Basic InformationDefinition of Green Building | Green Building History in the U.S. | Green Building Research | Green Building and EPA | More Information
Definition of Green Building
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building.
Impacts of the built environment:
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Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
- Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
- Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
- Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation
For example, green buildings may incorporate sustainable materials in their construction (e.g., reused, recycled-content, or made from renewable resources); create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants (e.g., reduced product emissions); and/or feature landscaping that reduces water usage (e.g., by using native plants that survive without extra watering).
There are a number of reasons to build green, including potential environmental, economic and social benefits.
Green Building History in the U.S.
Some practices, such as using local and renewable materials or passive solar design, date back millennia – the Anasazi in the Southwest built entire villages so that all the homes received solar heat in the winter. The contemporary green building movement arose out of the need and desire for more energy efficient and environmentally friendly building practices. The oil price increases of the 1970s spurred significant research and activity to improve energy efficiency and find renewable energy sources. This, combined with the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, led to the earliest experiments with contemporary green building.
The green building field began to come together more formally in the 1990s. A few early milestones in the U.S. include:
- American Institute of Architects (AIA) formed the Committee on the Environment (1989)
- Environmental Resource Guide published by AIA, funded by EPA (1992)
- EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy launched the ENERGY STAR program (1992)
- First local green building program introduced in Austin, TX (1992)
- U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) founded (1993)
- "Greening of the White House" initiative launched (Clinton Administration 1993)
- USGBC launched their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) version 1.0 pilot program (1998)
The Federal Commitment to Green Building: Experiences and Expectations (PDF) (89 pp, 2MB, About PDF), a report of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, provides a history of federal involvement with green building. Some of the key federal milestones include:
- The Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes federal building sustainable performance standards (2005)
- Nineteen federal agencies sign Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) (10 pp, 152 KB, About PDF) at a White House Summit (2006)
- The Office of Management and Budget unveils a new Environmental Scorecard for federal agencies which includes a Sustainable Building element. (2006)
- Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers is made available on the Whole Building Design Guide (2006)
- President Bush signs Executive Order 13423 - Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management (PDF) (5 pp, 172KB, About PDF), which includes federal goals for sustainable design and high performance buildings (2007)
- The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 includes requirements for high performance green federal buildings (2007)
The White Paper on Sustainability: A Report on the Green Building Movement (PDF) (48 pp, 1.2 MB, About PDF) , published by the Building Design and Construction magazine, also contains a brief history of green building on pages 4-6.
Green Building Research
Green building research is being done by national laboratories, private companies, universities, and industry. According to a USGBC report published in 2006, over 70 percent of the green building research is focused on energy and atmosphere research. The next largest category of research is materials and resources. Indoor environmental quality, including issues pertaining to air, is also being studied. The USGBC report, Green Building Research Funding: An Assessment of Current Activity in the United States (PDF) (37 pp, 316 KB, About PDF) , have additional information.
Green Building and EPA
EPA has a number of programs that provide resources to help you learn more about the components of green building and how to incorporate these green building concepts into different types of buildings.
Green Building Workgroup
EPA's Green Building Workgroup was formed in July 2003 to bring together the many programs across the Agency that work with the building and development sectors to improve their environmental performance. The Workgroup seeks to build effective EPA leadership in the green building movement by jointly informing, coordinating, and guiding the development of Agency policies, programs, partnerships, communications, and operations that influence building and development.
Greening EPA Buildings
To ensure that EPA's buildings and practices reflect the mission of protecting human health and the environment, EPA continuously works to reduce the environmental impact of its facilities and operations, from building new, environmentally sustainable structures to improving the energy efficiency of older buildings. A number of EPA facilities are actively pursuing or demonstrating green building principles.