The buildings in which we live, work, and play protect us from nature's extremes, yet they also affect our health and environment in countless ways. The design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal of buildings takes enormous amounts of energy, water, and materials, and generates large quantities of waste, air and water pollution, as well as creating stormwater runoff and heat islands. Buildings also develop their own indoor environments, which present an array of health challenges. Where and how they are built affects wildlife habitat and corridors and the hydrologic cycle, while influencing the overall quality of human life.
In the United States alone, buildings account for:
-65% of electricity consumption,
-36% of energy use,
-30% of greenhouse gas emissions,
-30% of raw materials use,
-30% of waste output (136 million tons annually), and
-12% of potable water consumption.
As the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent, a new field called green building is gaining momentum. Green or sustainable building is the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition.
The environmental benefits to green building are far reaching and include:
-Enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity
-Improve air and water quality
-Reduce solid waste
-Conserve natural resources
Economic benefits of green building include:
-Reduce operating costs
-Enhance asset value and profits
-Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
-Optimize life-cycle economic performance
Health and community benefits of green building include:
-Improve air, thermal, and acoustic environments
-Enhance occupant comfort and health
-Minimize strain on local infrastructure
-Contribute to overall quality of life
Content from: US Green Building Council and the Environmental Protection Agency.