With the alarm bells of climate change constantly ringing, scientists the world over are urging countries to embrace and fund greener methods of construction, manufacturing and every-day living.
According to a study that spanned 1990-2017, the Government of Canada calculated that homes and buildings make up 13% of the country’s greenhouse gases. Buildings are the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases in Canada, and scientists are urging everyone to take a stand on climate change and embrace green building.
Green building is the process of creating a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource efficient. But can anyone create a building and call it a ‘green building’? We would certainly hope not. There are nine goals of green building that should be adhered to when building.
Life Cycle Assessment
Even if a building emits no greenhouse gases just by simply existing, its creation process may. For a green building to be truly green, the entire life cycle of the creation process must be assessed. Life Cycle Assessment reviews processes and impacts such as:
- Extraction of raw materials
- Materials processing
- Repair and maintenance
- Disposal or recycling
- Embodied energy
- Global warming potential
- Resource use
- Air pollution
Siting and Structure Design Efficiency
Efficiency begins in the design stages. Right from the beginning, a goal of the project must be to minimize environmental impact in design. If this goal is met during the first stages, we can be reasonably certain that the life cycle of the building will remain environmentally efficient.
The goal of energy efficiency is to reduce the amount of energy consumption in a building on a day-to-day basis. But it goes further than that. When constructing a new building, the energy required to extract, process, transport and install building materials must be taken into consideration. How much does it cost to ship that truck of lumber across the country? How much oil is used in the laying of foundation? These are all environmental factors that have an impact on how green a building is.
Climate change has driven home the importance of water conservation. Today, we see many buildings with low-flow flush toilets, low-flow shower heads and other water efficiency appliances. These are an important part of green construction. Water efficiency must a top priority for green builders and reusing or recycling water is a key objective.
Wherever possible, green lumber materials should be used. Any materials that have been recycled like stone and metal are preferable in green buildings processes. Renewable materials like bamboo and straw are great alternatives or lumber that has been certified to a third-party for standard.
Indoor Environmental Quality
The indoor environmental quality goal is made up of three key elements: indoor air quality, thermal quality and lighting quality. The goal of these is to provide comfort, well-being and productivity of residents. Air quality means installing properly design ventilation systems or using materials that will have low volatile organic compounds. Thermal quality is the heating system that is used and the materials it is comprised of. The lighting quality often includes using daylight at its maximum potential.
Operations and Maintenance Optimization
The day-to-day operations of a building are where the sustainability really begins to have an impact. A building can be designed and constructed with green practices, but if its maintenance and operation aren’t, you can undo the work of the other goals. This goal is maintained by creating a clear, comprehensive best practices structure in the processes of maintenance that includes energy efficiency, resource conservation, ecologically sensitive products, and other practices.
It’s no surprise that waste reduction is a key goal of sustainable building. Waste reduction can take many forms. In some buildings, this may mean a compost bin. In others, it may mean using rainwater collectors. Waste reduction is a complex and important part of sustainable building that means thinking outside the box and getting creative with solutions.
Reduce Impact on Electricity Network
Remember when your mom chased you around the house telling you to turn off the lights? Like your mom, sustainable building attempts to reduce the amount of electricity being used at any given time. New buildings often have energy efficient light bulbs, appliances, and other strategies in place to reduce the amount of electricity.
The nine goals of sustainable building are there to ensure that new construction can integrate better in a greener world. The new way of thinking about our environment isn’t going anywhere, and these goals help us adapt and change.