As far back as twenty years ago many prominent builders began to realize that if building practices and choices of materials continued along the same track the environment would be affected before the first decade of the new century. In addition, the energy sources that were abundant at the time might not be as plentiful a couple of dozen years later. This meant that many of the mechanical and electrical systems would be extremely expensive to run as the price of energy went up. In 1993, this concern led to the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) whose aim is to promote the sustainability of the design, building and operating of structures.
One of the strongest promotional tools of the USGBC is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a standardized rating system that has been certifying construction practices since 2000.
What is a Green Building?
Also known as sustainable buildings, green buildings are structures that work with valuable resources such as energy, water, materials and land in a more efficient manner than just using them as a business or home. These structures are healthy, comfortable and productive indoor spaces that work well with the environment around them. They also are built taking into consideration the rising cost of energy as well as the effects of construction on wetlands and water courses. Care is also taken to prevent toxic spills and soil contamination by materials, power tool and vehicle emissions from construction, building debris and many other issues. And green construction is not only aimed at residences but is becoming an anchor in commercial construction as well.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program
To standardize their aims the USGBC initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. LEED defines the individual components that make a building green so that all new builds and renovations can be measured on a level playing field. In the past building projects were based on the estimated life and usefulness of the structure as well as the time it took to pay it off. Many disciplines are signed on with the program including architects, construction managers, real estate professionals, landscape architects, engineers, facility managers, interior designers, lenders and government agencies.
Under LEED the process puts into play a collaborative effort before the construction process. This means that both the building and operational stages are in keeping with the standards that will least affect the environment and the people using the buildings. In addition LEED certification requires an independent, third-party inspection service to ensure that all the steps building project will adhere to the highest level of the green program. On completion the structure will receive a LEED plaque which is a nationally-recognized certification that displays that this particular building meets all the environmental and health requirements as required.
Environmental and Financial Benefits
One of the best qualities of the LEED program is that profitability is not swept aside in favor of environmental considerations. Here are other benefits of a green building:
- Lower Operating Costs: Utilizing up-to-date insulation, mechanical and water-saving devices both the operating costs and maintenance are significantly lower.
- Increased Asset Value.: because of the LEED certification a green building is easier to sell because the buyers will know that the structure was built to save money.
- Reduced Waste: During the building process the contractor has to re-use materials and separate discarded supplies for recycling. This means less debris at the landfills.
- Energy and Water Conservation: Since both these commodities are becoming scarce a green building will not put a strain on the available supply.
- Health and Safety: Employees who take sick leave are a drag on a business. In many cases the illnesses are caused by mold, drafts and improperly recycled air. A green building will have systems that will prevent the transfer of germs and the build-up of mold.
- Greenhouse Gases: Green buildings use the latest in heating an air-conditioning systems like geothermal heat pumps and passive solar air and water heating. These leave very small or no carbon footprints.
- Tax Credits and Rebate: Many state and local governments across the nation recognize that green building is good for the community and these structures will qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.
- Good for Business: A LEED certification gives the building owner a leg-up on the competition as it demonstrates a commitment to the environment and this is a plus over the competition.
LEED certifications do not necessarily have to include the whole structure. Here are some categories:
- New Construction
- Existing Buildings
- Commercial Interiors
- Core & Shell rating systems.
As new concepts are approved they too will be added to the certification program. With the LEED program the dream of cities entirely composed of self-sustaining buildings is not too far in the future.Posted by: TrustedPros