Thursday, July 30, 2009

Green Building 101

I recently gave a talk to the local Rotary Club on Green Building Basics. What are the different programs and what do they measure. It was very well received and here is a short version of my talk.

What does it mean to build green? There are several certification programs active in the Lowcountry. They all have third party verification requirements and different programs for different building types. Some require performance -based measurements while others have a prescriptive path to the desired performance level. The non-residential programs are led by the design team of architects and engineers and the residential programs are under the purview of the contractor. The major local programs are listed at the end of this post.

There are five general areas that all the programs measure; Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy Use, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. There are mandatory requirements and a minimum number of earned points in each category. Each program awards different levels of certification based on the number of points earned. For example the LEED programs are LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, and the highest rated LEED Platinum.
The areas overlap and green strategies can often result in points in several categories. The decision to have daylight in all interior spaces can gain points in Energy Use (less need for electric lights) and Indoor Environmental Quality (occupants’ well being is better with daylight and a view).

Sustainable site requirements are focused on minimizing the building impact which includes: locating the project in a developed area, preferably on a pre-developed site within walking distance of essential services; using regionally appropriate landscaping; controlling stormwater runoff both during and after construction; and reducing erosion, light pollution, and construction related pollution.

Water Efficiency rewards water conservation both inside and outside. The interior strategies include high efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings. Water-wise landscaping and water harvesting in rain barrels or cisterns for reuse are exterior conservation options.

The single most important category is Energy & Atmosphere, where the overall goal is to reduce energy consumption and encourage the generation of renewal energy. Strategies include: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, HVAC systems and lighting; use of renewable and clean sources of energy generated on-site or off-site; and natural daylight in spaces by windows or skylights.

Materials & Resources promote the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. This category also is concerned with the reduction of waste both from the construction site and the manufacturer’s site as well as reuse and recycling. Attention is given to the travel distance of materials and resources to the construction site and to the manufacturer’s plant. Reuse of an existing building, recycled materials, and locally produced materials are the high point favorites.

Indoor Environmental Quality strives to improve indoor air quality; access to natural daylight and views; and improving acoustics. The category focuses on reducing indoor pollutants such as VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) in paint and off gassing of irritants found in adhesives, carpets, composite wood products and furniture. Strategies include managing moisture to prevent mold, increasing ventilation rates and mechanical controls to maintain the proper levels of temperature and humidity.

According to the United States Green Building Council, buildings account for approximately 39% of total annual US energy consumption (31% for building operations, 8% for building construction). Building operations (heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, etc.) account for 38% of total annual US greenhouse gas emissions. And 72% of all the electricity produced at power plants in the US goes to operate buildings. So it is time for us all to learn more about green building and consider getting your project certified. You might even qualify for a tax credit

Non-Residential Green Certification Programs

LEED Programs by
U.S. Green Building Council

Green Globes by
Green Building Initiative

Sustainable Building Challenge by
International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment

Residential Green Certification Programs

LEED for Homes by
U.S. Green Building Council

NAHB National Green Building Program by
National Assoc. of Home Builders

Earthcraft House


Jean said...

A word to the "Wise."
Should you decide to utilize a rain barrel for rainwater harvesting remember that water in the barrel is only as clean as the gutter it drains from. I realize that cleaning rain gutters can and often is a dirty, nasty, job none of us enjoy doing. However, I invite you to visit me at and see a newly invented gutter cleaning tool that makes gutter cleaning a breeze! And, you save money while you clean. This new gutter tool is a safer, cleaner, and easier method of gutter cleaning than any tool on the market today. Some have said the Gutter Clutter Buster is the
"Best Gutter Cleaner on the Market Today!"
Keep those gutters sparkling clean and your rain water cleaner. Consider connecting several rain barrels together for collection of overflow from the first main barrel.
Complete instructions to do this can also be found on line at
God Bless All and "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled."

Neal said...

In California we also have Build It Green. Build It Green is a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy- and resource-efficient building practices in California. We work with mainstream stakeholders in the housing industry to accelerate the adoption of green building practices.

mj said...

HVAC systems must be properly sized and maintained regularly to realize desired efficiency results. For example, according to US Dept of Energy website up to 30% energy savings can result from compressor energy alone if coils are cleaned vs. not. In addition this may help with dust control, promote equipment longevity, and improved indoor air quality and comfort. Most manufacturers and US Dept of Energy suggest that you inspect and clean coils and other components as much as annually. To learn more you can visit:

Mike Palazzolo
Safety King Inc
An Energy Star Service Partner