Benefits of Building Green
One of the most progressive aspects of green living is creating an environmentally friendly building. In new construction, both residential and commercial, a strong focus on green building is influencing builders, homeowners and business owners in a way that would make Kermit do backflips off his lily pad. Let's take a look at what constitutes a green building.
Also known as a sustainable building, a green building is a structure that is designed, built, and operated in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. So, not only must the building be built in an eco-friendly fashion it must meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; improving employee productivity; and reducing the overall impact on the environment.
Initially, the cost can exceed that of a conventionally built structure, but the reduced operating cost over the life of the building saves money in the long run. In the conceptual design phase a green building is looked at as one integrated system as opposed to many stand alone systems. It truly embodies the spirit of recycling from the ground up.
A green building starts with smart site selection. There is an effort to protect and retain existing landscape and natural features. Plants are selected that have minimal water and pesticide needs and that are indigenous to the local environs. Compost and mulch is used which helps save water and recycled content paving materials and mulches take full advantage of the recycling loop.
Energy efficiency is a key element to building green. From the design stages a building's shape and orientation on the lot is carefully scrutinized to take full advantage of natural light. Not only does this have a passive solar effect, an abundance of natural light has been proven to have a positive impact on productivity and well being. A high efficiency lighting system that utilizes task lighting reduces the need for energy wasting overhead lighting. A properly sized and energy efficient heating and cooling system in conjunction with wall and ceiling insulation creates an energy efficient building shell. Light colored exterior walls and roofing materials and minimal use of glass on eastern and western exposures rounds out this important aspect of building green.
Water efficiency is another essential principle in creating a green home or business. A green site uses recycled water for toilet flushing or a "gray" water system that recovers rainwater or other undrinkable water for irrigation. Ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures are installed. They may use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution. Landscape may be metered separately from buildings and state-of-the-art irrigation controllers and self-closing nozzles on hoses are more tools to can help prevent water waste.
Evaluating materials efficiency in designing and constructing a green building takes planning from the moment of conception. Recycled materials are used wherever possible and materials like paint and insulation are evaluated to ensure zero or low toxicity. Dimensional planning and material efficiency strategies are used to reduce the amount of building materials needed and to cut construction costs. And, of course, a green building is designed with adequate space to facilitate recycling collection and to incorporate a solid waste management program that prevents waste generation.
One particularly cool aspect of creating a green building is that it is not only great for the environment, it is great for the individuals living and working inside those green walls. Recent studies reveal that buildings with good overall environmental quality can reduce the rate of respiratory disease, allergy, asthma, sick building symptoms, and enhance worker performance.
Who's the greenest of them all? We already have some beautiful green structures in our area. Most notably, perhaps, is the exquisite new J Banks Design building on Main Street. It is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building on Hilton Head Island. Having toured the building, I can say without hesitation it is the very definition of form meeting function. Recycled materials are utilized not only resourcefully but beautifully throughout the structure. For example, the gorgeous heart of pine floors harvested from an old barn are as esthetically pleasing as they are eco-pleasing. You owe it to yourself to experience this brilliant example of green living. It is my hope that J Banks Design's foresight will serve as an inspiration to home and business owners whether they are building new or renovating. Green has never looked so good.