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GREEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

From Environmental Protection Agency Link: http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/faqs.htm#1

What is "green building"?

Green building - also known as sustainable or high performance building - is the practice of:

1.  Increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials; and

2.  Protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life-cycle: siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

What makes a building "green"?

A green building is a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle. These objectives expand and complement the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.

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

  Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation

For example, green buildings may incorporate sustainable materials in their construction (e.g., reused, recycled-content, or made from renewable resources); create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants (e.g., reduced product emissions); and/or feature landscaping that reduces water usage (e.g., by using native plants that survive without extra watering).

What are the benefits of green building?

Buildings have an enormous impact on the environment, human health, and the economy. The successful adoption of green building strategies can maximize both the economic and environmental performance of buildings.

Research continues to identify and clarify all of these benefits and costs of green building, and of how to achieve the greatest benefits at the lowest costs.

How is green building related to smart growth and sustainable development?

Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment by supporting healthy communities while creating economic development and jobs. Sustainability, or sustainable development, is the ability to achieve continuing economic prosperity while protecting the natural systems of the planet and providing a high quality of life for its people.

Green building fits nicely with these concepts, as it promotes building practices that conserve energy and water resources, preserve open spaces through brownfield development, and are accessible to public transportation.

How do buildings affect natural resources?

Buildings and development have significant environmental impacts on our natural resources, including:

According to surveys conducted in 2002, 107.3 million acres of the 1.983 billion acres of total land area in the U.S. is developed, which represents an increase of 24 percent in developed land over the past 10 years. In terms of energy, buildings accounted for 39.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and 67.9 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2002. Building occupants use 12.2 percent of the total water consumed in the U.S. per day. Buildings, and the transportation infrastructure that serves them, replace natural surfaces with impermeable materials, creating runoff that washes pollutants and sediments into surface waters. Urban runoff constitutes a major threat to water resources, as it has been identified as the fourth leading source of impairment in rivers, third in lakes, and second on estuaries.

How do buildings affect climate change?

The energy used to heat and power our buildings leads to the consumption of large amounts of energy, mainly from burning fossil fuels - oil, natural gas and coal - which generate significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most widespread greenhouse gas. Buildings in the U.S. contribute 38.1 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions.

Reducing the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions produced by buildings is therefore fundamental to the effort to slow the pace of global climate change. Buildings may be associated with the release of greenhouse gases in other ways, for example, construction and demolition debris that degrades in landfills may generate methane, and the extraction and manufacturing of building materials may also generate greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the history of green building in the U.S.?

In the U.S., the green building field began to come together formally in the 1990s.

What building types can be green?

Any type of building has the potential to become a green or sustainable building, however every building type has different design and efficiency needs depending on its particular function. New buildings may be designed, built and operated to be green buildings. Existing building can also become green through remodeling, retrofitting and improved operations.

What are the economic benefits of green or sustainable building and development?

Well-designed, constructed, operated and maintained green buildings can have many benefits, including durability; reduced costs for energy, water, operations and maintenance; improved occupant health and productivity; and the potential for greater occupant satisfaction than standard developments.

A green building may cost more up front, but can save money over the life of the building through lower operating costs. These savings may be more apparent through life-cycle assessment (LCA).

Cost savings are most likely to be fully realized when incorporated at the project's conceptual design phase with the assistance of an integrated team of building professionals. The integrated systems approach aims to design the building as one system rather than a collection of potentially disconnected systems.

Are green buildings more expensive to construct and operate?

Perhaps surprisingly, good green buildings often cost only a few percentage points or no more to build than conventional designs. Integrated design processes that identify the most efficient, holistic approaches to building green can reduce these initial costs. For example, in some cases, when buildings are carefully designed to be energy efficient, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) equipment can be downsized for significant savings. There are also many green products and materials that cost the same or even less than conventional ones.

Can I get a tax break for building green?

There are some federal tax credits for specific energy efficiency projects in buildings. More and more states are beginning to introduce and pass legislation establishing green building tax benefits, including New York and Maryland.

Building Models

Model A Model A - Widths 16' - 30'
Model S Model S - Widths 20' - 60'
Model Q Model Q - Widths 20' - 100'
Model R Model R - Widths 30' - 60'
Model T Model T - Widths 20' - 50'
 

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