Green Building Design

Why Design Green?

There are many different conceptions of green or sustainable building design due to the large scope of sustainable issues and the novelty of sustainable principles. Definitions of sustainability range from broad concepts that incorporate all aspects of sustainability to narrow definitions focused on one specific sustainable design feature such as recycled content materials or energy efficiency. Within this broad spectrum, green buildings embody a design intent on balancing environmental responsiveness, resource efficiency, and cultural and community sensitivity. The goal of this process is to create buildings that meet the needs of current building occupants while being mindful of the needs of future generations.

Green building design includes all players in the development process, from the design team (building owners, architects, engineers and consultants), the construction team (materials manufacturers, contractors, and waste haulers), maintenance staff and building occupants.

The building sector has a tremendous impact on the environment. Buildings in the United States consume more than 30% of our total energy and 60% of our electricity annually. They consume 5 billion gallons of potable water per day to flush toilets. A typical North American commercial construction project generates up to 2.5 pounds of solid waste per square foot of floor space. The industry appropriates land from other uses such as natural habitats and agriculture. These are just a few examples of the environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of buildings.

Green building practices can substantially reduce these negative environmental impacts and reverse the trend of unsustainable construction activities. As an added benefit, green design measures reduce operating costs, enhance building marketability, increase worker productivity, and reduce potential liability resulting from indoor air quality problems. Students in daylit schools consistently score higher on tests than students in schools using conventional lighting fixtures. Studies of workers in green buildings reported productivity gains of up to 16%, including reductions in absenteeism and improved work quality, based on "people-friendly" green design. In other words, green design has environmental, economic, and social elements that benefit all building stakeholders, including students, faculty, occupants and the general public.