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Green Building

The buildings we live, work, and play protect us from nature's extremes, yet they also affect our health, wellness and environment in many ways. As the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent, a new field called "green building" is gaining momentum.

Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.

Why Build Green?

In the United States, buildings account for:

  • 39 percent of total energy use
  • 12 percent of the total water consumption
  • 68 percent of total electricity consumption
  • 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions

The built environment has a vast impact on the natural environment, human health, and the economy. By adopting green building strategies, we can maximize both economic and environmental performance. Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction. However, the most significant benefits can be obtained if the design and construction team takes an integrated approach from the earliest stages of a building project. Potential benefits of green building can include:

  • Environmental benefits
  • Enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Reduce waste streams
  • Conserve and restore natural resources

Economic benefits are listed below:

  • Reduce operating costs
  • Create, expand, and shape markets for green product and services
  • Improve occupant productivity
  • Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Social benefits are listed below:

  • Enhance occupant comfort and health
  • Heighten aesthetic qualities
  • Minimize strain on local infrastructure
  • Improve overall quality of life

Components of Green Building

Environmentally Preferable Building Materials and Specifications

  • Waste Reduction
  • Toxics Reduction
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Smart Growth and Sustainable Development

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EPA and U.S. Dept of Energy's ENERGY STAR® program promotes partnerships with home-builders, office building managers, product manufacturers, and many other organizations to improve the energy efficiency of homes, buildings, and various building components and appliances.

  • ENERGY STAR for Green New Homes is a partnership focused on green new home construction.
  • ENERGY STAR Home Improvement provides information and resources for energy-efficient home renovation.
  • ENERGY STAR for Business is a program to help businesses improve their buildings' energy performance.

EPA's Green Power Partnership provides information about renewable power sources, renewable sources of energy, benefits of using green resources, and how to participate in a Partnership.

Some large electric power companies are starting to offer "Green Choice Rates" to consumers who sign up for the green choice rates program which can lower electric bills.

EPA's Heat Island Reduction Initiative works with communities and other partners to reduce the heat island effect caused by urban patterns of development.

  • Cool Roofs provides information about energy saving roofs.
  • Green Roofs provides information about water and energy saving vegetated roofs.

Water Efficiency

EPA's WaterSense program promotes and enhances the market for water-efficient products and services and educates homeowners, businesses, landscapers and others. WaterSense also develops performance criteria for water efficient products and services.

Environmentally Preferable Building Materials and Specifications

EPA's Industrial Materials Recycling Program provides information on how industrial materials, such as coal combustion products, foundry sand, and construction and demolition debris, can be recycled to meet the material needs of our construction industry. Industrial materials can be recycled in construction applications because they have many of the same chemical and physical properties as the virgin materials they replace. In some cases, they can even improve the quality of a product.

EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program aims to make the environment a factor in federal purchasing of all kinds of products, including building products.

EPA's Database of Environmental Information on Products includes product-specific information (e.g., environmental standards and guidelines or contract language) developed by government programs, both domestic and international, as well as third parties.

EPA and our partners, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive and the multi agency-sponsored Whole Building Design Guide, are developing the Federal Green Construction Guide and getting a Green Seal of Approval which is applicable to all types of green energy sources and devices helping to meet green energy goals established by statutes and Executive Orders, as well as EPA and DOE program recommendations.

EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines program designates products that are or can be made with recovered materials, and recommends practices for buying these products

Waste Reduction

EPA's Office of Solid Waste supports projects to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste generated from building construction, renovation, deconstruction, and demolition.

EPA's GreenScapes program provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for large-scale landscaping that are designed to help preserve natural resources and prevent waste and pollution.

EPA's Industrial Materials Recycling Program provides information on how industrial materials, such as coal combustion products, foundry sand, and construction and demolition debris, can be recycled to meet the material needs of our construction industry. Industrial materials can be recycled in construction applications because they have many of the same chemical and physical properties as the virgin materials they replace. In some cases, they can even improve the quality of a product.

Toxics Reduction

EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program works with stakeholders to provide EPA's chemical assessment tools and expertise to inform substitution to safer chemistries. For example, DfE Furniture Flame Retardancy Partnership is helping industry factor environmental and human health considerations into their decision-making as they choose chemical flame retardants for fire safe furniture foam.

EPA's Green Chemistry program supports the research and development of safer chemicals and safer chemical processes through education and incentives.

EPA's Green Engineering program works to incorporate risk related concepts into chemical processes and products designed by academia and industry.

EPA provides information for consumers about products containing mercury that may be found in the home and information about mercury in schools.

EPA's OPPT Lead Web site provides information about lead, lead hazards, and provides some simple steps to protect your family.

EPA's OPPT Asbestos Website provides various ways for the public to access information about asbestos including general information about asbestos and its health effects, a list of commonly used Asbestos acronyms, and information about what to do if you suspect asbestos in your home or your school.

EPA's Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) forms partnerships with pesticide users to reduce the potential health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use and implement pollution prevention strategies.

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) (sometimes also referred to as Indoor Environmental Quality or IEQ) is a critical component of constructing "green" homes and buildings. EPA's Indoor Environments Program offers several IAQ tools and programs designed to protect occupant health, promote comfort and productivity, and enhance the durability of structures.

  • IAQ Home Label for ENERGY STAR qualified new homes that also meet EPA construction specifications designed to reduce IAQ problems.
  • Radon Resistant New Construction provides information and resources for new home builders.
  • IAQ Design Tools for Schools helps schools with tools and resources to establish and maintain good indoor air quality.
  • IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM) helps building professionals establish and maintain good indoor air quality.

Smart Growth and Sustainable Development

Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) is a competitive grant program that offers an innovative way for a community to organize and take action to reduce toxic pollution in its local environment.

EPA's Green Infrastructure program promotes a new approach to storm water management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

EPA's GreenScapes program provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for large-scale landscaping that are designed to help preserve natural resources and prevent waste and pollution.

EPA's Sustain ability Program offers individuals, communities and institutions the ability to develop and implement sustainable practices.

EPA's Smart Growth Program provides tools to develop healthy communities, promote economic development, build strong neighborhoods and helps to make smart transportation choices.

EPA's Urban Non Point Source Pollution Program provides information on how to reduce the run-off of pollutants from urban environments into our waters, including low-impact development strategies.

EPA's Brownfields Initiative works with public, private and non-profit partners to sustainable reuse sites whose redevelopment may be complicated by the real or perceived presence of contaminants.

  • EPA's Environmentally Responsible Redevelopment and Reuse (ER3) Initiative uses enforcement and other Agency-wide incentives to promote sustainable redevelopment of contaminated sites.

EPA's Heat Island Reduction Initiative works with communities and other partners to reduce the heat island effect caused by urban development.

  • Cool Roofs provides information about energy saving roofs.
  • Green Roofs provides information about water and energy saving vegetated roofs.
  • Editor's Note: Homeowners can achieve even more green energy savings by installing Solar Powered Attic Fans, is a cool idea in that it uses free solar energy to cool the house attic which results in lower air conditioning bills in the living area.
  • Editor's Note: Automated management of your home-power sources is an important aspect to energy management and savings on home utilities. Therefore, it's a good idea to use a computer program to operate your home utilities in a pre-programmed energy-savings manner.

EPA's Gateway to International Best Practices & Innovations includes a section on Urban Management, Sustainable Development and Smart Growth which promotes the improvement of land use management, planning, and building operations and reducing the environmental impact to both suburban and metropolitan areas.

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