Published on 22nd July 2022
Green building refers to both the physical structure as well as the practice of building such structures that are environmentally responsible and contribute towards reducing carbon footprint.
The selection of materials has a significant role in designing green buildings. Materials that are recycled, reusable, non-toxic (plant materials like bamboo and straw), and renewable are primarily preferred over other materials. Furthermore, green buildings need structural and design innovations to achieve the goals of sustainability.
Green Building Council, a national-level independent & non-profit organization, is the guardian to oversee the adoption and implementation of the green building standards code. It has a green building rating system, and as per the adoption of the green city code, it provides green building certification to different building projects and campuses.
ICMA (International City/County Management Association) defines green buildings as an integrated approach to designing and building cost-effective, energy-efficient, healthy, and eco-friendly living and working environments.
In a broader sense, green building is not limited to only designing a building. In fact, the entire life cycle of a building (design, construction, operation, maintenance, demolition, and renovation) comes under the green building concept.
A striking feature of green buildings is the use of building materials that can add energy efficiency and resource responsiveness to the new built environment.
The green building initiative can be traced back to the 1960s, when American architect Paul Soleri proposed the concept of ecological architecture. Soon after, another American architect Ian McHarg published a book titled “Design Integrates Nature” in 1969. Several experts loosely agree on the fact that this book paved the way for the official birth of green ecological architecture.
In the subsequent years in the 1970s, the global energy crises compelled further advancement in this trend as designers focused more on energy-efficient buildings with provisions to reduce energy consumption and use alternative renewable energy sources.
A green building is sometimes called a sustainable building, as sustainability is one of the main objectives of the green building concept. Any building can be green if it fits certain criteria. The criteria are listed below:
Homes, offices, schools, hospitals, community centers, commercial buildings, and other existing buildings can be green buildings, provided they adopt green building practices and fulfill other green building requirements mentioned in the list above.
The exponential population growth in the past few decades has led to the relentless growth of modern cities and incessant new construction. This has contributed to catastrophic environmental degradation. Adding to that, the need for buildings and habitats is only going to increase in the future.
Therefore, finding a sustainable solution to deal with the problem is vital to avert undesirable consequences of global warming and harsh climate conditions. Green building is a potential solution to curtail the negative impacts on the natural environment.
The green building initiative is definitely a step in the right direction. Global cooperative practices such as the enforcement of the international green construction code are necessary at the moment to undo the worrying climate action.
The green construction materials sourced directly from natural resources should also be included in the national green building standard framework.
It's no secret that our surroundings significantly impact our health. Green architecture focuses on sustainable interior design elements, including ergonomic design features, improved lighting sources, optimum thermal conditions, and better air quality. Due to these features, occupants living or working in green buildings experience improved health, lower stress levels, and a better quality of life altogether.
The green building concept puts great importance on water efficiency. A water-efficient plumbing system is incorporated to improve water conservation and lower water wastage. Moreover, a specially-engineered water purifier and storage system enables water recycling. This is an important step towards saving vital natural resources.
Local shared resources are becoming scarce, especially in overcrowded cities and urban settlements. Green building practices consider sharing vital resources like water and energy and saving them from overexploitation. The sharing of resources also helps in close-knit community development.
Energy efficiency is a primary goal of any green building design. This includes the energy required during the construction as well as the operational lifetime of the building. Innovating the building design to accommodate better natural ventilation and light can reduce dependency on external energy sources for heat and light.
Several other structural and technological innovations to enhance energy efficiency in a building have been discussed in the later section of the article.
As per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings, buildings alone account for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the USA. Therefore, large corporations, public sector enterprises, and even people in large are enthusiastically making efforts to achieve carbon-neutrality goals through green initiatives. Using low-carbon or zero-carbon building materials in green buildings helps achieve these decarbonization goals.
Green buildings are built from sustainable building materials that are renewable, recyclable, and reusable. Non-toxic plant-based materials (like bamboo and straw) have little or no negative impact on the environment and are thus, preferred over other building materials.
ARchitecture and designers around the globe are finding new ways to accommodate better sustainability in terms of energy, water, and light. Innovative designs include large windows and open spaces for better ventilation and natural lighting. Integrating provisions for rainwater harvesting is another innovative feature to enhance water conservation in residential and commercial buildings.
For instance, BiPV (Building-integrated Photovoltaics) is a game changer for meeting sustainable goals. Integrating Photovoltaics or PV panels onto the basic structure during the construction phase of a building can make the building self-sustainable for electricity needs. This can reduce the dependency on the main electric grid, thereby curtailing the electricity network expansion, which is one of the major contributors to CO₂ and other Green House Gases.
Integrating ArchiTech (Architecture + Technology) can substantially contribute to mitigating the challenges pertaining to the wide-scale adoption of green construction. Innovative technological solutions like BIM (Building Information Modelling), BMS (Building Management System), or IBMS (Integrated Building Management System) are already changing the face of the construction industry.
These technologies help to achieve better decarbonization, improved eco-friendliness, and higher energy efficiency.
The responsibility to achieve carbon neutrality and reverse the negative environmental impact lies on everyone’s shoulders. The public-private partnership is necessary to deal with the challenge of finding a sustainable design and building solution without negatively impacting the environment.
Federal & Local governments, including the city council, can incorporate green building principles on the administrative level. They are also responsible for establishing a green building standard framework to achieve sustainable development goals.
On the other hand, people are largely responsible for adopting eco-friendly practices. The real change will be visible when people, in general, will push for implementing green building concepts in their homes.
World Green Building Council, a United Nations Global Compact member, is an action network comprising more than 70 national-level Green Building Councils. The organization acts as a global supervisor to enforce the green building standards code and international green construction code throughout the world.
Moreover, the organization is on a mission to transform the strategic building and construction sectors by optimizing the existing practices with sustainable construction practices. It aims to achieve better climate action, health, quality of life, and resource distribution through collaborative research and actions by the various stakeholders in the construction sector.
Currently, the council has associated itself with the World Bank to promote the Green Building concept in developing countries and emerging markets through the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE ) Market Transformation Program and certification.
The European Commission has unveiled its green building policy to promote the mainstream adoption of climate-friendly architecture and green building design. It has set a common language around the green building to be adopted in the member states of the EU. The policy is in line with its European Climate Pact.
The USGBC (United States Green Building Council), a non-profit trade organization, has been entrusted with promoting sustainability in every phase of construction - design, building, and operation. It has developed a green building rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system that is adopted worldwide to award green building certification to individual building projects.
Singapore is a model of a carbon-efficient economy in the world despite having natural resource constraints and high population density. Singapore’s BCA (Building and Construction Authority) has adopted a series of reformations to adopt Circularity and Replicability in mass construction to make the country one of the greenest on the planet.
Any physical structure can be flagged as a green building if its fits into the criteria of using recyclable and renewable materials for its construction and is optimized for high energy and water efficiency. As the construction sector is one of the latest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the green building concept can be a potential solution to reduce carbon emissions. However, it needs strategic public-private cooperation and investment apart from policy reformation.
Want to know more about sustainable projects around the world? Visit the global project tracker to get the latest updates on ongoing and upcoming sustainable construction projects. You can track the progress of projects from the announcement to the commission phase and even get the point of contact to participate in it as a contractor, engineer, designer, or construction professional.