their impact on the environment and human health.

A commercial green building is considered to be one certified by the LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System of the USGBC. The LEED rating system is categorized as follows: New Construction (NC), Commercial Interiors (CI), Core and Shell (CS), Existing Buildings (EB), Homes (H) and Neighborhood Development (ND). Within each category buildings are rated at the Certified, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. Green buildings yield important benefits to owners, managers, businesses and employees compared to conventional (“brown”) construction including increased occupant health and well being, building value, worker productivity and return on investment. As the economic benefits of high performance buildings are more widely recognized, non-green buildings may likely become obsolete. Architecture 2030, NGO and partner of the American Institute of Architects, has proposed that by 2030 all new buildings should operate as carbon neutral.

The major concern often raised when considering the design of a high-performance building is cost. On first mention, green construction sometimes triggers a perceived higher cost, possibly because of the newness of the concept. Fortunately, through the application of integrated design, high-performance buildings can be designed on conventional budgets. Efficient equipment such as HVAC, coupled with an efficient building that requires less energy to run, allows for efficient and smaller systems, thus reducing overall cost.

Green building is also a question of conscience and responsibility to prepare a healthy and sustainable future for generations to come. Humans have coexisted in nature for millennia and only flocked in large numbers to industrialized urban centers in the past 150 years. In that process we adopted lifestyles detached from natural processes. Today, through the green building revolution, we have an opportunity to reintegrate our urban culture with the natural environment and reconnect with our indigenous roots in a way that is congruent with modern culture and that guarantees our own future on the planet.

Bibliography

Yudelson, Jerry. Green Building A to Z: Understanding the Language of Green Building. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2007.

. Green Building Revolution, The. Washington: Island Press, 2008.

About the USGBC

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization whose vision is a sustainable-built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since USGBC's founding in 1993, the Council has grown to include more than 17,000 member companies and organizations; a comprehensive family of LEED green building rating systems; an expansive educational offering; the industry's popular Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (www.greenbuildexpo.org); and a network of 78 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org.