Taking care of the environment doesn’t just happen. You have to make the conscious choice to go green. But what does that phrase, “Go Green”, mean when it comes to a building?
There are several factors that are considered when declaring something a Green Building. There are the materials used in construction, how the building consumes resources such as energy or water, the internal environment of the building, and how the building affects its surrounding environment all play a part.
Building green brings a host of benefits to the environment, the occupants of green buildings, and both owners’ and tenants’ bottom lines.
What is a Green Building?
You could talk to ten people on the street and get ten different responses to the question, “What is a green building?” According to the EPA, green construction is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.
Essentially, the goal for a green construction project is to put up a building using materials and methods that will ensure the building serves its purpose as intended without harming the surrounding environment any more than is absolutely necessary.
That doesn’t only mean building with a reduced carbon footprint, it means considering green spaces around the site and ensuring the new building operates in tandem with that environment for as long as the building stands.
When you choose to “build it green,” you are also choosing to create an interior environment for the people that will occupy your building that encourages environmentally sound practices and fosters an atmosphere of health and comfort.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Going Green
Any decision around a construction job has pros and cons. There is no perfect solution to any problem — putting together a building is a series of cost/benefit choices. So what are the costs and benefits of green building?
There is really only one drawback to green construction practices — short-term costs. Green buildings require more careful consideration in siting, design, and construction. Taking more time with siting and design means paying more upfront for the work being done. More deliberate processes take more time and simply cost more.
As for construction: filling up your green construction supply of materials can cost more than traditional materials because there are fewer vendors selling green supplies. Those are the costs, but what are the benefits?
The benefits of building green start with money. Over time, green construction practices have been shown to reduce water costs by as much as 30% and energy costs by as much as 50%. So even with the higher planning and construction costs, the return on investment for a green construction is significant over time.
From an environmental standpoint, the benefits are also numerous. Though it may not directly benefit you financially, the reduced waste streams, better air and water quality, and protected biodiversity make for a community poised to attract and retain residents and workers.
Studies have also shown that improved air quality in green buildings contributes to higher occupant productivity rates.
Making Sure You Are Green
Once you have decided that going green is the right choice for you, how do you make sure you are actually building something green? That’s where the LEED can come into play.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the accepted rating system for constructions s in the United States. LEED standards set out what is and are not a green building in America.
Give the Green Light
Even though initial costs may be higher, the benefits to occupants, to the environment, and to the bottom line are significant. From the standpoint of an environmentally aware citizen and from the perspective of a businessperson who wants strong ROI on any construction project, building it green just makes sense.
The time is right to make your next building a green building.