4 Elements of a Green Building

4 Elements of a Green Building

The New Gold Standard

What is a Green Building?


Not all buildings are designed the same, nor are they required. Different regions, climate conditions, cultures, building types and ages, economical and social priorities all play a part in how green buildings are approached.


Going green has become the gold standard for many designers working on offices, schools, hospitals, and even residential. There are a number or features that can make your building green, but we will focus on 4 we feel are the most important.


How Do I Get My Building to Green Standards?

1. Indoor Air Quality Systems


Energy lost through walls, roofs, and windows is one the biggest waste of energy in many buildings. How tight can we make the envelop to decrease energy usage and cost has become the primary focus.


When the proper products are used, insulation can be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve a buildings energy efficiency. Look for vapor barriers that reduce cooling and heating loads, keep your air clean, and moisture out so you can enjoy the savings by reducing your energy usage.


2. Alternative Material Systems

High quality products that are environmentally conscious, economically strategic and contributes to overall building design, longevity, life cycle benefits and sustainability is important.


Metals like copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and zinc are 100% recyclable, contribute to the longevity of a project, and reduce waste. They can be used for interior or exterior and are often used in achieving “green” building status.


Work with a professional. Architects are trained to understand which products are sustainable and healthy for a building and its occupants. Focus on materials that:


  • Are Durable and long lasting

  • Have a high recycle content

  • Are low in toxicity


3. Energy Distribution Systems

Almost 25% of electricity used in buildings are comprised of electric lighting. Pursuing new ways to improve energy performance is worth investigating. Daylight systems can cut energy usage between 50-80%, according to the Department of Energy. Natural light is free why not take advantage of it.


Not only does natural light reduce the energy cost from electrical lighting but is also reduces heat. Light bulbs put off heat and when the heat rises in a building their HVAC runs for hours trying to maintain a comfortable temperature.


While there is an internal need to get away from the fluorescent lighting after continued exposure – there is scientific evidence that encourages contact with sunlight as well. Dr. Alan Hedge, a professor at Cornell University, conducted a research study that reinforces the connections of natural light to the health and productivity of employees.


Talk with a professional about the best daylighting options for your building. Using the wrong system can have the reverse effect and can wind up costing you more money.


4. Green Product Certifications

Green product certification is conducted by a third party to ensure products meets a particular standard and offers environmental benefit. These assurances give architects, specifiers, and owners that the products claims reflect its green attributes. Some of the most common certifications are:


Issued by the U.S Green Buildings Council, LEED, is the most common and recognizable of the “green” certificates. LEED certification can be more costly and take more time to complete. The process requires you to upload data and wait for the results to be reviewed by an anonymous review team. There are 9 certificate programs of which are determined on a point-based rating system. The total points determine which of the following LEED certificate categories you may qualify for.


  • LEED Certification

  • Silver

  • Gold

  • Platinum


Green Globes

Green Globes has a more interactive process that creates a significant difference in time and cost to completed, both of which can be sustainably less that the LEED process. This assessment is completed by a third-party visit to your site where an independent contractor visits the site and meets with the owner and consultant to review the project. To qualify for the Green Globes certificate, you must qualify for at least 35% of the 1,000 points offered through the Green Building Initiative. The process is comprised of an online survey, third party assessment, and post assessment. Percentages determine your certificate type.


  • 35%-54% One Globe

  • 55%-69% Two Globes

  • 70%-84% Three Globes

  • 85%-100% Four Globes


National Green Building Standard

The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is awarded by the National Association of Homes Builders, and much like LEED has a multi-level tier certification. However, unlike the LEED, NGBS is for residential properties only such as single and multi-family homes, as well as, mixed used developments. The following certifications are:


  • Bronze

  • Silver

  • Gold

  • Emerald


How Do I Get My Building to Green Standards?

While the initial startup cost of materials and products can cost more, the long-term savings is the goal. Consider it an investment. Conserving energy means lower energy cost that continues to compound over the years.


According to Sheffield Metals, you would need to purchase a shingle roof 3 times to compare the longevity to a metal roof.

Metal roof = $17,457 x 1 (1, 60-year lifespan) = $17,457

Shingle roof = $8,737 x 3 (3, 20-year lifespans) = $26,211

In other good news, green efficiency and sustainability can also enhance the value of your property. Some study have shown that energy efficient buildings have increased property sales by as much as 35 percent.


Besides the financial reward we gain, going green focuses on the larger environment. Green buildings consume less energy and reduce the waste and pollution created by man. It is a win-win situation.