“Building Green” is a two word phrase that has two parts to its \’ definition.
It means to design and build a structure in such a way that the actual construction has minimal impact on the environment including the processing of the construction materials, the movement of the materials and the physical impact it has on its’ environment.
It also means to design and build a structure in such a way that it minimally impacts the environment during use, whether it is used for housing or as a commercial structure, including light, heat and water as well as the immediate and downstream environs.
A few years ago I was reading the September issue of “New Life Journal” (the print edition) and inside they have a section called “Green Home Resource Guide.” It highlights various so-called green technology and has an interview with someone working in the green building industry.
In this issue they talked with Maggie Leslie of the WNCGBC (Western North Carolina Green Building Council about their “Healthy Built Home” (HBH) Certification and what it means to be green. The WNCGBC says the HBH is a guideline as well as a certification.
I wholeheartedly agree that a rating system is a good idea but I differ with the way the WNCGBC has done it. A lot of the stuff they promote – such as insulation wrapping the entire unit – isn’t really all that green. It may be energy efficient but not that green.
This got me to thinking: what exactly would it take for a building to be truly green? Just from the article my gears started turning and some ideas started to crop up. This article is to start a dialog trying to pin down what it is to be building green and ways to determine how green your home is.
I’ll get the ball rolling.
Ideally, a 100% green home would…
- use only materials found on site, or nearby, that requires no man-hours or fuel to be useable in the structure (does not need cut or shaped, etc.).
- use only materials provided by nature (no plastic, styrofoam, fiberglass, etc).
- maintain a comfortable living temperature all year round without the use of any heating or cooling source.
- have enough sunlight penetration during daylight hours to do 90% of whatever you want to do without the additional use of energy to produce light. I say 90% because there are times (dependent upon what you are doing) when you will need a little extra light.
- provide its’ own water without tapping into municipal mains or wells drilled into the water table.
- minimize the impact its’ design has on the environment by providing at least as much new ground surface as it uses for its’ footprint.
- use no power tools during construction.
- requires no maintenance
Whereas, a 100% (with 0 being halfway) non-green home would…
- use only materials brought great distances and/or require many man hours and a lot of fuel to prepare them to be useable in the structure.
- use nothing but man made materials or extensive use of manmade chemicals in the manufacturing process.
- require extensive heating and cooling systems.
- be sealed so that no light can penetrate to the interior requiring extensive use of artificial light.
- tap into the water table or municipal water supply.
- not take into consideration the environmental impact its’ footprint has on the environment.
- make use of heavy and specialized tools and equipment during construction.
- require constant work to keep it in useable condition.
Granted these are two extremes with the first being perfectly green and the latter, well, the absolutely worst case scenario. What would you add or subtract to the above lists? How would you calculate how green some aspect (such as a heat source or water catchment) of building green is? Would you add it to the non-green method or subtract it from the green method?
For example: for every 5 miles something has to go from source to the building site you subtract .1%, so, something that has to move 100 miles would subtract 2% for a total of 98% green. (100 / 5 * 0.1) NOTE: 5 miles is about a half hour of unobstructed, unburdened walking. It also gives an area of almost 25 square miles to search for stuff.
Now it’s your turn.