A green building is a building that creates positive impacts and eliminates adverse impacts on our climate and natural environment. Its design, construction, and operation preserve natural resources and improve our quality of life. The features that make a building ‘green’ include:
1. Use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy
2. Use of materials that are sustainable, ethical, and non-toxic
3. A design that enables us to adapt to a changing climate
4. Efficiently using water, energy, and other resources
5. Waste and pollution reduction measures
6. Enabling recycling and re-use
7. Good indoor environmental air quality
8. Considering the environment during design, construction, and operation
9. Considering the occupants’ quality of life during design, construction, and operation
A green building can be any building. Structures like offices, homes, schools, community centers, and hospitals can be green buildings provided they include the above-mentioned features.
However, not all green buildings need to be and look the same. Most of the time, green buildings are not identical. Different regions, cities, and countries have various characteristics, such as environmental and climatic conditions, cultures and traditions, diverse building types and ages, and economic and social priorities. All these factors shape their approaches to green building.
Benefits of a Green Building
There is growing evidence worldwide that a green building brings multiple benefits. A green building is one of the most effective ways of achieving global goals. It addresses climate change, creates sustainable and thriving communities and societies, and drives economic growth.
The benefits of green buildings fall within three main categories:
Green buildings offer the most important benefits to our climate and environment. A green building reduces or eliminates negative environmental impacts by using less water, energy, and resources. In many cases, green buildings positively impact the environment by generating their own energy and increasing biodiversity.
At a global level, the building sector has immense potential for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions among all other emitting industries. Researchers have estimated their potential for reducing emissions at 84 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050. These reductions can occur directly in buildings through efficient and renewable energy use. Green buildings have the potential to save 50% or more of energy in 2050. This will support attempts to limit global warming to 2oC.
At a building level, green buildings in Australia produce 62% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to other average buildings. It also uses 51% less potable water than other buildings built to meet minimum industry standards. A green building certified by the Indian Green Building Council saves 40-50% of energy and 30-40% of water compared to other conventional buildings in India. Green buildings certified by the Green Star in South Africa reduce 30-40% of carbon emissions yearly compared to the industry norm.
A green building offers many financial benefits, finding relevance with a variety of different people and groups. Because of lower water and energy use, green building residents save on utility bills. It also benefits building developers through lower construction costs and higher property value.
Globally, green buildings could save 280 to 410 billion euros that people would have spent on energy. When we talk about economic benefits for countries, the green building industry in Canada provided 300,000 full-time jobs and generated 23.45 billion dollars in GDP in 2014. In the US, green buildings accounted for over 3.3 million jobs in 2018. Even the owners of these green buildings have reported that the structure’s asset value increases by around 7% compared to traditional buildings.
Going beyond economics and environmental impacts, a green building can bring social benefits too. A majority of these benefits surround the health and well-being of people that work in green offices or live in green homes. Studies revealed that workers in green, well-ventilated offices demonstrated an increase of 101% in cognitive scores. People that worked in offices with windows could sleep an average of 46 minutes more every night. Better indoor air quality in offices can increase the performance of employees by up to 8%.
A green building not only focuses on positive environmental impacts but also supports happier, healthier, and more productive lives.
How Can We Make Buildings Green?
There are several ways to make a building green. They include:
1. Intelligently Approaching Energy Use
This includes using minimal energy in all stages of a building’s life cycle. It also includes running new and renovated buildings more comfortably and less expensively. Building residents also need to learn how to be efficient too. We can make buildings green by integrating renewable energy and low-carbon technologies to meet the building’s energy demands.
2. Safeguarding Water Resources
A green building explores ways to improve the management of wastewater and drinking water efficiency. The building practices water harvesting for safe indoor use and generally minimizes water use in the building. A green building also does not stress stormwater and drainage infrastructure or prevent them from doing their job.
3. Maximising Reuse and Minimizing Waste
A green building uses fewer, more durable materials and generates less waste. The structure’s design accounts for its end-of-life stage by implementing waste recovery techniques after demolition. Even residents practicing reuse and recycling contribute to a green building.
4. Promoting Health and Well-being
Green buildings allow fresh air to circulate inside and deliver good indoor air quality through ventilation. Its residents avoid using chemicals and other substances that can create toxic emissions. It incorporates as much natural light and a natural view as possible. Thus, it ensures its residents’ comfort while simultaneously reducing lighting energy needs.
5. Keeping the Environment Green
The design of green buildings recognizes that urban environments are responsible for preserving nature. The structure ensures diverse wildlife protection by building on polluted land and creating new green spaces.
6. Resilient and Flexible structure
The building ensures we can adapt to climate change by creating resilience to events such as earthquakes, fires, and flooding. Green buildings stand the test of time and keep their residents and their belongings safe. The structure’s design creates flexible spaces, avoiding the need to renovate or rebuild buildings.
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