HVAC For Beginners

Green Building

A Guide to Sustainable Construction and Design

This green building guide will help you to make responsible choices in the building of your dream home or any other structure. Also called "green construction" or sustainable building", it is a process that is designed to reduce the overall impact of a building on the environment as well as on the health of its occupants.

The process encourages us to look at the impact of construction throughout the lifecycle of a building. This lifecycle includes the construction, use, and renovation or demolition of a structure. This lifecycle is also commonly called the cradle-to-grave approach.

Sustainability is basically meeting the needs of the people today without hindering the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Fundamental principles of green building

Siting and structure design are a huge part of minimizing the environmental impact. This area deals with the selection of a location as well as the materials that are used in the construction phase of a building. For example, instead of continuing to build homes on the outer edge of a city (and using more and more valuable land) we can reclaim and even recycle buildings that are inside the city limits. By choosing locally available products instead of having them shipped in, we also minimize the impact on the environment.

Energy efficiency is a major part of green building as a goal is to minimize the amount of resources that are required to operate the home or building. If we use less resources, then there will be more available for future generations. It also saves us money each and every day as we have to purchase less electricity, gas, oil, etc. There are basically four levels of green building efficiency. The first level consists of basic energy conservation measures while the Passive house is a standard in which the energy use of the building is reduced to where a conventional heating system is virtually eliminated. A zero-energy building is a structure that does not use more energy than it produces onsite. An energy plus house produces more energy than the home requires for operation.

Water efficiency is considered because there are more and more people in the world and less and less clean water to go around. Due to this fact, the cost of water service to a home or business structure continues to rise. By thinking ahead and choosing the right products, we can minimize the cost of the water we need.

Materials efficiency is the principle of managing the products that we use to build our homes. In general, it is better to use construction materials that are from the local area.

Indoor air quality enhancement is necessary because, when you build a structure to be more energy efficient, this leads to less air passing through the structure. This air traditionally diluted impurities in the home's air and limited their effects on its occupants. Since less air naturally enters the structure on its own, we must either clean the air that is already inside or bring in fresh air and exhaust stale air.

Another key principle is optimizing the operation and maintenance of a structure. This is necessary to ensure that the building continues to be efficient as well as safe.

Green building also considers the reduction of waste that is produced during the construction process. This can be achieved through advanced framing techniques as well as by designing a home or other building in sizes to utilize standard sizes of materials.

What does all of this cost?

When it comes down to it, we each only have so much money available. Therefore, everyone wants to know how much all of this "green building" costs. In general, these practices and products usually add less than 2% to the cost of a building. These investments typically yield a return of greater than 20% over the lifespan of the structure.

If you are wanting a certificate such as a LEED certification, the average cost is about two thousand dollars.

How is the sustainability of a building measured?

There are several systems that are used to rate a building as to its level of being "green". In the USA & Canada, the LEED system is used to rate a building. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a system of points to designate the quality of a structure. Although the system began with commercial buildings, it has been adapted to homes as well. Buildings are certified as to their sustainability and higher certified buildings will usually help in the sale of the structure. This certification involves the hiring of trained professionals and sometimes the fees can be pretty high.

A better certification system is from the GERMAN SUSTAINABLE BUILDING COUNCIL (DGNB) and it looks at key aspects of a structure such as: environmental, economic, social, and functional aspects over the lifetime of the building. It has a larger number of programs ("schemes") to fit the different types of buildings and their uses. Their system is adaptable and available in many countries but its certification process can be expensive as well.

If you are not concerned about receiving a certificate, you can use our green guide to help you to improve the performance of your home. Our guide is designed to help you to upgrade your existing home (or other building) to save money.