GREEN BUILDING: Understanding the Basics
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David K. Horvath, GMB, CAPS, CGP, LEED-AP
General Manager, Certified Builder
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Our goal is to provide a condensed introduction and overview of the key elements of green building with links to relevant articles and websites as a resource to help you integrate an appropriate level of green strategies into your home or business. 

Green building is part of a larger trend toward sustainable design. The principles of sustainable design have a wide range of applications; everything from the design of small objects for everyday use to the planning and design of cities. The objective of sustainable design is to create places, products, and services in a way that reduces use of nonrenewable resources, minimizes environmental impact, and relates people with the natural environment.

The green building movement has grown to become one of the most influential trends in the history of American building and design. Green building incorporates environmental considerations and resource efficiency into every step of the land development and home building processes to minimize the environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Starting with lot development, and through the design, construction, and operations of a home throughout its life-cycle, green building requires intentional decisions that positively impact energy and resource efficiency, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Effective green building projects require a collaborative, integrated approach between the design and construction professionals, and the owners and end users of the building throughout the design and construction process. A green home is intended to function as a system with the goal of being well built, sustainable, and practical while protecting the environment.

Energy efficiency is the place to start. The on-going consumption of energy to operate, condition, and light a building, as well as the energy embodied in on-going maintenance is the largest source of environmental damage and resource consumption due to buildings. It is not the embodied energy required to produce building materials and construct a structure.

Therefore, the greenest thing you can do is achieve a high-integrity thermal envelope so your structure consumes as little fuel as possible since heating and cooling represent at least 50% of home energy consumption.  Your home's external shell or enclosure should be your first priority and is more important than all the systems within it. Before you can control and condition air efficiently, you must first enclose it.

Improved Quality. Green building increases home quality because it makes us evaluate and develop thoughtful strategies regarding the design, materials, and construction methods we follow in building our homes. It can foster a mentality where continuous improvement becomes a priority.

Increased Comfort. The better insulation, air sealing, and whole-house design principles incorporated into green building results in healthier indoor air quality and more uniform heating and cooling.

Lower Utility Bills. Consumers want lower utility bills. Green building can achieve energy efficiencies well above standard building code levels.

Personal Satisfaction.  For many homeowners, there is an element of satisfaction that comes from “doing the right thing.” Green building is good for the environment, good for people, and good for the future.

Increased Value.  A green home offers greater durability and energy efficiency, which can increase both the initial appraised value of the home and its resale value. Homeowners can often get discounted green features and upgrades through government tax incentives and initiatives.

Reduced Maintenance and Repair Costs. Green homes incorporate building materials and construction detailing that strive to increase the useful life of the individual components, as well as the whole house. Longer-lived materials not only reduce impact on resources required for replacement, but also reduce maintenance and repair costs.

Reduced noise. Better insulated homes and tighter construction practices will generally produce homes that reduce outside noise infiltration and make a home noticeably quieter.

Sustainability. Participating in the wise and effective use of nonrenewable resources and minimizing environmental impacts benefits everyone and is affected by each construction decision made with your project. Most often, it is the homeowner who ultimately controls these decisions.

Green building is a complex process which designs and coordinates the many systems of a house and makes them work together to improve energy and resource efficiency consistent with project goals. Any green building project should consider the following areas:

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