by Bruce N. Wilson
An ideal Green Building disturbs its environment as little as possible during construction and operation.
Green Buildings use less energy and significantly less water resources to operate. Their roof and pavement runoff water is man-aged to reduce the impact on the environment.
The challenge is to convey the absolute certainty that to not build green is environmentally and economically irresponsible.
Green buildings use adhesives and finishes that emit little or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Most paint and adhesive manufacturers offer low- or no-VOC products. Most low-VOC paints cost only $3 more per gallon.
Sunlight is welcome in Green Buildings with adequate shading to prevent summer heat gain.
Views and daylighting are a priority in Green Buildings and the windows are of high efficiency using the best glazing for the locale.
The building envelope is extremely well insulated with special attention paid to sealing air leaks.
Due to the air-tight nature of construction, fresh air is introduced, often through blower-powered air exchangers that reuse the heat energy in the air being exchanged.
Green building materials are chosen in part for recycled content, but also for durability as well as renewability and closeness of production. Durable materials cost more to use, but last longer with lower lifecycle costs leading to lower maintenance costs.
It is easier to define what green buildings do and don’t do rather than what they are since there are so many ways to build a Green Building. Green Buildings can be made of steel, concrete, and glass; they can use standard wood framing; they can be earth-plastered straw bales; structurally insulated panels; insulated concrete forms; or a combination of materials.
The use of low-toxicity materials leads to improved air quality which, combined with increased daylighting, leads to improved health for the users of Green Buildings.
Improved energy and water efficiency allows Green Buildings to operate a dramatically lower expense while construction costs little more than regular buildings.
The average commercial Gold LEED® Certified Building costs 1.6% more to build and 40–60% less to operate.
For green homes, spending 15% more on energy efficiency and low water consumption systems reduces operating costs by 40–60%. Spending 25% more can reduce operating expenses by 90–95% or more.
With current and proposed Federal and State incentives, a zero-energy house is an affordable option that is achievable.
A recent study by the CoStar Group shows that commercial green buildings have higher occupancy rates, get higher rents, and sell for more than their non-green counterparts, leading the writers of the report to state that non-green buildings are going to become obsolete.
This study is among hundreds that show the benefits of building green. The challenge is to convey the absolute certainty that to not build green is equivalent to throwing your money away.
At the Lehigh Valley Green Builders Forum our mission is to promote environmentally responsible design, planning, construction, and operation of the built environment through advocacy, education, outreach, and networking. We do this by educating both the public and building professionals about green building. Join the Lehigh Valley Green Builders Forum to further our mission.
Bruce, a LEED® Accredited Professional, is a general contractor and consultant specializing in green building, renewable energy, energy improvements for existing buildings, and historic preservation. Co-Founder, with his wife and business partner, Annie Prince, of the Lehigh Valley Green Builders Forum.
(Published in the 2009 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)