The design, construction, and maintenance of
buildings has a tremendous impact on our environment and our
natural resources. There are more than 76 million residential
buildings and nearly 5 million commercial buildings in the U.S.
today. These buildings together use one-third of all the
energy consumed in the U.S., and two-thirds of all electricity.
By the year 2010, another 38 million buildings are expected
to be constructed. The challenge will be to build them smart,
so they use a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce a minimum
of pollution, and cost a minimum of energy dollars, while increasing
the comfort, health, and safety of the people who live and work
Further, buildings are a major source of the
pollution that causes urban air quality problems, and the pollutants
that contribute to climate change. They account for 49 percent
of sulfur dioxide emissions, 25 percent of nitrous oxide emissions,
and 10 percent of particulate emissions, all of which damage
urban air quality. Buildings produce 35 percent of the
country's carbon dioxide emissionsthe chief pollutant
blamed for climate change.
Traditional building practices often overlook
the interrelationships between a building, its components, its
surroundings, and its occupants. "Typical" buildings
consume more of our resources than necessary, negatively impact
the environment, and generate a large amount of waste. According
to Laurence Doxsey, former Coordinator of the City of Austin
Green Builder Program, "a standard wood-framed home consumes
over one acre of forest and the waste created during construction
averages from 3 to 7 tons." Often, these buildings
are costly to operate in terms of energy and water consumption.
And they can result in poor indoor air quality, which can lead
to health problems.
There are many opportunities to make buildings
cleaner. As just one example, if only 10 percent of homes
in the U.S. used solar water-heating systems, we would avoid
8.4 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year.
Green building practices offer an opportunity to
create environmentally-sound and resource-efficient buildings
by using an integrated approach to design. Green buildings promote
resource conservation, including energy efficiency, renewable
energy, and water conservation features; consider environmental
impacts and waste minimization; create a healthy and comfortable
environment; reduce operation and maintenance costs; and address
issues such as historical preservation, access to public transportation
and other community infrastructure systems. The entire life-cycle
of the building and its components is considered, as well as
the economic and environmental impact and performance.
More and more designers, builders, and building owners are
becoming interested and involved in green building. National
and local programs encouraging green building are growing and
reporting successes, while hundreds of demonstration projects
and private buildings across the country provide tangible examples
of what green building can accomplish in terms of comfort, aesthetics,
and energy and resource efficiency.
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