|Green Architecture and Building Green|
By Jake Kulju
January 10, 2008
As more homeowners become conscious of their environmental impact and the
significant health risks that conventional building poses, a market for green
building has been steadily growing over the last decade. To monitor the process,
the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was established as an official regulator
of LEED building projects.
What Is LEED?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system of the
USGBC that gives green builders the tools they need to meet the five key areas
of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings,
energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. LEED
acts as a benchmark for the “design, construction and operation of high
performance green building.” LEED was formed with the intent of steering the
built environment towards sustainability. The LEED certification process awards
points to registered building projects and gives marks of certification to those
that have passed the rigorous standards.
After decades of policy change and environmental awareness, the concept of
“green” has now been accepted into the American lexicon. As citizens, consumers
and homeowners in an increasingly damaged environment, we understand that we can
make choices that support sustainable ways of living and buying. As Americans,
green has become a way to restructure our country and our economy. As author and
columnist Thomas Friedman declared, “Green is the new red, white and blue.”
Energy Use in America
America is the largest consumer of energy in the world. Most of it comes from
fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources. The construction of home and
businesses in America accounts for 39 percent of our total energy use. By
applying green design to this large sector of energy use, we have a unique
opportunity to make a large global impact.
As it stands, the built environment in our country is a heavy burden on our raw
material usage and pollution output. Buildings in America are responsible for 12
percent of U.S water use, 38 percent of U.S. green house gas output, 65 percent
of U.S. waste output and 70 percent of U.S. electricity consumption.
Residential buildings alone account for more than 20 percent of the country’s
energy consumption, 9 percent of its water use and 21 percent of national carbon
All of these numbers point to the built environment of the American economy as
having a large hand in the use of energy, water, electricity and creation of
solid waste. By focusing on implementing green practices into these areas, a
huge step towards environmental responsibility can be taken.
Communities Taking Green Action
Communities of green-thinking leaders, homeowners and businesspeople are working
to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated.
And the trend is catching on. From 1997 to 2005, forty-five states voted to
finance more than $30 billion worth of conservation measures.
How Are People Going Green?
The built environment is going green by incorporating alternative methods of
heating, cooling, building and supplying their homes with energy. Solutions like
geothermal heat, photo-voltaic cells, recycled and reused building materials and
structures and wind power are some of the leading ways that people are going
green. These systems save energy, reduce the amount of waste a home produces and
can significantly increase the value of a home.
A Healthy Home
Green buildings also provide significant health benefits to their occupants.
Green design has been shown to mitigate radon, lead-based paint and other
hazardous materials. It uses no gas-off and green materials, in addition to
lowering dependency on fossil fuels. Green buildings also have better
ventilation, which results in less mold and mildew content.
The Big Green Picture
Since building and construction projects account for significant portions of
U.S. energy consumption, economics, pollution and public health, a greening of
the built environment could produce very large environmental and personal benefits.
By implementing green building and Smart Growth practices, we make a positive
financial decision that benefits the health of ourselves and our world, while
establishing a market segment that creates jobs and promotes education and