Green building, as a concept has been in existence for some time now. With the emergence of the sustainability movement with its increased momentum, Green Buildings have become a hot topic of discussion. However, Green Building is not to be confused with a natural building. Natural buildings are predominantly smaller in scale, and usually make use of locally available materials.
World Green Building Council points out that a Green Building in its design, construction, and operation aims to eliminate negative impacts as much as possible while increasing positive impacts. Now, there is no specific typological categorization for a green building. This means that all the buildings ranging from homes, offices, schools, hospitals, to recreational buildings could be built with the principle of a green building.
Green Building: The Start of An Era
If you’re wondering about an origin point, we’d have to imagine it to be around the early 1900s. The western contemporary green building movement started around the 1900s, driven by the demand for efficient energy practices and eco-friendly systems. In addition to this, events and phenomena of great impacts such as climate change and energy crisis gave the movement the momentum it needed to become as mainstream as it could.
The 1970s energy crisis dominated the shortage of oil in the developed countries, ultimately resulting in inflation. The urgency of the situation along with parallel environmental concerns helped spike up the interest, and early research for green building practices. Down the lane, the seriousness of climate change and impacts, clearly demonstrated during the Paris Agreement in 2016, further constitutes strict measures and committed learning towards better concepts of green buildings.
Current World Scenario: A Green Building Perspective
Green Building in practice brings in various components of techniques, understanding, and skills that ultimately aim at reducing harmful impacts on the environment, and ecosystems. Some of these include,
- Renewable resources
- Green roofs & gardens
- Reduction of rainwater wastage
- Low-impact building materials
A recent study conducted by USGBC (US Green Building Council) concludes that international contractors, builders, and developers expect more than a 50% increase in green buildings by 2021. Some of the popular green building practices that are actively into consideration are,
- Net Zero Buildings
- Importance to Climate
- Green Building Certification
- LEED Certification
- Energy systems
- Use of alternate low-energy building materials
With the growing popularity of green building incentives, and concern over renewable energy and diminishing natural resources, green building initiatives account for more than 3.3 million jobs in the US, alone. Expert personnel predict that the trajectory is only set to rise in the years to come.
Read also: Components of Green Building
Real World Benefits: A Boost for Green Building Practices
With varying benefits of green building in multiple domains, it may be easier to group them under 3 categories,
Economic benefits provided by green building practices prove beneficial for a wide range of occupants. Some of the benefits include lowered operating costs with higher occupancy, and lowered construction costs and higher property value. With increase in buildings, there is direct increase in usage of energy and supporting supplies for lighting, heating, and cooling. Now, if a commercial building is taken into consideration, the energy usage exponentially increases.
Green building practices take energy resources and usage under close scrutiny. This results in reducing the consumption, and ultimately decreased operational costs.
The social layer of everyday benefits from initiatives of green building practices, and create positive influences equally. These benefits can in particular be tied to human health and wellness of occupants and workers involved in the industry. With green building practices, users gain a better health and comfort perspective, thereby improving overall quality of living. In fact, research on the same proves that improved indoor air quality promotes work performance up to a solid 8%. Workers exposed to clean, and green environments recorded a 101% in cognitive functions.
It goes beyond saying at this point that green buildings have the most impact in the environmental spectrum. Adopting new practices will not only lend to reduction in harmful effects, but can also increase positive impacts to the environment. For example, improvement in bio-diversity and increasing oxygen levels.
Specific points of improvement include,
- Reduction in waste accumulation
- Improvement of overall air quality index
- Better use and planning of renewable and non-renewable resources
Two Sides of the Same Coin: A Brief List
Strengths of Practice
The positive impacts of green building is somewhat of an amalgamation of different aspects-economic, social, environmental, physical, etc. In addition to their benefits in these domains, green building practices come of great use in,
- ROI ( Return on Investment)
- Material efficiency
- Cleaner and healthier environment
- Efficiency in usage of water systems
- Overall human health benefits
- Utilisation and optimization of passive building techniques
- Lowered overall building maintenance
Challenges of Practice
Similar to other practices, green building initiatives naturally include challenges and possible weak points. Experts in the industry speculate whether the challenges are visibly more during the initial construction phase, than later down the process. Nevertheless, some challenges of concern are,
- Building costs (especially at the initial stages)
- Availability of green construction materials
- Time consumption
- Difficulty in attaining funding
- Potential misuse of green building certification systems
To finally make a decision of whether or not to employ green building solutions, many variables have to be taken into account. Especially with respect to the specific project at hand. However, it would be a loss to dismiss the idea for a few disadvantages it could carry into the overall process.
In fact, with our increasing call for action regarding a worsening climate crisis, and the need for better systems, green building practices would have to be encouraged and made as accessible as possible. Adopting measures on a global scale, as well as individual building level can create utmost impact in our construction industry.