What Really is A Green Building?
A Green Building is a building that is Green!
I have a friend named Tolu that gave a definition similar to this earlier. Funny thing is, I have used a similar tactic when answering questions during exams I had no clue of ?. However, never had such a response capture me nor has it made so much sense! Never has it provided so much prospects for further research! What was supposed to be a fun response from Tolu led me to really make a conscious effort to understand what the term meant.
The first question that came to mind was, ‘What really is ‘Green’ in Green Buildings?
￼Is it a building painted green? Or has grass and plants?
The answer is no. The reason is the paint is just what it is – paint! And until there is, in the near future, paints that contribute to the environment, most paints are mostly toxic thus can’t be green. Don’t be deceived: a building with plants does not make it Green! I see you raise an eyebrow but stay with me, don’t stop reading yet!
Plants are good, don’t get me wrong. They contribute to making a building Green by reducing the temperature, absorbing CO2 and reducing the need for artificial forms of ventilation but those characteristics alone cannot make a building Green but they are necessary all the same, but not indispensable!
So, what then is a Green Building?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) have a good definition. These guys were founded in 1993 and have since been advocating for Green Buildings since its inception. They came up with the popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) which gives Certification to Green Buildings that meet some sets of criteria. The organisation has since certified over 60,000 commercial buildings since inception. They defined Green buildings as:
‘the planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings with several central, foremost considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and the building’s effects on its site.’
Despite other wonderful benefits of a Green Building in terms of long term financial savings, overall user satisfaction, prestige, the overall primary aim of a Green Building is to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
Let’s try to analyze the definition, shall we? Notice the keywords: energy use, indoor environmental quality, material selection, buildings’ effect on the site.
- Energy use: A Green Building hopes to reduce the use of energy. What is most popular with green buildings is the use of Solar panels in providing clean electricity to the building. Orientation and use of greenery also help to reduce glare and indoor temperature thus reducing the need for energy used.
- Indoor environmental quality: This basically has to do with air exchange, and how comfortable users of the building are when they are inside the building.
- Material selection: A Green Building is one that utilizes sustainable materials, that is materials that function over a long period of time, are recyclable, require minimal maintenance and uses, and/or emits less energy. Examples include LED bulbs, Low -E glazing, etc.
- Buildings effect on the site: A building located on a Brownfield site is seen as ‘more green’ than one that is located on a ‘greenfield’ site.
Heritage Building. SustyVibes. Dec 2016
￼Before I end, I just feel I should drop this little info about USGBC as someone might find this helpful…
USGBC aim is to signify that ‘the building was constructed or is being operated to be healthy, high-performing and resource efficient.’ Thousands of building projects have been certified as ‘green’ ( an example is Heritage Place, you can read about it here) with 1.7 million more square feet certified every day.
So, maybe when next someone asks you what Green Buildings are, you’d have more to say rather than ‘Green Buildings are buildings that are Green ‘