Guiding Principles of Green Building Practices

More states and local governments are taking action to incorporate green building techniques into their planning and policy framework as a foundation for resource efficiency, a green economy, and sustainable development. According to a report by the University of Delaware’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, seventeen states have adopted legislation to promote green building and design. The report also cites examples of cities that have adopted green building policy platforms to encourage construction of LEED-certified buildings and structures that maximize energy efficiency, conserve water, manage or recycle waste, and preserve local environments. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.

In addition, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) teamed with the International Code Council (ICC) to establish a nationally recognized standard for green building. The 2012 ICC 700 National Green Building Standard is now being used to guide green building across the residential building industry. ENERGY STAR, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992, is voluntary program designed to identify and promote energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution. Many states, including Delaware, and local governments are incorporating ENERGY STAR into their energy efficiency programs and policies.

University of Delaware’s Laird Campus

University of Delaware’s Laird Campus, Source: Responsible Energy Code Alliance

Green building practices can serve a variety of purposes and are often categorized into multi-faceted designs and approaches that are beneficial for both communities and businesses. Both policy professionals and the building industry have categorized green building principles to help guide future development and design. The five principles of green building practices have been established that are organized around the life cycle performance of green buildings. An integrated and comprehensive approach, the principles encompass each of the green building phases, including construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning.

  • Sustainable Siting—this approach optimizes land use and development to reduce adverse impacts and minimize the building’s ecological footprint.
  • Energy Efficiency—this technique focuses on the establishment of performance targets that account for intended use, occupancy and other energy operations for new construction and renovation projects.
  • Water efficiency— this technique emphasizes the value of decreasing demands for fresh water and reducing the generation of wastwater through optimized landscaping, integrated rainwater cathments, gray water recycling, and wastewater treatment systems.
  • Building Materials—by using sustainable construction materials and resources, green building materials have aided the reduction of extraction, processing, transportation, solid waste, and consumption.
  • Healthy Indoor Environmental Quality—these processes have enhanced the sustainable communities through ventilation and thermal comfort, moisture control, daylighting, environmental tobacco smoke control, and protecting indoor air quality during construction.

Green principles remain a critical component of sustainable development and have developed environmentally sound technologies, designs, and buildings. Because the green building field is rapidly evolving, state and local governments will need to keep abreast of changes to green building certification programs, rating systems, standards, and technology advancements.

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