What do we mean by green building?
Here are some of the important principles to understand in green building techniques:
- Operating Energy – The amount of energy that is required to light, heat, cool, and ventilate your home throughout its life. Reducing the energy required to operate a home includes choosing high-quality, energy efficient windows and appliances; properly insulating to prevent unwanted heat losses and/or gains; and orienting the home and positioning the windows to take advantage of passive heating and cooling from the sun and wind.
- Embodied Energy – The amount of energy that was required to extract, manufacture, and transport the building materials contained in your home from their original source to their present site, as well as the energy required to assemble them. Reducing embodied energy means choosing materials that were extracted and/or manufactured locally (reducing transportation costs), and were created through energy-efficient manufacturing processes.
- Sustainability – “The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Consuming non-renewables for fuel is one major way we are currently compromising the interests of future generations. But other resources are also being depleted at unsustainable rates, including forests and water resources, both critical to the building process.
- Waste Generation – Waste is generated in the demolition of existing structures, as well as the construction of new ones. In order to reduce the waste generated from construction, builders can divert some materials out of the waste stream by recycling, including wood, metal, and concrete. Extra care may be taken in the use of new construction materials to minimize waste from off-cuts and mistakes in measuring and cutting.
- Health Effects – The health effects of buildings directly affect both the people that live and work in them, and those that build them. Modern homes are generally much more air-tight for efficiency than homes built 50 or 100 years ago. However, this tighter building envelope requires a ventilation system to bring fresh air into a house that used to come in through cracks and crevices. The best way to protect residents and workers from construction chemicals is to not bring them in the house. An alarming number of common construction materials contain VOC’s, formaldehyde, lead, asbestos and other harmful substances, which are best left out of the house! And proper ventilation of the enclosure can reduce exposure to radon and prevent the growth of mold.
- Ecological Footprint – The concept of the Ecological Footprint was introduced in a book called Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. It is a measurement of how much land is required to sustain a person, group of people, or power a building. Not surprisingly, the average US resident is thought to require 24 acres of productive land to support their lifestyle, while globally, only 4.5 productive acres are actually available per person. While the ecological footprint calculation is usually applied to people (as in myfootprint.org), the concept can be and is being applied to buildings as well.
See the following sections, Standard Practices and Our Vision, to learn how we incorporate these principles into our work.