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» Learn About Green Building

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We’ve heard the term and chances are that some of us didn’t know what it was, or take the time to learn, but it is a practice that affects each and every one of us. A green building, or building green, is also known as sustainable building or environmentally sound building, and myriad other names.

“Green building is increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle.”(wikipedia Green Building).

As the saying goes, a horse by any other name. It still means when a building is designed, and/or renovated and redesigned, built, operated and also used in a manner that is ecologically sound and uses resources in as efficient a manner as possible, reducing as much as possible the impact of that particular building on the environment around it.

Green building is the wave of tomorrow and although it has been a long time in coming, it is a positive step toward a brighter future. There are multiple books, myriad councils and literally thousands of internet articles on the subject,

making it a new and fascinating and necessary thing to learn and to know, and would be useful not only in the industrial environment but also for use in a private home, or in other industries such as the premanufactured housing industry, who has, by and large not yet gotten on board.

Construction and buildings are one of the trades that have the largest impact on our environment and ecosystems.

Building green does tend to cost more on the surface, or in the beginning, but through the life of the building will be cost effective in that it lowers the operating costs of the building as a whole and lessens its impact on the environment around it.

Green building approaches use the application of a cost analysis of the life cycle of the building to find the correct exenditure for the up front portion of the building.

It is a method that will determine the costs to operate over what is called the “useful life of the asset.
(Right hand photo, Model of green landscaping)

These cost savings will be seen when they are begun to be planned for at the beginning of the building using a team of people who are experienced in professional planning of this type building using all types of systems that are integrated with each other, to function as a team of sorts, rather than a single stand alone type system.

This type planning which ensures that the building will be one streamlined type of system in and of itself and become part of the ecosystem around it rather than standing on its shoulders and costing more in terms of money and what it takes from the environment.

The multiple benefits of building in such a way include user comfort, improvements in the health of the owners or occupants, reduction in the pollutants that that the building engenders and lowered landfill waste from the building itself.

These benefits, which are not normally factored in, are rather, bonuses of a sort.

Some elements of Green Building are:

Choosing a site that is suited to taking advantage of car pooling, mass transit and factors that will aid in reducing the need for drive.

Protection of the landscape and natural features that are currently in the area.

Choosing landscaping items that have low water needs and will add to the natural order of things rather than to detract from it.

Using paving materials and furnishings that have been recycled.

Creating systems within the building that are energy efficient and use natural resources wisely, such as solar heating, taking advantage of natural lighting, energy efficient lighting systems and things like motion sensors that will lower the heating or lighting when it is not necessary. Kalihari, in Harlem.

Kalihari, green building in Harlem
Kalihari, green building in Harlem

Using building materials that are sustainable, such as recycled materials and furnishings, low residue materials non toxic wood products, and durable wood.

Create water efficiency plans for the building.

Making plans not only for the construction of the building, but also its destruction when it has served its useful life span.

“Recent studies reveal that buildings with good overall environmental quality can reduce the rate of respiratory disease, allergy, asthma, sick building symptoms, and enhance worker performance. The potential financial benefits of improving indoor environments exceed costs by a factor of 8 and 14 (Fisk and Rosenfeld, 1998).”

The City of San Diego has built the Ridgehaven Green building, which upon review achieved this paragraph.

“At a glance, the Ridgehaven Building appears identical to its neighbor. In 1996, however, the 73,000 sq ft. Ridgehaven Building was completely renovated with many cost-effective sustainable performance methodologies and technologies. As a result, the Ridgehaven Building now uses 65 percent less total energy than its nearly identical neighbor, yielding a saving of more than $70,000 in annual utility costs. This equates to $1 per sq ft. in annual savings. Even more important, the building occupants love its light and “healthy” atmosphere, boosting their productivity (Gottfried, 1999)”

Green Building techniques were actually inspired in the early nineties, when the Earth summit took place and selected sustainability as the theme for the World Congress of Architects.

In todays society, this Congress, is known as the ‘Architecture at the Crossroads’ convention and has been seen as a turning point in the evolution of the green building movement in the US.

In 1993, the White House got on board with the announcement by President Clinton of the making of the Presidential mansion as ‘a model for efficiency and waste reduction.’ which in turn encouraged others to get on board with the greening of various other properties most notably the Pentagon. This in turn led to the 1993 founding of the US Green Building Council.

Now, in late 2007, an increasing amount of cities and municipalities are demanding that the use of green building techniques are used, and are setting standards in their own organizsations for the use of green building techniques, so that growth in the Green building industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

For more information on Green Building pay a visit to U S Green Building Council

Some articles and books that may interest you if you are seeking to learn how to build or landscape in a green way for your own home or garden are:

Build Green Yourself

EPA Green Building

The Sustainable Building Sourcebook

Building Green TV

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