Green Building Construction
Green Building Construction
A ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.
There are a number of features which can make a building ‘green’. These include:
- Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
- Use of renewable energy, such as solar energy
- Pollution and waste reduction measures, and the enabling of re-use and recycling
- Good indoor environmental air quality
- Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
- Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
- Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
- A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment
Any building can be a green building, whether it’s a home, an office, a school, a hospital, a community centre, or any other type of structure, provided it includes features listed above.
However, it is worth noting that not all green buildings are – and need to be - the same. Different countries and regions have a variety of characteristics such as distinctive climatic conditions, unique cultures and traditions, diverse building types and ages, or wide-ranging environmental, economic and social priorities – all of which shape their approach to green building.
The benefits of green buildings
The world over, evidence is growing that green buildings bring multiple benefits.
They provide some of the most effective means to achieving a range of global goals, such as addressing climate change, creating sustainable and thriving communities, and driving economic growth.
Highlighting these benefits, and facilitating a growing evidence base for proving them, is at the heart of what we do as an organisation.
The benefits of green buildings can be grouped within three categories: environmental, economic and social. Here, we provide a range of facts and statistics from various third-party sources that present these benefits.
One of the most important types of benefit green buildings offer is to our climate and the natural environment. Green buildings can not only reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment, by using less water, energy or natural resources, but they can - in many cases - have a positive impact on the environment (at the building or city scales) by generating their own energy or increasing biodiversity.
At a global level:
- The building sector has the largest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other major emitting sectors – UNEP, 2009.
- This emissions savings potential is said to be as much as 84 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) by 2050, through direct measures in buildings such as energy efficiency, fuel switching and the use of renewable energy – UNEP, 2016.
- The building sector has the potential to make energy savings of 50% or more in 2050, in support of limiting global temperature rises to 2°C (above pre-industrial levels) – UNEP, 2016.
At a building level:
- Green buildings achieving the Green Star certification in Australia have been shown to produce 62% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings, and 51% less potable water than if they had been built to meet minimum industry requirements.
- Green buildings certified by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) results in energy savings of 40 - 50% and water savings of 20 - 30% compared to conventional buildings in India.
- Green buildings achieving the Green Star certification in South Africa have been shown to save on average between 30 - 40% energy and carbon emissions every year, and between 20 - 30% potable water every year, when compared to the industry norm.
Green buildings achieving the LEED certification in the US and other countries have been shown toconsume 25 per cent less energy and 11 per cent less water, than non-green buildings.
How can we make our buildings green?
There are a number of ways to make a building green. These include:
Taking an intelligent approach to energy
- Minimising energy use in all stages of a building’s life-cycle, making new and renovated buildings more comfortable and less expensive to run, and helping building users learn to be efficient too.
- Integrating renewable and low-carbon technologies to supply buildings’ energy needs, once their design has maximised inbuilt and natural efficiencies.
Safeguarding water resources
- Exploring ways to improve drinking and waste water efficiency and management, harvesting water for safe indoor use in innovative ways, and generally minimising water use in buildings.
- Considering the impact of buildings and their surroundings on stormwater and drainage infrastructure, ensuring these are not put under undue stress or prevented from doing their job.
Minimising waste and maximising reuse
- Using fewer, more durable materials and generating less waste, as well as accounting for a building’s end of life stage by designing for demolition waste recovery and reuse.
- Engaging building users in reuse and recycling.
Promoting health and wellbeing
- Bringing fresh air inside, delivering good indoor air quality through ventilation, and avoiding materials and chemicals that create harmful or toxic emissions.
- Incorporating natural light and views to ensure building users’ comfort and enjoyment of their surroundings, and reducing lighting energy needs in the process.
- Designing for ears as well as eyes. Acoustics and proper sound insulation play important roles in helping concentration, recuperation, and peaceful enjoyment of a building in educational, health and residential buildings.
- Ensuring people are comfortable in their everyday environments, creating the right indoor temperature through passive design or building management and monitoring systems.
Keeping our environment green
- Recognising that our urban environment should preserve nature, and ensuring diverse wildlife and land quality are protected or enhanced, by, for example, remediating and building on polluted land or creating new green spaces.
- Looking for ways we can make our urban areas more productive, bringing agriculture into our cities.
Creating resilient and flexible structures
- Adapting to our changing climate, ensuring resilience to events such as flooding, earthquakes or fires so that our buildings stand the test of time and keep people and their belongings safe. ?
- Designing flexible and dynamic spaces, anticipating changes in their use over time, and avoiding the need to demolish, rebuild or significantly renovate buildings to prevent them becoming obsolete. ?
Connecting communities and people
- Creating diverse environments that connect and enhance communities, asking what a building will add to its context in terms of positive economic and social effects, and engaging local communities in planning.
- Ensuring transport and distance to amenities are considered in design, reducing the impact of personal transport on the environment, and encouraging environmentally friendly options such as walking or cycling.
- Exploring the potential of both ‘smart’ and information communications technologies to communicate better with the world around us, for example through smart electricity grids that understand how to transport energy where and when it is needed.
Considering all stages of a building's life-cycle
- Seeking to lower environmental impacts and maximise social and economic value over a building's whole life-cycle (from design, construction, operation and maintenance, through to renovation and eventual demolition).
- Ensuring that embodied resources, such as the energy or water used to produce and transport the materials in the building are minimised so that buildings are truly low impact.