The curiosity around green building has been building up over the past few years. Especially since many climate change advocates and organizations have been continuously manifesting the issues around the impact we make to our natural environment due to our lifestyle choices. Our human impact, through our daily lives, is causing harm to our climate, natural habitats, and are endangering species left and right. As humans, it is our responsibility to live as consciously as possible and think about the impact our choices make and what shifts we can make to make to change this.
Throughout this guide, we’re going to be discussing the basics of green building and how you can live a “greener” life and cause positive impacts on the environment. Let’s find out, shall we?
Table of Contents
What is Green Building?
“Green” buildings are buildings that were designed, constructed or operated in a way that reduces negative impacts on the environment, by creating positive impacts. Not only do green buildings look to protect natural resources, but these also highly improve the quality of life of those who live in them.
Can any Building be a Green Building?
Even though there are much more “green” driven designs nowadays, it’s satisfying to know that any building can transform into a green building. Homes, schools, offices, hospitals, or community centers can all be green buildings, as long as they include some of these features:
- Renewable energy usage, for instance, solar energy.
- Adequate use of natural resources such as energy, water, and others.
- Reuse and recycling, waste and pollution reduction practices.
- Materials used are all ethical, non-toxic and 100% sustainable.
- Excellent indoor air quality.
- Contemplative measures as to the environment in construction, design, and operation.
- Contemplative measure as to the quality of life of the occupants in construction, design, and operation.
- Design that allows adaptation to the ever-changing environment.
It’s safe to say that not all green buildings need to be the same because simply, their residents don’t all have the same needs. There are different countries and regions with distinctive characteristics in the green buildings due to conditions such as climate, culture and tradition, building types, social and economic priorities. All of these factors will inevitably shape different approaches to green building.
If you’re interested in creating a “greener” building, you can get in contact with people in your area which may already be taking measures to green buildings for communities at large.
Therefore, depending on your region and country, you will be able to pursue a green building that is suited to your market.
The Benefits of Green Building
There is much evidence that green buildings bring many benefits to the environment as well as for their occupants. Not only do these buildings provide effective means to positively impact the world and the global climate change goals, these remarkably create thriving and sustainable communities as well as economic growth.
Green buildings have many benefits, but in order to make it easier to understand, we’ve grouped these into three categories: Economic, social, and environmental.
The Economical Benefits of Green Building
Many think that living “greener” is not cost-effective at all. With that being said, green buildings do offer financial and economic benefits, which are compatible with different groups of people. Some of these include:
- Savings on service bills for households or any other type of building
- Lower construction costs
- Much higher property values, especially for developers.
- Occupancy rates are increased.
- Green buildings create jobs.
The Social Benefits of Green Building
The benefits of the green building go beyond the economical benefits. They are proven to positively impact society as well. You’ll notice that much of this welfare has to do with the wellbeing and healthier lifestyles of people working or living in green homes or buildings.
- Cognitive scores for people working in green buildings with high-quality air recorded to have a 101% increase in brain functions.
- Windows in offices in which employees spend their day working slept 46 more minutes on average per night.
- There are important improvements in performance (up to 8%) in people living in spaces with better air quality (refers to low levels of CO2, high ventilation, and pollutants).
Many studies have shown that creating green buildings aren’t only positive for the environment, they also support happier, healthier and productive lives.
Environmental Benefits of Green Building
Finally, one of the most important benefits of green building is the positive impact it offers to climate change and our overall natural environment. Green buildings are capable of reducing negative impact by cutting down the usage of natural resources, such as energy and water, but also, green buildings are able to generate individual energy and increase biodiversity.
- The building and construction industry has the biggest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to others.
- 84 gigatonnes of CO2 can potentially be saved by the year 2050, by taking measures to buildings such as fuel switching, energy efficiency, and renewable energy usage.
- The building industry can create 50% of the energy savings or more by 2050.
How to Start Creating Greener Buildings – The Macros
There are several ways people can create and design greener buildings. These are some of the macro ways you can start gaining consciousness and create practices in your new/old building/home that ultimately creates a positive impact on your life, others’ lives and the environment as a whole.
Making Greener Buildings – The Approach to Energy
- It’s important to greatly minimize the energy usage throughout all the stages of a building’s cycle. New and renovated buildings should be created, making them comfortable and less expensive, as well as assisting all other building users learn how they can be efficient as well. Creating conscious environment-driven movements within your building is one of those ways.
- Renewable and low-carbon technologies should be integrated to supply your buildings’ energy demand. This point has to do with a maximized design built with natural efficiency.
Making Greener Buildings – Safeguarding Water
- Explore the best ways to improve water consumption and reduce water waste. This is done by looking for ways to efficiently manage and harvest water for safe indoor use in other innovative ways. This way, minimizing water usage in buildings.
- What is the impact of buildings with stormwater and drainage infrastructure? Investigate and ensure these are not under stress which can prevent from functioning.
Making Greener Buildings – Maximizing Reuse & Minimizing Waste
- The usage of more durable and fewer materials will generate less waste.
- Engage all building users to recycle and reuse.
Making Greener Buildings – Promoting Wellbeing and Healthy Lifestyles
- Fresh air needs to be brought inside. When delivering excellent air quality through ventilation, this avoids materials, and chemicals to create toxic and harmful emissions.
- Incorporate natural lighting to ensure all building users are comfortable and enjoy their surroundings. Views are also important! This is also a way to reduce lighting energy.
- Green building designs are for the ears as well as the eye. Proper sound insulation and acoustics are important for helping in focus, peaceful enjoyment, and recuperation. Especially in any health, residential, or educational buildings.
- Green building ensures that people are comfortable within their environments. This is done by creating the perfect indoor temperatures by using building management and passive design, as well as monitoring systems.
Making Greener Buildings – Making Sure Our Environment is Kept Green
- Perceiving that our environment, even though urban, should be preserving nature and ensuring all wildlife and land is safeguarded, protected, and/or enhanced. This can be done by remedying and building on contaminated land or designing new green spaces.
- Bringing agricultural movement into our cities is a way for urban areas to become more productive and green.
Making Greener Buildings – Designing Flexible and Resilient Structures
- Adapting our buildings to our ever-changing climate is important. This is why ensuring resilience to events such as earthquakes, fires or floods is important. This way, we are sure that our buildings are sturdy, can stand the test of time, and are able to keep people safe.
- Creating dynamic and flexible spaces is important so that we can anticipate big changes over time. These measures can include rebuilding, demolishing, renovating so that green buildings becoming obsolete can be prevented.
Making Greener Buildings – Connecting People and Communities
- Green buildings, in a way, create diverse environments that greatly reinforce and bridge communities.
- Transportation to amenities should also be considered in the design. This way, there is a reduction in personal transport impact, encouraging environment-friendly options for transport such as cycling or walking.
- Communicating in a more positive way with the work around us. This refers to, for instance, smart electricity grids that help people understand how energy transport works when it is needed.
Making Greener Buildings – Contemplating the Building’s Life-Cycle
- Green buildings are built to lower environmental impact and reinforce the social value over all of the building’s life-cycle stages: Design, construction, operation, and finally, maintenance.
- Minimize energy and water used to transport materials for the building’s construction so that green buildings are actually low impact.
Ways to Start Making your Buildings Greener
Now that you know the macro ways in which you can contribute to creating greener buildings, it’s time you learn how the smaller shifts can make an impact on your green lifestyle. Remember that green building focuses on maximizing efficiency within any building we work or live in. All of this, in the end, is great for the environment, for a healthier lifestyle, and our personal bank accounts.
Make sure you change inefficient fixtures and lightbulbs. Learn about which types are best for the environment.
The worst light bulbs for your building are incandescent bulbs. Yes, these are cheaper, but they are also being banned from the USA. Even if they are more “convenient” once you get them at the store, in the long run, they turn incredibly expensive. You can check Design Recycle for a comparison.
The light bulbs you should have in your green building:
- LEDs – cost-efficient and environment-friendly. Many get scared by the upfront cost, but they actually last 50x longer than any other traditional light bulb. That’s convenient.
- CFLs – These last up to 4x longer than other traditional light bulbs and use about a quarter of the energy. However, these need to be recycled properly, they cannot be thrown into the garbage.
Considerations for light fixtures:
New light fixtures are being designed from natural or recycled materials, which in the end, have a smaller CO2 footprint. You can also rewire older lamps and might even come up with a new quirky and unique fixture for your home or business!
After making these changes, nothing is more important than turning off the lights every time you leave a room. This habit can make a huge difference to the environment and your electric bill.
2 Exterior and Roofing:
Great roofing can create energy. Make sure you look into solar panel installments or how insulation can decrease your CO2 emissions.
By now you know that a roof is not only an essential element for the protection of a property, it is also the element that properly insulates buildings. If you’re looking for ways to shrink your CO2 footprint, you can also look into making your roof “greener”, here’s how:
Install Solar Panels
Getting solar panels installed can be very costly. However, many utility companies are now providing incentives in order to offet the costs. Some even include a 50% discount. With that being said, imagine how much money you’d save in the long run just by getting your energy from the sun?
Creating a Green Roof
How? You can start with light-colored materials for your roof instead of dark gray or black. Remember, darker roofs absorb more heat and increate interior cooling costs during hot weather.
Nowadays, rooftop gardens are a great way to provide another level of insulation to buildings for multi-families. Plus, it also creates a community space for all residents. A green roof also provides a better lifestyle, since residents living in big cities appreciate having green spaces to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
If you’re looking to invest in new washers/dryers, refrigerators, or other appliances, make sure you choose energy-efficient brands. These include Energy Star certified appliances.
How can you make your appliances more energy-efficient?
If your dishwasher is more than 20 years old, it might be wasting 10 extra gallons per cycle!
If this is the case, make sure you recycle you’re of the dishwasher and replace it with a certified Energy Star appliance. Newest designs are efficient because they include rack designs for cleaner dishes and use less water. With new its, dishes aren’t even rinsed beforehand. This saves up to 55,000 gallons of water.
The average American family is washing about 300 loads of laundry per year. If we were to replace all these appliances with units saving up to 25% on electricity, this can cut down 40% of water use.
If you own a 20 or older version of your washer or dryer, make sure you recycle it and invest in a new, energy star certified version.
Look into the benefits of sustainable flooring. You can include all types of efficient flooring or carpeting, such as recycled, recyclable, eco-friendly wood, and much more.
You might not have known, but there are many different types of sustainable flooring to make your buildings greener. For instance, hardwood is one of the most popular choices as it’s easy to maintain and wears out well. Nowadays, you’ll be able to purchase eco-friendly wood, bamboo, cork, or other laminated options that are recycled. These options do not harm out limited natural resources.
When looking for flooring materials, you can search for the ones certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council ot by the ATFS (American Tree Farm Systems). This certification will indicate all materials have been sustainably sourced.
For Carpeting: If you prefer carpet, you can opt for a hemp or wool carpeting. These materials will have a minimal impact on the environment and can be recycled. You can look for carpet material certified by the CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute).
When your roof and sidings are properly insulated, this created a tight-sealed home and ends with energy waste.
Heat escapes in homes producing energy waste. This can mainly occur in your attic, however, there are other spaces in the home in which heat escapes constantly. These spaces included poorly insulated, vents, walls, floors, etc. All of this escaping energy causes heating, cooling, and furnaces to work overtime during certain seasons throughout the year. Every building will have different insulation needs depending on location, size, and architecture. If you’re wondering if your home needs more insulation, make sure you check out this guide.
Check some ways you can generate less energy through ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems.
Everyone needs to keep a comfortable temperature year-round at home and this is where ventilation, air-conditioning systems, and heating come in. These systems also filter airflow through ventilation systems that keep it clean and healthy. If you live in a location with a harsh climate (hot or cold), make sure you get clean HVAC systems.
You can invest in many Energy Star certified HVAC systems, however, even the most efficient system will need maintenance to keep up. Make sure you change filters regularly, maintain annually, and get programmable thermostats per unit. Remember that you may be installing a new energy-efficient unit, but if your home is not properly insulated, you’ll still be losing energy and money.
Windows can really take a toll on energy usage, even closed windows can let the cold air out (therefore having to use more energy on air conditioning). Make sure you find windows or ways you can keep the energy in your home.
Choosing the right window design for your building as well as looking for Energy Star certified windows is a must. Consider getting windows that allow sun rays to warm rooms while facing in the right direction during cold climate. In a warmer climate, you’ll need windows that reflect the sun outwards instead of letting them in. These are just some of the basic energy-efficient window options you can contemplate. Special curtains and blinds can also help.
Getting the most out of your home’s foundation is done through insulation. Make sure you check green building materials for this purpose.
Plywood and aluminum are materials that are more eco-friendly and efficient compared to others. Yes, these can be more costly upfront, but in the end, pay themselves because of high energy savings.
Also, water can damage and weaken the foundation if not irrigated. Make sure you have someone check this out to keep your building strong and dry. Preventing moisture, and therefore, mold growth in basements is done by insulating the exterior and interior of the foundation as well.
Preserving water is one of the most important things about being green. Make sure you look into the several ways of saving water within your building.
Faucet and toilet manufacturers have made amazing advances for water conservation. If you’re looking to make your building greener, consider some of these toilet options:
- Low-Flow – These use less water per flush and are the most common in the market.
- Dual-flush – This design allows the user to select a flush level depending on their use.
- Automatic sensors – These toilet uses electricity to determine how much water is needed per flush.
You can find specific eco-friendly showerheads and faucets too.
None of this will save as much water if the habits aren’t made. Just like with electricity, make sure the faucets are turned off when not in use. Also, try to take shorter showers.
Are there ways you can install environment-friendly electricity sources like solar panels or windmills? Look into these and start making changes!
Getting solar panels or windmills to make your electricity source more sustainable can be costly, but like with all other eco-friendly resources mentioned, if you are able to invest, these materials end up paying for themselves!
As you can see, living and building a greener world is a possibility that will not only benefit our environment, it benefits our communities, societies, bank accounts, and the people we love.