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Green Building Questions

Green building practices focus on improving both the environment and the health and comfort of building occupants. Proven green building techniques reduce energy, water, and materials use and improve air quality, temperature control, and access to day-light and views for building occupants. Green buildings have lower operating costs and similar construction costs to conventional buildings. Over the life of the building, significant savings are realized.

Whether we are working, learning, playing, or simply spending time with our friends and families, our time is increasingly spent inside a building. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Often without our awareness, buildings and their supporting infrastructure affect our personal interactions, our health, our environment, and our economy.

The building industry is the largest manufacturing activity in the United States. According to the United States Department of Energy’s Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development, buildings in the United States consume over 30 percent of America’s energy, 67 percent of all electricity, and produce over 35 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions (the chief greenhouse gas). In California, buildings generate about 30 percent of the State’s solid waste materials. In addition buildings are a major source of the pollution that causes urban air quality problems and the pollutants that many scientists believe trigger climate change. Traditional building practices allow such environmental degradation and resource inefficiency by failing to integrate essential design elements at the outset.

Green building, by contrast, prescribes an integrated design approach, in which the project team – architects, interior designers, engineers, operations and maintenance staff, occupants, and the client – view the building as a whole system. From the start, design, construction, operations and maintenance, and demolition are considered and evaluated to optimize the environmental and economic performance of the building. This involves evaluating the building and its components over the entire life cycle of the building in order to accurately measure its economic, environmental and social costs.

The built environment has a profound impact on our natural environment, economy, health, and productivity. Green building practices provide the framework and tools to build in an efficient, healthy, and ecologically responsible manner. Encouraging green building practices is in the public’s interest because these techniques maximize environmental, economic and social benefits.

Many other Cities, Counties and States have embraced green building policies and have adopted Green Building Programs:

  • City of Santa Monica, CA
  • City of Portland, OR
  • City of Seattle, WA
  • City of Austin, TX
  • City of New York, NY
  • City of Scottsdale, AZ
  • City of San Jose, CA
  • City of Boulder, CO
  • City of Los Angeles, CA
  • City of San Francisco, CA
  • San Mateo County, CA
  • San Diego County, CA
  • King County, WA
  • Alameda County, CA
  • State of Pennsylvania

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED standards are produced by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. LEED recognizes achievements and promotes expertise in green building through a comprehensive system offering project certification, professional accreditation, training and practical resources.

LEED standards include:

  • LEED-NC: New commercial construction and major renovation projects
  • LEED-EB - Existing building operations
  • LEED-CI - Commercial interiors projects
  • LEED-CS - Core and shell projects
  • LEED-H - Homes
  • LEED-ND - Neighborhood development
  • LEED Application Guides: Retail, Multiple Buildings/Campuses, Schools, Healthcare, Laboratories, Lodging

LEED was created to:

  • define "green building" by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • stimulate green competition
  • raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • transform the building market