The Basics of Green Building and Design
The term “Green Building” is used in various different sectors of industry and architecture, but few consumers understand the meaning of the term. Although there are some common concepts that bridge the gaps between all views of Green Building, some concepts of eco-friendly living differ between communities.
A general rule of all Green Buildings is energy efficiency and resource reduction. This means a decrease in the amount of material used to build a structure as well as a reduction in the overall energy use of the structure over a longer period of time. Builders can use recycled material during construction or reuse and recycle materials during the process.
Energy efficiency and energy reduction come into play with the actual placement and location of the building. By placing homes or business near to facilities such as stores, gyms, and employment locations, builders and individuals reduce the amount of energy used to commute or perform daily tasks. By creating urban environments or small, localized communities, builders can reduce the overall energy use of the community by giving residents easy access to their lives with a walking lifestyle.
The visible structure is important, too since green buildings need to take advantage of the local seasons to use the sun to the best advantage. Planning and incorporating windows to take advantage of breezes and natural ventilation is also important. Depending on the area of the country, builders can also take advantage of deciduous and evergreen trees to either let in more light in the winter or shade throughout the year.
Green Building also means energy efficiency through the reduction of thermal transfer between the interior space and the outdoors. Although windows can work well for natural ventilation during warmer months, windows need to be properly insulated so that cool or hot air is not lost during the months when indoor air needs to be conditioned or heated. By properly insulating walls, ceilings, floors, and doors, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units use less energy to maintain conditions within the home. Besides using less energy, good, efficient HVAC systems help homeowners save money and reduce annual costs.
Energy efficient, Energy Star appliances also help reduce resource use. The Energy Star program certifies:
- Water heaters
- Light bulbs
- Refrigerators and more
Reducing water usage also helps create a green building. Shower heads, sink aerators, ultra low flush toilets, and front loading washing machines are just a few examples of water saving devices that homeowners and builders can incorporate into a home. Outside, however, homeowners can work with landscapers to create a Xeroscape, or a yard with little to no water maintenance using native plants. They can also incorporate drip irrigation systems that waste less water. Rain barrels collect rainwater that can also be used for irrigation and homeowners can capture gray water for use in washing cars.
Green Building also means improving indoor air quality. Homeowners and builders can eliminate building materials and furniture that off-gas harmful compounds and chemicals into the air. Particle board, fiberboard, plywood, oil-base paints, formaldehyde finishes and carpet padding all contribute to harmful chemicals in the air. Better ventilation and safer materials can help improve indoor air quality.
There are many companies and manufacturers on the market that create products designed for better, healthier living and green building. Homeowners should research and work with builders and designers to create spaces that help them live happier, healthier, greener lives.