What is Green Building?
Green building practices offer an opportunity to create environmentally sound and resource-efficient buildings by using an integrated approach to design. Green buildings promote resource conservation, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation; consider environmental impacts and waste minimization; create a healthy and comfortable environment; and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
Green building involves consideration in four main areas: site development, material selection and minimization, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.
- Consider site development to reduce the impact of development on the natural environment. For example, orient the buildings to take advantage of solar access, shading and wind patterns tat will lessen heating and cooling loads.
- Carefully select materials that are durable, contain recycled content, and are locally manufactured to reduce negative environmental impacts. A growing market exists of quality recycled products at affordable prices.
- Incorporate energy-efficient design into buildings to create an efficient and comfortable environment. Take advantage of the natural elements and technologies to conserve resources and increase occupant comfort/productivity while lowering long-term operational costs and pollutants.
- Design for high indoor air quality to promote occupant health and productivity.
- Minimize the waste in construction and demolition processes by recovering materials and reusing or recycling them.
Why Build Green?
The design, construction, and maintenance of buildings have a tremendous impact on our environment and our natural resources. The building sector alone consumes two-thirds of electricity produced in the U.S., and is a significant contributor to air pollution and the pollutants that case climate change. The challenge then becomes to build smart so that buildings use a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce minimal pollution, and use a minimum of dollars, while increasing the comfort, health, and safety of the people who work in them. Since building design has a strong impact on student learning, occupant health and occupant productivity, green building is important to incorporate at CU.
Is Green Building Cost-Effective?
Green building practices do not necessarily increase initial costs, but the certainly lower costs over the lifespan of a building. Over $42 billion annually is wasted in U.S. buildings due to energy consumption that could be avoided. When energy savings over time, increased durability, and enhanced occupant productivity is factored in, green design features and materials become easier to justify. While green technologies are usually less costly and easier to incorporate into the original designs of a building, there are many cost-effective strategies for retrofitting existing buildings. Several successful examples of green buildings have been built proving that sustainable design is cost-effective and a great environment example. Many of these designs have received awards and national recognition.
How can we build green at CU?
Current CU Master Plan goals:
- All new buildings and major renovations are built to a LEED® Gold Standard plus extra attention is focused on energy and water credits (CU-Boulder’s term of LEED Gold “Plus”). This helps ensure that buildings are as energy and water conserving as possible and provide the greatest long-term payback for the investments made. Also, projects are to achieve performance at a minimum level of 45 percent better than the ASHRAE standards in place at the time of the project’s construction.
- Ensure that all new and renovated facilities underway be near net-zero carbon facilities. A net-zero energy facility collects as much energy from renewable sources as the facility uses on an annual basis while maintaining an acceptable level of service and functionality. Buildings can exchange energy with the power grid as long as the net energy balance is zero on an annual basis.
- Install visible energy monitoring devices on buildings and make information available to inform and help occupants track conservation behaviors.
- As appropriate, plan and construct facilities that intertwine indoor space with nature to capitalize on the benefits of biophilic design—the term is derived from biophilia, coined in 1984 by a Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, to describe what he considered the innate human attraction to nature—that incorporates real or simulated natural elements in an effort to promote well-being.
CU buildings can achieve a “Green Score” under the LEEDTM system. The LEED Green Building Rating System TM, a program of the US Green Building Council, is a self-assessing system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and residential buildings. It evaluates environmental performance from a “whole building” perspective over a building’s life cycle and provides a definitive standard for what constitutes a “green building.” Credits are earned for satisfying various criteria and different levels of green building certification are awarded based on the total credits earned. The voluntary system is designed to be comprehensive in scope, yet simple in operation.
United States Green Building Council