3 Questions an Architect Can Answer About Green Design

Posted October 17, 2018 | Tags: Green Design and Green Buildings

"Green Design" and "green buildings" are some of the phrases we hear about all the time. They are used by everyone, whether they have extensive experience in the field of architecture or not. But what do they mean? What, exactly, does it mean when we say a building is "green"? In a bid to clear some of the misunderstandings about this topic, here are answers to what are considered the three most important questions on the concept.

What exactly is a “green” building?

As it stands, 40% of the world’s materials and energy are consumed by buildings. This includes 17% of the water and 25% of the wood we harvest. In the U.S alone, 62% of the electricity is used by buildings, which in turn contributes 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions.
Green building, also known as sustainable building, is a way to rethink how we construct our buildings regarding such things as the quality of air, both indoors and outdoors, the conservation of water, and the reduction of the energy we consume. The basic principles of green building have been around for many decades. However, heightened interest has only begun to surge in the last years due to a combination of new technology and increased urgency in the reduction of the impact we have on the planet. Many different considerations are including, such as building codes, new legislation, and new ways of using materials that were previously not thought of. Perhaps the most significant source of emphasis for green building is the good feeling that a designer or construction official gets when they know they made a contribution to ensuring the future of the planet.

What is "LEED"?

This term can be credited to the United States Green Building Council, which has been a leader in green design and construction since its establishment in 1991. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) method is their way of rating green buildings. It is voluntary and is concerned with rating sustainable and high-performance buildings.
Even though the method is voluntary, it has become the industry standard in the U.S and elsewhere. There are five categories under the LEED system:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water conservation
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
The system allows buildings to earn points for each of these 5 categories, with the total points determining what level the building achieves: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Why are green Buildings more expensive than traditional Ones?

This actually isn't true. It's a misconception that sadly, is perpetuated by some of the very people we would expect to know better: building contractors and architects. Luckily, only the ignorant ones would think so, and the enlightened ones know that green buildings are, on the whole, much cheaper than their traditional counterparts.

The main reason why it looks like the green building is more expensive than the traditional one is that we're comparing apples and oranges in a way. A building with solar panels will indeed cost more than one without, but only up front. In the long run, the savings in energy more than make up for the higher initial cost. Many studies have shown that an investment in green building will pay for itself more than ten times in the lifespan of the building.

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