Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is green building/sustainable design?
A. Green building is a comprehensive approach to design that enhances efficiency in all aspects of a building’s life-cycle. The purpose of green building design is to increase a structure’s energy efficiency, water efficiency, and overall sustainability. Every aspect of construction is examined to ensure minimal environmental impact. From the raw materials chosen for construction to the positioning of the building on its site, everything is designed to reduce the environmental footprint of the building.
Innovative high-efficiency design techniques include: collecting rain water for non-drinking uses such as toilets and sprinklers; using recyclable materials such as certified wood products in building construction; aligning buildings properly to prevent soil erosion and runoff; and, using renewable energy sources, such as solar hot water heaters, throughout the building whenever possible.
Green building considers all building components during the design phase. It considers the building structure as a whole and examines how its various subsystems work best together to save energy and reduce environmental impact. A building that uses extensive daylighting techniques, for example, will reduce the amount of heat given off by lighting fixtures, thus allowing for a smaller air conditioning system. This whole-building philosophy considers the interrelation of site, energy, materials, indoor air quality, acoustics, and natural resources.
Q. What are the economic and health benefits of green building?
A. Green building techniques can yield economic benefits through energy conservation, water conservation, and a reduction in the amount of material waste sent to landfills. If high-efficiency measures are implemented at the outset of the design process, tremendous energy savings can be achieved over a structure’s life-cycle.
Green design is also economically lucrative from the perspective that it positively impacts worker productivity through improved ventilation and use of sunlight for lighting and heating (daylighting). A report by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Rocky Mountain Institute documents eight case studies, in which efficient lighting, heating, and cooling measurably increased worker productivity, decreased absenteeism, and/or improved the quality of work performed.(2) Recent research also suggests that a well-designed workplace can increase employee productivity by 20 percent.
Q. What impact could building design improvements have on our domestic energy supply?
A. Buildings constitute 45% of worldwide energy use. Widespread use of green building and sustainable design techniques could significantly reduce the overall demand on our energy supply.
Q. Doesn’t green building cost more?
A. A recent study of 33 green buildings in California found that the average cost of building green over traditional methods (the “premium”) was about 2%, which equals about $4 per square foot. The average energy reduction from the 33 buildings was 30 percent. This alone provides savings sufficient to pay back the initial 2% premium in less than 9 years. The same study found that, over a twenty year period, the overall net savings for a green building is between $48.87 - $67.31 per square foot, depending on the LEED rating of the building.
Q.Is there a list of experienced designers/architects?
The USGBC has a list of accredited professionals: architects, engineers, consultants, energy services, governments, financial institutions, insurance companies, designers, landscape architects, non-profits, planners, manufacturers, real estate professionals etc. From www.usgbc.org; click on ‘LEED’, then on the left link for ‘LEED AP Directory’.