Bioswale - a shallow trench planted with trees, shrubs, and ground cover that detains and filters stormwater before allowing it to infiltrate the groundwater system.
BTU (British Thermal Unit) - a unit of heat. Can be used to measure heat output or the embodied energy of a material.
Charrette - A short and intensive design process that usually involves people from different backgrounds and disciplines in order to gain a broad, integrated perspective on issues at hand. See also Integrated design.
Composting - A waste management system for plant material (e.g. kitchen scraps and garden thinnings) that involves the biological decomposition of organic material into a rich soil amendment.
CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) – A gas often used as a propellant that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
Cradle-to-cradle - An understanding of the life cycle of materials and their embodied energy that accounts for the original extraction or harvest of material to its end-life and eventual reuse.
Cradle-to-gate - An understanding of the life cycle of materials and their embodied energy that accounts for the original extraction or harvest of material to the beginning of its first use.
Ecoroof - A roof covered with soil mix and vegetation. Stormwater is absorbed by the soil and vegetation, reducing and detaining stormwater runoff.
Ecosystem - A complex and interdependent set of natural conditions and elements. Habitat survival depends directly and indirectly on ecosystem health.
Embodied energy - A representation of the energy used to grow, harvest, extract, manufacture, transport and dispose of a material.
Formaldehyde - Urea formaldehyde, a harmful VOC, is a binding agent commonly used in composite wood products (OSB, particleboard, etc.). It is a probable carcinogen and poses a range of hazards to human health.
Fossil fuels - Non-renewable resources such as coal, oil and natural gas, the use of which causes pollution and contributes to global climate change.
Greywater - Water that has been used within the home and/or roof runoff. Greywater sources do not include sewage. Greywater can be captured, treated, and used as a non-potable water source.
Habitat - The place where an animal or plant species lives.
Integrated design - An approach where the design of each system takes into account and balances the design of other systems. Often an interdisciplinary approach, effective integrated design begins at the earliest stage of a project with a guiding set of principles. See also “charrette.”
Low-e(missivity) windows – Energy-efficient windows that allow light to pass through but block the flow of heat.
Microclimate - A unique set of climatic conditions caused by landscape and/or building features. For instance, a paved parking area will absorb and radiate heat to the areas around it. Vegetation can block heavy prevailing winds or funnel them into a concentrated area.
Native species - Native plant species are well adapted to local climatic conditions and can flourish with little or no maintenance or watering. Native species are common to wild areas of the same climate, though the term is often used to include other well adapted species.
Naturescaping – Landscaping featuring native plants, natural landscapes, and water-friendly gardening practices. It reduces water usage, can eliminate use of harmful chemicals, attracts beneficial wildlife, and requires little maintenance.
Off-gassing - Emission of chemical compounds (e.g. VOCs) into the air from newly installed building materials and finishes.
Passive solar - Non-mechanical methods of using sunlight to heat the home. Conceptually, sunlight is allowed into the house to heat a thermal mass such as a slab floor, which in turn radiates the heat back into the house when needed at night.
Permaculture - A design system that integrates landscape and building issues, permaculture emphasizes low maintenance, edible landscaping, and single design features (including plants) that fill more than one function.
Phthalates - Class of chemical compounds used to soften PVC. These compounds are more concentrated in flexible sheet vinyl, for instance, than in vinyl tiles. Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors and are linked to birth defects, are now being commonly discovered at high levels in tests of humans in the US.
R-value - A unit of thermal resistance measuring resistance to heat flow through a single material. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating properties.
Sone - A unit measuring intensity of sound. Select ventilation systems with low sone ratings.
Sustainability - One common definition is that of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
U-value - A unit of thermal resistance measuring rate of heat flow through a material assembly rather than a single material. For instance, whereas insulation is measured by R-value, the entire wall assembly is measured by U-value. A lower U-value means better insulating properties.
VOC (volatile organic compound) - A class of chemical compounds that can cause short- and long-term health problems. VOCs can be emitted (off-gassed) by many building materials and finishes, including particleboard and solvent-based finishes. Volatile: evaporates readily at room temperature; Organic: carbon-based; Compound: combines two or more elements. Many VOCs are harmless, but the term has come to be applied to those that endanger health.
Watershed - Area of ecosystem(s) bounded by the highest topographic points and focused around where water flows and drains. All water in an area—including the pollutants it carries—flows to the lowest point of the watershed.
Xeriscaping – Similar to naturescaping, xeriscaping features water-friendly gardening practices. Name derived from "zero-water landscaping."