Recently I spent some time accumulating definitions of “green building” from as many sources as possible. These various definitions included ten different characteristics of green buildings.
Of course, not all definitions agree, and none of the definitions include all ten of the characteristics that I identified in the various definitions.
The three most common characteristics appeared in most of the definitions. According to most sources, a green building:
- (1) Is energy-efficient.
- (2) Is water-conserving.
- (3) Uses materials in a resource-efficient way.
Beyond these three characteristics, sources differed widely. Only a few definitions noted one or more of the remaining seven characteristics that I discovered (and list below).
A green building:
- (4) Uses materials produced in ways that minimize pollution; in other words, uses materials that minimize the environmental impact of the project.
- (5) Uses materials and processes that are environmentally sustainable.
- (6) Is designed for operation that minimally impacts the environment.
- (7) Provides above-average indoor air quality or promotes human health.
- (8) Disturbs the site as little as possible.
- (9) Is durable.
- (10) Is as small as possible.
The logic behind the definitions
Let’s look at the logic between each of these ten characteristics.
1. A green building is energy-efficient. Energy use is strongly associated with greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing energy consumption tends to reduce damage to our environment caused by burning fossil fuels.
There are many different ways to reduce energy use: for example, we can buy more efficient appliances, install thicker insulation, or specify windows with a very low U-factor. Determining whether the environmental benefits of reduced energy consumption are valuable enough to justify the cost (the environmental cost as well as the financial cost) of expensive energy-saving measures is tricky, so implementing this point takes judgment.
It’s also worth noting that most countries in the world are now transitioning to energy sources that…