What’s it all about?
Well, the way we talk about it is a great place to start; language can be a challenge because each of us might think a term has a different meaning. Three terms commonly used interchangeably in reference to the building and construction industry are Green Design (GreenBuilding), Sustainable Design (Sustainability) and High Performance Buildings. Definitions of these vary by who is defining them, for instance:
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “GreenBuilding” as:
“The practice of maximizing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use resources – energy, water, and materials – while minimizing building impacts on human health and the environment, through the complete life cycle – from siting, design, and construction to operation, renovation and reuse.”
The US Green Building Council defines “Green Design” as:
“Design and construction practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of buildings on the environment and its occupants. This includes site planning, safeguarding water and the efficient use of water, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, conserving materials and resources, promoting indoor air quality for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The United Nation’s 1987 “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development” (The Brundtland Principles) defined “Sustainable Development” as:
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In the book Cannibals with Forks, author John Elkington defines “Sustainable Development” as:
“The simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity. Companies aiming for sustainability need to perform not against a single financial bottom line, but against this triple bottom line.”
The General Services Administration (GSA), in their publication The New Sustainable Frontier, takes a more global look at “Sustainability”:
“We must be aware of how our everyday decisions affect sustainability. Sustainable development isn’t just about good business and doing well by doing good, or even about personal virtue, it is about survival on this planet. Developing effective tools and strategies for survival requires an understanding of sustainability, and how we affect it through our everyday decisions.”
Another common term is High Performance Green Building Design. It includes the integration of planning, site orientation, energy saving techniques, on-site renewable energy production, light reflective materials, natural daylight and ventilation, downsizing of building systems natural landscaping, water savings equipment, low maintenance materials or recycled construction materials, and smart building controls.
Whether the term is “Green”, “Sustainable”, or “High Performance”, the basic core values are the constant: tread lightly, be a good neighbor and don’t be a pig.
Each is about being a steward and a leader in the protection of the environment-at-large, energy conservation, and the quality of the indoor environment.