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Green Communities

Kermit Was Right

It's not easy defining green.


Yes, we admit it; the blog title is a play on words from the oft-quoted Kermit the Frog. But it continually amazes me how many building professionals, companies, and organizations don’t have or clearly state a comprehensive and clear definition of building green. Without one, you risk confusing your staff and your clients. With one, you ensure that everyone is on the same page, from the beginning of and throughout the whole construction process.

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about and researching definitions of building green and the one I like best I found on the EPA Region 3 website a number of years ago:

A green building is “…purposefully designed to reduce both the direct and indirect environmental consequences associated with its construction, occupancy, operation, maintenance and eventual decommissioning. Constructing a green building requires the cooperation of everyone involved in the design and building process.”

I like this definition for these reasons:

1. It starts with design. Too many projects “inject green” well past the design phase, missing some of the most important and cost-effective opportunities for greening the project.

2. It addresses every phase of the life of a building. Without attention to each of these phases, we won’t get the reduced environmental impact we seek.

3. It emphasizes cooperation. Too often the design folks don’t respect the engineers, the engineers don’t respect the trades. Building is still about people and if they are not working together, you can’t get a high performance building at the end of the day.

4. It ends with process. For too many of us in the building industry, green building is all about the products; if we throw in some bamboo flooring or carpet made from soda bottles, we are all set. How we build is just as important as what we build with.


In my search for the perfect definition of Green Building, I came across this in the 2008 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria:

“… Green building integrates materials and methods that promote environmental quality, economic vitality and social benefits through design, construction and operation of the built environment.”

I like this definition because, like Peter’s example above, it addresses partnerships and cooperation and states a specific process. As a former commercial and residential developer, I am crucially aware that economic vitality is essential to any real estate project, and the integration of green building is increasingly driving the economics of development. But the reason I originally decided to become a developer, and the motivating factor behind why I am with Enterprise Green Communities now, is the latter part of the definition…”social benefits through design, construction and operation of the built environment.” To me, green building is about people. It is the collaborative creation of environmentally responsible, economically beneficial, health-conscious structures for your beneficiaries.

Focusing on the beneficiary of your project is essential, especially in the affordable housing sector. I asked a colleague of mine here at Enterprise Green Communities, Yianice Hernandez, to share some of her knowledge of a recent project we have been involved in that is showing measured health benefits as a result of green building practices. I would like to share it with you…

Viking Terrace

In early 2010, the results of a three-year evaluation by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) of residents in a 60-unit substantial rehabilitated project in Worthington, MN. Preliminary data show:

• Significant improvements in general adult health, chronic bronchitis, hay fever, sinusitis, and asthma.

• Large improvements in children’s general health, children’s respiratory allergies, children’s ear infections, comfort, and safety.

For more information on this project, click here.

I encourage you to check out the study above and if you would like other examples, feel free to ask me here on the blog.

So… in reading our definitions and highlights of green building, what stands out to you? What is your definition and why does it matter so much to you?


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