As the environmental building movement grows in popularity and recognition, you may be wondering about the benefits of green building, and whether or not it's worth the trouble to green up your own home building and remodeling plans. Environmental building typically requires more thought, research and design time, but that up-front investment can lead to later savings in materials costs and a boost in quality of living.
To get an idea of green building's benefits and the impact of construction on our environment, consider a few of the findings of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). In our country alone, residential and commercial buildings account for 36% of total energy use and 65% of electricity consumption. They claim 30% of raw materials and 12% of potable water. And when it comes to pollution, our built environment generates 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and 136 million annual tons of waste. Looking at this state of affairs through green-tinted glasses, it's not hard to see how a little conservation could go a long way.
Here are the three major categories of green building benefits.
- Environmental Benefits of Green Building: Environmental building practices conserve natural resources, reduce generation of natural waste, improve air and water quality, and enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems.
- Economic Benefits of Green Building: Property value is enhanced, green materials often cost less than traditional ones, energy usage is reduced, sustainability in building means a longer life for and reduced maintenance of the structure, and, particularly in the case of commercial properties, occupant productivity and satisfaction can be improved.
- Health and Community Benefits of Environmental Building: Air, thermal and acoustic environments are improved, occupant comfort and health are enhanced thanks to reduced VOCs (volatile organic compounds, emitted by materials used during and after the green building process), aesthetic qualities are heightened, and strain on local infrastructure is minimized. In short, quality of life is improved for everyone involved.
This holistic approach to creating a living space can take many forms, so don't think you're out of the loop just because you're not planning on building a straw-bale house anytime soon (although that is a pretty cool and innovative green building technique). Start by shopping for appliances and home systems that have earned the Energy Star label, and conserve water with the new WaterSense products being introduced this year.
Take a closer look at environmental building materials offered at your favorite home improvement center, and research all the choices next time you're planning a project, big or small. Finally, thanks to organizations like the USGBC and such guidelines as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, you can be assured that plenty of trained building professionals are ready to show you the benefits of environmental building.