Green building refers to building construction mechanisms aimed at conserving most of the natural environment around the construction area. It not only ends there, but also includes a holistic approach of building construction with the understanding that the constructed building can have significant impacts on the natural environment including the people who occupy the building. Therefore, green building initiatives attempt to augment the positive implications while mitigating the negative ones all through the lifespan of the building.
Essentially, it’s all about encouraging environmental responsibility and resource-efficiency. It can otherwise be defined as construction, design, planning, and operations of buildings with utmost considerations for sustainable energy and water usage, evaluating the effects of the materials used for building on the project site, and desirable indoor environmental quality.
Importance of Green Building
- Lessened environmental impact
The majority of the buildings in the world are responsible for more than 50% of electricity, water, energy, and material consumption. Besides that, buildings contribute up to 18% of the total global emissions which equate to about 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. At the same time, buildings take away a lot of natural land space. Therefore, the adoption and use of green design and construction aims at lessening these environmental impacts.
Preventing degradation of the site during construction, sprawl management, and the controlled use of resources as well as ensuring energy-efficient buildings are green construction goals that lessen the overall impacts on the environment. This helps in the conservation of natural resources, improved water and air quality, and protection of ecosystems and biodiversity.
- Efficient use of energy
Green buildings integrate several measures to cut down energy consumption including the energy requirements for extracting, processing, transporting and installing the building materials. Above all, green technologies and designs insist on reducing operational energy that caters for services like powering and heating.
This implies that green buildings use less operational energy and can cut down up to 30% of the overall life cycle energy consumption. It is facilitated by the use of passive solar building design for heating and lighting; wall, ceiling and floor insulation; and the use of renewable energy sources. In the long-term, green building assure lower embodied and operational energy.
- Efficient use of water
Green building necessitates the need for protecting water quality and reducing water consumption. It is part of the sustainable principles in green construction which encourage the efficient use of water. The green construction measures ensure that water is harvested, used, purified and re-used during the entire construction period. Also during the life cycle of building, protection and conservation of water is facilitated by installing mechanisms for recycling used water and minimizing water-wastage.
- Enhanced indoor environmental quality
The Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is among the many concerns of healthy living that has been better managed by the utilization of green building techniques. With green building technologies, the indoor environment is designed to offer comfort, productivity, and well-being of the occupants in a building. These include aspects such as Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), lighting quality and thermal quality.
Indoor air quality addresses the concerns of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminations like the microbial particles. Proper ventilations and air filtrations are also included to ensure sufficient flow of fresh and clean air. The finishing materials used in the interior of the building are also eco-friendly with zero VOCs thus enhancing IAQ.
- Optimized operations and maintenance
One of the many challenges facing the conventional building construction techniques is proper maintenance and operated responsibility of the building. Green building offers the solution by instituting sustainable construction designs that can ensure optimized operations and maintenance.
This is influenced by the fact that every element of green construction is incorporated into the operations and maintenance throughout the buildings life-time. Aspects such as waste reduction, recycling, enhanced air and water quality, resource conservation and energy efficiency are effective in ensuring optimized operations and maintenance.
- Waste reduction
Green building is primarily geared towards reducing the wastage of water, energy, and materials during and even after construction. Research indicates that the majority of waste comes from commercial buildings which contribute to the continued growth of landfills. By the use of green building technologies and designs, it is easier to reduce the amount of wastage produced by the building occupants because the techniques and designs integrate on-site solutions like compost bins. Water is recycled and used for non-potable purposes like washing cars and flashing toilets. Energy efficient systems and electrical appliances are also installed in the building to reduce energy wastage.
- Reduce operating and construction costs
The operational and construction costs associated with the conventional construction mechanisms prove quite high and are equally material demanding. Green materials and construction techniques help in cutting back the operational and construction costs by more than half, all attributed to their cost-effectiveness.
Renewable plant materials, recycled metal and recycled stone among other non-toxic, renewable and reusable products ensure high performance while at the same time reducing the long-term maintenance costs. Besides, these products are not only affordable but also durable.
Technologies and Design Approaches in Green Building
- Green architecture with cross-ventilation
The use of green architecture is one of the designs allowing for the free flow of air and light into high-rise condominiums. The use of this design helps in saving on energy and improves the well-being of the building’s occupants. It is a design highly used in cities and central business districts to reduce the need for air conditioning and daytime lighting. Such a technology is the DMCI Homes’ Lumiventt in Philippines. Green architecture simply aims at incorporating the principle of airflow and lighting into breathable and natural lit building design technology respectively.
- Cool roofs
Cool roof are green designs aimed at reflecting heat and sunlight away. This thus keeps homes at the standard room temperatures as it lowers heat absorption and thermal emittance. The design makes use of reflective paints and special tiles which absorb less heat and reflect away most of the solar radiation.
For instance, cool roofs can reduce temperatures by more the 50 degree Celsius during summer. As a result, cool roofs minimize the dependence on air conditioning thereby reducing energy use which translates into decreased cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Cool roofs also lessen the heat island effect in urban areas.
- Storm-water management
Appropriate landscaping techniques to ensure storm-water management is part of green building approach. It aims at controlling erosion in rural locations and flooding in urban areas produced by unexpected downpours. Through appropriate landscaping, it is easy to manage high volumes of water. The use of plants in landscaping can act as effective means of purifying storm water and mitigation soil erosion.
- Water supply and re-use technologies
The use of efficient water supply systems and re-use technologies is part of green building approach. The primary aim is reducing water wastage and encouraging recycling as much as possible. For instance, the use of dual plumbing, greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting and water conservation fixtures can ensure that water is adequately managed, recycled and used for non-portable purposes like washing cars and flashing toilets.
Dual plumbing in particular decreases sewer traffic and enhances the potential of re-using water on-site. It is estimated that buildings use about 14% of the earth’s potable water, and green water supply and re-use technologies intend to lower it by 15% in order to address fresh water shortages in urban areas.
- Smart glass and low-emittance windows
The smart glass and low-emittance windows are new technologies and designs utilized within the green construction domains. They are glass materials coated with metallic oxide to block away the harsh solar radiation during summer and reduce heat emmittance from within the house during winter.
Subsequently, smart glass and low-emittance windows minimize the dependence on air conditioning thereby reducing energy use which translates into decreased cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
- Zero-energy buildings
Zero-energy buildings refer to green engineering designs that mainly focus on the use of energy from renewable sources to ensure improved and more energy-efficient business buildings and homes. Examples of such sources include wind and solar power which allows the building to operate independently minus the power supply from the main electric grid. Apart from saving energy, the use of zero-energy design equally reduces greenhouse gas emission from power plants.
- Utilization of sustainable construction materials
Green building techniques also include the use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials for building construction. In involves the incorporation of sustainable, recycled and biodegradable materials in the entire building construction process. The use of eco-friendly and biodegradable materials which are free of toxic chemicals and VOCs do away with indoor pollution and naturally breakdown without harming the environment. Besides, the use of green construction materials such as recycled metal and recycled stone saves the scarce natural resources from depletion.