The term "Green Building" can be used to describe a wide variety of design and construction practices aimed at reducing our impact on the natural environment. Put simply, green buildings are designed to be better for both the planet and those that live and work in them.
While green building may conjure images of exotic looking tree-houses or hyper-modern architecture, it's important to realize that most green buildings look and feel much the same as traditional construction. There are many different opinions on what it means to be "green," ranging from the commonplace to the absurd. Installing energy-efficient appliances might be enough for some people to claim the title, while others may insist that being truly "green" requires a drastic, all-encompassing approach to building and remodeling.
However you see it, it's important to realize that even small steps toward green building can reduce costs, diminish environmental degradation, and insure the health of you and your family. At Fontenot Contracting, we see it as our job to work with our clients to develop solutions that work for our clients, and then make their goals a reality. We are dedicated to finding a green solution that fits your needs and your budget.
Though some architects and builders began to embrace green building as early as the 1970s, increasing awareness of global climate change in recent years has resulted in a rapid rise in interest and demand for green building.
Rapid advances in technology and attention to detail in construction processes mean that larger and larger benefits are being achieved with less and less initial cost. As recently as the 1990s, basic green building materials like certified lumber and non-toxic paints were expensive enough to make them cost-prohibitive for most homeowners. As innovation accelerates, green products will continue to do more and cost less. Increased demand for green products and construction services has already lowered prices across the board, and as more firms enter the market, increasing competition is driving innovation forward and prices down.Timeline:
In general, green building is thought to have a great number of benefits for both the environment and building inhabitants, including:
- Greatly reduced environmental impact of new construction
The most obvious benefit of green building is a reduced impact on the natural environment achieved by careful materials selection, reduced waste creation, and decreased CO2 emissions.
- Improvements in productivity, well-being, and health for inhabitants
Studies have shown decisively that people who work and live in green buildings are happier, healthier, and more productive. Creating spaces that maximize the human experience is a key philosophical component of green building.
- Significant or even complete reductions in operating and maintenance costs
Mostly by reducing energy consumption, green buildings can significantly lower and in some cases even eliminate operating costs. When evaluated over the life of the building, the savings resulting from building green can meet or exceed the building's total construction costs.
Interesting Facts and Figures:
Green Building techniques vary from the grandiose to the minute, depending on the scale and type of building or renovation involved. The list is extensive, but a few basic techniques include:
Passive solar orientation for new buildings : Applicable mostly to new construction, passive solar orientation is the practice of aligning a home in such a way as to maximize solar heat collection in the winter and minimize it in the summer. The best examples of this technique require no temperature control systems at all.
Inclusion of renewable energy technology : While photovoltaic (PV or solar, commonly) panels are the most recognizable form of on-site renewable energy, other technologies, such as wind and geothermal, can be used to minimize the amount of energy generated from fossil fuels. Many states, including Massachusetts, have programs in place to provide incentives for renewable energy projects on a wide scale.
Use of recycled/organic/non-toxic products : Using recycled, organic, and non-toxic products is important not only because it helps to cut down on resource depletion but also because it fundamentally impacts the health of building inhabitants. From recycled countertops to certified lumber to non-toxic paints and stains, choosing products responsibly is a ket part of building green.
Integrated design and build processes : Perhaps the most important aspect of green building, integrating design and build processes helps to reduce construction debris, create energy efficient closed systems, and reduce costs in both materials and labor. Having a complete design and build plan also mitigates the hassle of construction delays, reduces the number of cost overruns, and creates a less stressful environment for client and contractor alike.
Measuring how "green" any building really is remains an inexact science. But there are a few rating systems in place that use complex point systems to evaluate buildings on a number of criteria and award certifications to buildings based on their score.
USGBC's LEED ratings : The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership In Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is the benchmark for evaluating green buildings. Buildings are rated in five categories (sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality) and receive a composite score that determines their certification. For more information on LEED Certification, please click here
State and Local Certification : Some states and municipalities have begun to implement their own criteria for rating green building and design. Most notable among these efforts is California's GreenPoint system.