Green building standards encourage construction workers and firms to positively impact the environment through more sustainable methods.
Green Building Technology
Green building standards encourage construction workers and firms to positively impact the environment through more sustainable methods — but green building isn't just about the environment. Studies project that green building construction will directly and indirectly support more than 3.3 million jobs by 2018; projections also show that constructing buildings to green standards significantly reduces facility operating costs and energy usage costs. In financial terms, projected maintenance savings from green buildings will translate to $715.3 million by 2018.
Green Building Criteria and Standards
Criteria written by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating system for new construction establish a framework for green design and construction. In addition, the USGBC partnered with ANSI, ASHRAE, and the IES to issue the Standard for the Design of High Performance Green Buildings except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. This comprehensive, code-based standard defines the differences between typical building construction sites and green building construction sites. In the United States, more than 100 certifications exist for green building materials.
The construction of a green building requires adherence to mandatory codes that specify materials and equipment that meet established environmental standards. In addition, green building codes cover the need for meeting prescribed requirements that may cover energy use performance targets or water conservation objectives.
Distinguishing Factors for Green Building Construction
Key differences that set green building construction apart from standard construction include site selection, materials usage, water conservation, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. To lessen impacts on the environment, the selection of sustainable construction sites prohibits building locations near farmland, storm water systems, and sewers. The use of green materials involves recycled, renewable, or reused products that meet or surpass the quality and durability of traditional construction materials.
Green building design also considers human physical and emotional health through its emphasis on light sources throughout each building and the use of proper ventilation systems. Developing a quality indoor environment also depends on avoiding paints, carpet materials, and finishes that may emit hazardous substances over time. Rather than using conventional interior-grade building materials (such as those that may utilize urea-formaldehyde binders), green buildings use formaldehyde-free fiberboards. Good air quality in green buildings also depends on the use of paints and finishes that contain very little volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Green building standards also specify the use of low-flow fixtures that conserve water. For example, a facility may employ dual plumbing systems that recycle water and include water-efficient fittings and low flushing toilets. Water conservation methods — such as the use of grey water for maintaining landscaped areas and the selection of plants used for landscaping — are also detailed. Along with water conservation, green building standards emphasize the importance of energy conservation. The use of renewable energies, such as the installation of solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, cuts energy consumption.