What is Green Building?
It Started with Sustainable Development
In 1987 a United Nation commission defined 'sustainable development' as:
"...meeting the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs."
"Our Common Future" Brundtland Commission
Sustainable development measures success in terms of economic, environmental, and social benefits. The building industry expanded on this concept, and applied it to the built environment, creating the term sustainable building, also known as green building. Its purpose is to reduce the adverse human impacts on the natural environment, while improving our quality of life and economic well-being.
The Impact of the Building Industry
Buildings are responsible for approximately half our nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Development affects water quality, air quality, and ecosystems -which then impact human health and our quality of life.
In addition to environmental impacts, buildings have a large economic footprint. Buildings represent more than 50 percent of the nation's wealth, and the U.S. construction market comprises 13% of U.S. GDP, and building-related fields employ 10 million people (U.S. DOE Buildings Energy Databook). The U.S. construction market is also responsible for:
To remain competitive and continue to expand and produce profits in the future, building industry professionals are learning to address the environmental, social and economic impact of the industry. Through careful planning, we can substantially reduce the adverse impacts of the built environment. Some strategies can actually improve degraded environments and increase the comfort and productivity of building occupants. Sustainable building is an integrated approach that promotes environmental quality, economic vitality, and social benefit through the design, construction and operation of the built environment.
Green Building Today
Green building applies principles of resource and energy efficiency, healthy buildings and materials, and ecologically and socially sensitive land-use to achieve "an aesthetic sensitivity that inspires, affirms, and ennobles." (International Union of Architects "Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future")
Green building requires a "whole-building" systems approach that considers the building's entire life-cycle (from planning, design, and construction to operation and maintenance, renovation, and demolition or building reuse). Together, these provide the means to create solutions that optimize building cost and performance.
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