When it comes to sustainable building or “building green” it seems as though everyone is jumping on the wagon. Reducing  our carbon foot print is smart and socially responsible so it’s no wonder that so many companies and businesses are looking for ways to build “green”.  The construction and building operations can have a huge impact on the environment, society, and economy which is why the field of sustainable design seeks to balance the needs of such areas with an integrated approach to design solutions.

Buildings use resources (energy, water, raw materials, and etc.), generate waste (occupant, construction and demolition), and emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Building owners, designers, and builders all face a unique challenge to meet demands for new and renovated facilities that are accessible, secure, healthy, and productive while minimizing their impact on society, the environment, and the economy. When creating a building design there are several areas that a company should focus on if they are looking to build “green”.

usa building energy usage

Your Site

Building “green” starts with proper site selection. Consider the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings. Also consider the ease and accessibility of existing roads, parking,  and public transportation. When building your facility consider such things like building position. Allow in as much daylight as possible by specifically designing your building with windows that maximize the amount of natural light throughout the interior spaces.  This will help you control electric lighting costs.  Also consider the amount of indigenous greenery that surrounds the site. This could help to reduce  heating costs and control and/or treat storm water runoff.

Energy Costs

When building green it is necessary that you find ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. The government and private sector organizations are increasingly committing to building and operating net zero energy buildings as a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy. Here are a few ideas on cutting back on energy costs

  • Clerestories-glass partitions above interior walls to let more natural light in
  • Photo Voltaic Sun Shades
  • Color Rendering Lamps
  • Dimmable Electronic Ballasts

Protect & Conserve Water

Since freshwater is an increasingly scare resource in many parts of the country  it should be used efficiently. Reusing or recycling water for on-site use is something consider if/when feasible. Consider such things as…

  • Landscaping to reduce your need for irrigation
  • If you have the need for irrigation, consider a micro-irrigation system that delivers water to the grounds much more efficiently than traditional systems.
  • Use a gray water plumbing system
  • Consider a closed loop cooling tower

Building Materials & Space

It is critical to achieve an integrated and intelligent use of materials that maximizes their value, prevents upstream pollution, and conserves resources. A ‘green’ building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials in the most productive and sustainable way across its entire life cycle.

Indoor Air Quality

The indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. Among other attributes, a sustainable building maximizes day-lighting, has appropriate ventilation and moisture control, optimizes acoustic performance, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions. Principles of IEQ also emphasize occupant control over systems such as lighting and temperature.

By building green we can all do our part to help the environment and the people living in it. By taking these considerations for your next project you are prioritizing your environmental considerations throughout all aspects of design-build process and achieving your sustainability goals.