Today, more than ever, with so much talk of the environment being destroyed by pollution and due to people wasting our precious natural resources, by not conserving, many people want the option to live somewhere that is kinder and less taxing to the planet. Because of this, a large number of builders and architects have begun to see methods of erecting buildings more friendly to the environment than the traditional ways construction occurred in the past.
This is referred to as “Green building,” which, in short, refers to a philosophy by which a building is designed for the general purpose of providing housing or office space and providing an aesthetically pleasing addition to a community, but also in a way that impacts the environment as gently as possible. Green buildings’ major goals are to be energy efficient, to maintain a healthy environment indoors, and to always use natural resources responsibly.
Building owners and designers who want to prove to potential buyers that their building is green can do so by becoming LEED®-certified. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and is a program that was introduced by the US Green Building Council.
According to the Council, “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.” It can be difficult for builders to know they are making their buildings as environmentally friendly as possible. LEED provides specific guidelines to help lead their way, no pun intended.
The first step for a company interested in having a LEED-certified building is to ensure that the surrounding land, as well as the land the building will actually be placed on, is cared for properly. This is referred to as a “sustainable site.” Part of this process involves choosing a good site, but a builder or owner also has to figure out whether the area he or she chooses can aid in urban redevelopment, how water from potential storms will be managed, whether the site has easy accessibility that doesn’t involve automobiles, and how much light pollution the development might create or cause.
The next absolutely crucial element is for a building to use water efficiently. Figuring out the most ideal way to promote water conservation is of the utmost importance—the larger the building, the more important this is. One method this could be accomplished is reducing, if not eliminating, the use of potable (or drinkable) water in landscape irrigation.
Developers also have to foresee how their building might affect the environment and atmosphere surrounding it, and also figure out how much energy they will need to keep the building running efficiently and smoothly. They have to go through proper, legal channels in order to make sure that all is working correctly and most efficiently. Ventilation and refrigerants that require Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based products to run should be avoided at all costs. The use of renewable power—for example, solar power or hydro-power—is highly encouraged, as well, as are the use of recyclable or recycled materials in the actual building, not to mention providing residents of the building with easily accessible recycling bins. Additionally, the builders should use locally manufactured products in building, whenever possible, as the ones that come from farther away require fuel to transport, which further depletes the environment. Unused construction materials, then need to be taken away via a conservationist waste management program.
As mentioned above, a healthy indoor environment must be maintained. The purpose of Green buildings isn’t simply to be easy on nature but on animals and humans, as well, for after all, we are also a part of nature. In order to achieve this end, a building’s lighting should be bright, but not to the point of discomfort. The building’s temperature must be comfortable to its inhabitants. The effect of potential tobacco smoke and other ventilation issues must be controlled. The monitoring of CO2 levels is also looked upon very favorably, as are finishes and paints with low-emitting materials.