There are plenty of reasons to construct green-certified buildings, says Extension environmental assistant Jody Thompson.
Cost-savings and reduced energy use are at the top of the list.
"Building with green guidelines has environmental and financial benefits," says Thompson, an environmental assistant with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, who is based at the Auburn University Extension and Marine Center in Mobile.
In some cases, people benefit too.
"Some certification guidelines also focus on the human health aspects of buildings, such as improving indoor quality by using fewer toxic compounds during the construction process," Thompson explains.
Initial green building costs may be higher than those associated with traditional building methods. Over time, though, they are offset by lower operation and maintenance costs and also by the high demand for green buildings, Thompson says.
She cites figures from the U.S. Green Building Council, which estimates that buildings constructed using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system have an 8 to 9 percent reduction in operating costs, a 7.5 percent increase in value, a 3.5 percent increase in occupancy and a 3 percent increase in rent.
But, of course, that is the reasoning behind the green buildings in the first place.
"By employing a cradle-to-grave concept in building — considering at the planning phase that the building is a holistic working system with a defined lifespan at the building phase — green building guidelines benefit the builder, property owner and the environment," she says.
Thompson says green buildings benefit people and the environment in four different ways.
Efficient Use of Resources: Green building guildelines are designed not only to account for the surrounding environment during the planning phase but also to encourage the reuse of construction materials and reducing construction waste.
Some designs even reduce air pollution by encouraging the use of locally produced production materials, which can be transported a shorter distances.
Lower Water Consumption: The National Association of Homebuilders reports that a traditional home uses an average of 64 gallons of water each day indoors. However, a home built under green building protocols can reduce usage by 30 percent. Likewise, outdoor water usage can be reduced with the incorporation of native plants into landscaping plans.
Lower Energy Consumption: Green building guidelines address energy consumption during the construction phase as well as over the life of the building. The guidelines account for the building as a whole system, including windows, ducts, vapor barriers and the building envelope. The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that homes built using the LEED system are 30 to 60 percent more energy efficient than traditional homes.
Indoor Air Quality: Faced with asthma and allergies, indoor air quality is a high priority in the lives of many people. Compounds, materials and chemicals used in traditional building construction emit contaminants that aggravate these health conditions. By contrast, green building guidelines promote the use of low-volatile chemical compounds, paint, air filters, low or nontoxic carpeting and other healthier materials.
For more information on green building practices, download ANR-1339 titled "Building Green: What Does it Mean" from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Web site.
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