Sustainable or “green” building design and construction is the use of ecological and resource-efficient construction practices. Specifically, it is constructing structures with the idea to leave a lighter footprint on the environment through conservation of resources, while at the same time balancing energy-efficient, cost-effective, low-maintenance products. 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; and,
  • Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation.
Why go green?
Green building encompasses all stages of the construction process, including design and building maintenance once the construction is complete. Green buildings not only use environmentally friendly products during the construction process, but rely on environmentally friendly products and practices throughout the lifecycle of the building.

In the United States, buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of total water consumption. As the societal crackdown on environmental sustainability continues to grow, green building is becoming a choice for both new construction and renovation.

There are major benefits to building green. Aside from the obvious “right thing to do,” there are also financial benefits to construction and contracting companies.

As interest for green building increases, contractors, architects, construction workers and builders who are educated in green building will be more in demand. You can increase the value of your services by offering green alternatives to building and construction projects.

The media has recognized green building as one of the most important trends today in construction, especially residential. Construction projects that utilize green building are often featured at tradeshows, in local media and other public and industry events, giving your firm extra publicity. Green building also reduces material waste. Traditional construction projects can cost you in unused materials and the fees to dispose of them.

If you want to take your business down the green path, there are several important steps to take, including LEED certification, participation in green initiatives and practicing what you preach.

LEED certification
LEED certification is the most popular first step in becoming a green builder. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ is a third-party certification program and the nationally-accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The rating system is a universally understood and accepted set of tools and performance criteria. The LEED system is developed through volunteer committees that represent a cross-section of the building and construction industry. There are a number of LEED rating systems for the various types of building projects, including existing buildings, commercial interiors, schools, retail, health care, homes and new construction.

Both a building/project and a person can become LEED certified. A building or project can attain LEED certification by submitting an application that documents compliance with the requirements set in the LEED rating system that corresponds to the type of project. LEED professional accreditation is also attainable by individuals, contractors, project managers and other industry professionals. Professional accreditation demonstrates that an individual or company is well-versed in the LEED system and can work with other individuals and developers to oversee the building process and follow guidelines to attain LEED certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council manages the LEED program development, offers preparation courses and the final exam for individuals who would like to become accredited, and handles LEED project registration. Visitwww.usgbc.orgfor more information.

Aside from LEED education, participate in green design organizations or programs. There are a number of organizations, such as Build It Green (www.builditgreen. org) that through membership you can engage in continuing education and forums, access extended resources and use their logo and your membership involvement to market your green building services. When choosing a construction or contractor company, consumers who are interested in green building will look for organizations that show an involvement with green organizations and initiatives.

Walk the talk
Make sure you practice what you preach. If you want to present your green building services, you should ensure your business operations are environmentally friendly. Recycle and use and install environmentally responsible materials and supplies, such as energy-efficient lighting. As always, ensure your workers’ safety and health on the job site.

Environmental sustainability concerns continue to be present in the media. Although economic conditions may alter the current demand for green building, it is certain that the future of green building is strong. Consumers do understand the benefits of green products and services and are willing to pay more. As a builder, becoming green can increase your market appeal and improve your bottom line.

SIDEBAR: Resources for green building

U.S. Green Building Council –

Build it Green –

U.S. EPA –

Energy Star –