Green Construction

Did you know?

Buildings account for 1/6 of the world's fresh water withdrawals, 1/4 of its wood harvest, and 2/5 of its material and energy flows.  Sustainable design or building "green" is an opportunity to use our resources efficiently while creating healthier buildings. It provides cost savings through lower cost building operations, efficiency, and improved human health and productivity.   

What Makes a Building Green?

A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment. 

What Are the Economic Benefits of Green Buildings?

Although a green building can cost more up front, it also saves through lower operating costs over the life of the building. Even with a tight budget, many green building measures can be incorporated with minimal or zero increased up-front costs (particularly thanks to federal and state incentive programs) and they can yield enormous savings. 

What Are the Elements of Green Buildings?

Building Site - Whenever possible, it is important to choose a well-suited building site that lends itself to green design strategies. 

Energy Efficiency - Most buildings can reach energy efficiency levels far beyond California Title 24 standards, yet  most only strive to meet the standard. Here are some things to consider:  

  • Building shape, orientation, and passive solar design. Take advantage of natural cross ventilation and shade.

  • Use natural lighting whenever possible. In a retrofit situation, consider adding skylights and solar tubes.
  • Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls. Depending on your budget, you might want to consider the use  of motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls.
  • Maximize light colors for roofing and wall finish materials;  install high R-value wall and ceiling insulation; and use minimal glass on east and west exposures.
  • Use a properly sized and energy-efficient heat/cooling system in conjunction with a thermally efficient building shell. Encourage the use of fans to minimize AC usage.
  • Minimize the electric loads from lighting, equipment, and appliances and consider using appliances in the evenings and weekends.
  • Consider alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics and solar thermal. 

Materials Efficiency - Whenever possible, reuse and recycle construction materials. Consider deconstruction instead of demolition and save money and the environment by purchasing recycled materials from organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the ReUse People. When choosing new building materials, try to make sustainable  choices and support local suppliers. 

Water Efficiency   

  • Design for dual plumbing to use greywater for site irrigation. 
  • Collect and divert rainwater to minimize sprinkler use. 
  • Minimize wastewater by using ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures. 
  • Use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution. 
  • Check regularly for leaks and use a water budget approach. 
  • Use mulch to keep the ground moist, irrigation controllers, and self-closing nozzles on hoses.

Occupant Health and Safety

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 far exceed an initial investment (Fisk and Rosenfeld, 1998). Some things to consider:    

  •      Choose construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low emissions to improve indoor air quality.    
  •      Provide adequate ventilation and a high-efficiency, in-duct filtration system.    
  •      Prevent indoor microbial contamination through selection of materials resistant to microbial growth, provide effective drainage from the roof and surrounding landscape, install adequate ventilation in bathrooms, allow proper drainage of air-conditioning coils, and design  other building systems to control humidity.    

Operation and Maintenance 

Green building measures cannot achieve their goals unless they work as intended. Building commissioning includes testing and adjusting the  mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to ensure that all equipment meets design criteria. It also includes instructing the staff on the operation and maintenance of equipment. Over time, building performance can be assured through measurement, adjustment, and upgrading. Proper maintenance ensures that a building  continues to perform as designed and commissioned