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Green building is not a simple development trend; it is an approach to building suited to the demands of its time, whose relevance and importance will only continue to increase. The benefits to green building are manifold, and may be categorized along three fronts: environmental, economic, and social.
- Emissions Reduction. Pollutants released by fossil fuel fired electricity contribute to global climate change, cause air quality issues such as acid rain and smog, and pose risks to human health. 1 Green building techniques like solar powering, daylighting, and facilitation of public transport increase energy efficiency and reduce harmful emissions.
- Water Conservation. Recycling rainwater and greywater for purposes like urinal flow and irrigation can preserve potable water and yield significant water savings.
- Stormwater Management. Stormwater runoff can cause waterway erosion, flooding, and carry pollutants into water sources. Harvesting and redirecting stormwater, building surfaces with permeable materials, and using green roofs can control and utilize overflow.
- Temperature Moderation. The heat retention properties of tall buildings and urban materials such as concrete and asphalt are the primary causes of urban heat island effect. These conditions may be offset by conscientious building design and site selection, as well as planting trees to accompany new developments.
- Waste Reduction. Construction and demolition generates a huge portion of solid waste in the United States. Building deconstruction as an alternative to full-scale demolition results in massive decreases of waste production. 2
A common impression about green building is that the green premium is too expensive to be considered economically feasible. However, studies have shown that the costs of green buildings are not substantially higher than regular development projects. 3 Higher construction costs can generally be avoided by the inclusion of green design from the outset of the project. 4 Additionally, green buildings provide an assortment of economic advantages.
- Energy and Water Savings. The resource efficiency provided by green design and technology leads to drastic reductions in operation costs that quickly recoup any additional project costsÂ 5 and continue to offer dramatic long-term savings (see statistics). Money previously directed toward utility costs may be used for other purposes.
- Increased Property Values. With energy costs on the rise, the low operating costs and easy maintenance of green buildings make for lower vacancy rates and higher property values.6
- Decreased Infrastructure Strain. Efficient buildings exert less demand on the local power grid and water supply, stretching the capacity of local infrastructure.
- Improved Employee Attendance. Green design emphasizes increased natural lighting and control of ventilation and temperature-attributes that improve employee health and prevent absences. 7 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports major reductions in health care costs and work losses resulting from commonly recommended improvements to indoor environments (see statistics). 8
- Increased Employee Productivity. Employee productivity has been positively correlated to indoor environmental conditions, and shows improvements where green principles have been applied (see statistics). 9
- Sales Improvements. Studies show better sales in stores that utilize natural light.10 Retailers are increasingly using daylighting in an effort to harvest the associated sales benefits.
- Development of Local Talent Pool. With increased attention being paid to global climate change and the need for renewable energy sources, the field of building design and construction is moving toward sustainability as a permanent objective. As of July 2007, 23 states and more than 80 cities have legislated green standards for municipal buildings. Building green in Bloomington is an investment in the local economy, helping to foster a local talent pool: designers and builders experienced with green projects able to accommodate the growing market demand for sustainable development.
- Improved Health. Poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ) resulting from insufficient air circulation, poor lighting, mold build up, temperature variances, carpeting and furniture materials, pesticides, toxic adhesives and paints, and high concentration of pollutants (typically 10 to 100 times higher than outdoors11) contribute widely to respiratory problems, allergies, nausea, headaches, and skin rashes. Green building emphasizes ventilation and non-toxic, low emitting materials that create healthier and more comfortable living and working environments.
- Improved Schools. An estimated 40% of schools in the United States are subject to poor environmental conditions that compromise the health and learning of students. 12 The healthier environment and atmosphere in school buildings utilizing green design and construction principles is shown to lead to significant reductions in student absenteeismÂ 13 and improvements in test scores (see statistics). 14
- Healthier Lifestyles and Recreation. A key element of sustainable design is the preservation of natural environments, which afford a variety of recreation and exercise opportunities. Green buildings also seek to facilitate alternatives to driving, such as bicycling and public transport, which eases local traffic while encouraging personal health and fitness.