Green building refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from sitting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. This requires close cooperation of the design team, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages. The Green Building practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.

How to make a building and home green.

How to make a building and home green.

There are a number of motives for building green, including environmental, economic, and social benefits. However, modern sustainability initiatives call for an integrated and synergistic design to both new construction and in the retrofitting of existing structures. Also known as sustainable design, this approach integrates the building life-cycle with each green practice employed with a design-purpose to create a synergy among the practices used.

In the book, “Sustainable Building Technical Manual: Green Building Practices for Design, Construction, and Operations” it described the sustainable development of buildings, including green buildings.

Sustainable development is the challenge of meeting growing human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and protecting environmental quality and the natural resource base essential for future life and development. This concept recognizes that meeting long-term human needs will be impossible unless we also conserve the earth’s natural physical, chemical, and biological systems.

Energy Efficiency

Approximately 50 percent of the energy use in buildings is devoted to producing an artificial indoor climate through heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting. A typical building’s energy bill constitutes approximately 25 percent of the building’s total operating costs.

Water Efficiency

Water conservation and efficiency programs have begun to lead to substantial decreases in the use of water within buildings. Water-efficient appliances and fixtures, behavioral changes, and changes in irrigation methods can reduce consumption by up to 30 percent or more. Investment in such measures can yield payback in one to three years. Some water utilities offer fixture rebates and other incentives, as well as complimentary water surveys, which can lead to even higher returns.

Waste Reduction

Construction-related waste constitutes more than 25 percent of landfill content and equals total municipal garbage waste generated in the United States.  As a result of this volume of waste, an increasing number of landfills will not permit, or are charging extra or, the dumping of construction-related waste. In response, recycling of such debris is increasing at the job site. Materials such as gypsum, glass, carpet, aluminum, steel, brick, and disassembled building components can be reused, or, if that is not feasible, recycled.

Life of a carbon credit.

Life of a carbon credit.


Application of green building concepts can yield for savings during the construction process. Measures that are relatively easy to implement can result in savings to the contractor in the following areas:

  • Lower energy costs, by monitoring usage, installing energy-efficient lamps and fixtures, and using occupancy sensors to control lighting fixtures;
  • Lower water costs, by monitoring consumption and reusing stormwater and/or construction wastewater where possible;
  • Lower site-clearing costs, by minimizing site disruption and movement of earth and installation of artificial systems;
  • Lower landfill dumping fees and associated hauling charges, through reuse and recycling of construction and demolition debris;
  •  Lower materials costs, with more careful purchase and reuse of resources and materials;
  • Possible earnings from sales of reusable items removed during building demolition; and
  • Fewer employee health problems resulting from poor indoor air quality.

Building Operations and Maintenance

The green building measures discussed in this manual can lead not only to lower building operating expenses through reduced utility and waste disposal costs, but also to lower on-going building maintenance costs, ranging from salaries to supplies. For example, in many buildings, maintenance staff collects recycled materials on each floor—or even at every employee’s desk—and carry the materials down to the basement for hand sorting. Recycling chutes, a viable green alternative, allow direct discarding of materials from any floor in the building to the basement. The chute system, which ideally is installed during initial construction or renovation, can sort materials automatically, saving labor costs by eliminating the need to collect, transport, and sort recyclables. Other savings come in the form of lower waste hauling fees; reduced workers’ compensation insurance premiums due to lower claims for accidents from sharp glass and cans; reduced elevator maintenance; less frequent cleaning of spills on carpets and floors; and less need for pest control.

Occupant Health and Productivity

The purpose of a building is not only to provide shelter for its occupants, but also to provide an environment conducive to high performance of all intended occupant activities. Recent studies have shown that buildings with good overall environmental quality, including effective ventilation, natural or proper levels of lighting, indoor air quality, and good acoustics, can increase worker productivity by six to 16 percent.

How carbon offsets work.

How carbon offsets work.

Local Economic Development Opportunities

Promotion and implementation of green building practices within a community can generate new economic development opportunities. These opportunities can take a variety of forms, including new business development to meet the demand for green products and services; resource-efficiency improvement programs that enable existing businesses to lower operating costs; development of environmentally oriented business districts; and job training related to new green businesses and products.

Future of Green Building

To many in the building industry, investment in green building practices may be a leap of faith. Further research and successful examples of sustainable building will advance this developing technology and provide direct proof of its economic and health-related benefits, encouraging its greater adoption. More research is needed in life-cycle cost analysis over the full spectrum of building fabrication, ownership, operation, and reuse/disposal. As the data become more widespread and the impacts—including external costs associated with pollution, waste, and environmental-resource consumption— of conventional practices become better known, green building practices will become more widespread.

The green building movement has started to gain momentum. Each year yields additional demonstration projects; dozens of new efficient and healthy technologies; and expanded research, standards, codes, and regulations.

Now, let’s talk about carbon credit. This a term for any tradable certificate or permit that will allow an entity to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or the mass of another greenhouse gas with a carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide.


Sample Carbon Credit certificate.

Carbon credits and carbon markets are a component of national and international attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). One carbon credit is equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or in some markets, carbon dioxide equivalent gases.

Carbon trading is an application of an emissions trading approach. Greenhouse gas emissions are capped and then markets are used to allocate the emissions among the group of regulated sources.

The goal is to allow market mechanisms to drive industrial and commercial processes in the direction of low emissions or less carbon intensive approaches than those used when there is no cost to emitting carbon dioxide and other GHGs into the atmosphere. Since GHG mitigation projects generate credits, this approach can be used to finance carbon reduction schemes between trading partners and around the world.

There are also many companies that sell carbon credits to commercial and individual customers who are interested in lowering their carbon footprint on a voluntary basis. These carbon offsetters purchase the credits from an investment fund or a carbon development company that has aggregated the credits from individual projects. Buyers and sellers can also use an exchange platform to trade, such as the Carbon Trade Exchange, which is like a stock exchange for carbon credits. The quality of the credits is based in part on the validation process and sophistication of the fund or development company that acted as the sponsor to the carbon project. This is reflected in their price; voluntary units typically have less value than the units sold through the rigorously validated Clean Development Mechanism.


  • Sustainable Building Technical Manual: Green Building Practices for Design, Construction, and Operations
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