Green Building

Green Building Background

Green Building Defined

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green building is "the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction."  Green building practices complement classical building design concerns of "economy, utility, durability, and comfort."  

Green buildings are part of what is called the "built environment;" the built environment, the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity (buildings, parks, neighborhoods, etc.), impacts our natural environment in many ways.  While some of these impacts are positive, like increased activity from tourism and creation of centers of economic activity, many impacts of the built environment have negative effects of humans and the natural world:

Green buildings combat and prevent the negative effects of the built environment. A well-design green building can reduce overhead costs, conserve energy, reduce the use of raw materials, and create healthier environments for people to live and work, as a result of higher quality air, natural daylight, and thermal comfort.

Synonyms for green building include:  sustainable  building, sustainable development/design, natural building, or green architecture.  

What is LEED?

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In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system;  LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based, national certification system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.  

It provides building owners with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.  LEED is flexible enough to address all buildings types:  new construction, commercial interiors, core and shell, operations and maintenance, homes, neighborhoods, and specific applications such as retail, multiple buildings/campuses, schools, healthcare, laboratories, lodging, etc.

This system, a point-based rating system, rewards commercial, institutional, and residential projects for “stellar environmental and health performance.”  LEED has become an extremely popular metric system within the green building industry; as of the end of 2008, more than 269.2 million square feet of commercial space was LEED certified.  Additionally, according to FacilitiesNet, a site dedicated to facility and maintenance management, “A project can certainly be green without being LEED certified, but if public recognition and acceptance of a project’s green building credentials are desired, LEED has become the consensus standard.”  In this sense, the LEED seal has become a valued and reliable standard for successful green building. 

The LEED certification system offers four progressive certification levels:  Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Certification levels correspond to the number of points a building project earns during the course of certification.  To organize the point system, LEED offers six main credit categories where buildings can achieve points, and each credit category comes with an individual set of prerequisites that must be achieved in order to qualify for certification.

LEED Credit Categories
Sustainable SitesEncourages strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources
Water EfficiencyPromotes smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption
Energy & AtmospherePromotes better building energy performance through innovative strategies
Materials & ResourcesEncourages using sustainable building materials and reducing waste
Indoor Environmental QualityPromotes better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views
Innovation in Design/OperationBONUS CREDIT***  Addresses sustainable building expertise as well as design measure not covered under the five main LEED credit categories
IU's Green Building Commitment

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Indiana University incorporates green principles in all phases of a building's life cycle and is dedicated to developing and renovating buildings that use resources efficiently and create healthy environments.  In the 2010 Campus Master Plan, Indiana University committed to all newly constructed buildings and major renovations achieving a LEED Silver certification or higher (See page 195).  

Master Plan Carbon Emissions Graph (See page 195 of Master Plan)

These LEED certification goals are part of a larger effort to move toward a carbon-neutral campus.  If the strategies identified in the Campus Master Plan are fully implemented, IU will see a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (while increasing the built environment area by 25%) and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions up to 80% by the year 2050.  Thus, while IU is not a signatory to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it has adopted consistent carbon emission targets.  

The IU Office of Sustainability has also set out 20 goals to achieve by 2020; eight of the goals pertain to the Built Environment and LEED/green building goals:

  1. Reduce overall campus greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.
  2. Reduce energy consumption in campus building by 20%.
  3. Reduce campus potable water use by 40%.
  4. Create a plan to phase out coal combustion on campus.
  5. Derive 15% of total energy use from renewable sources.
  6. Fully meter all buildings with smart meters.  Make utility information available to users.
  7. Implement an internal audit/recommissioning team to provide for continuous improvement in building energy and resource effectiveness.
  8. Certify at least 20 existing buildings using the USGBC LEED for Existing Buildings.  By 2020, new buildings shall be certified LEED Platinum.
Why Commit to LEED & Green Building?

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There are many reasons that a university, or any building owner, would want to construct a LEED certified building.  Green buildings, specifically LEED certified buildings, are designed to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy, reduce water consumption, reduce waste sent to landfills, improve indoor air quality, and help make better building material choices.  These benefits in turn help develop healthier and safer buildings for occupants.  Building owners are required to use performance analysis systems, which helps building owners manage the building throughout its entire lifecycle. Additionally, these procedures allow building owners to measure the ongoing performance of the building, ensuring that energy, water, and cost savings are realized.

Because LEED is a third-party certification system, LEED buildings are less likely to appear to be “green washing” or “green marketing” stunts, as they have been evaluated by a neutral party.  A commitment to LEED demonstrates an owner’s commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Other benefits from a business perspective include reduced overhead costs, increased property values, faster lease-up rates, tax rebates, and zoning allowances.

Last, but not least, LEED project developers must consider external factors like site placement within the pre-existing community, which helps createe compact and walkable communities with good access to neighborhood amenities and transit.  LEED principles protecting natural resources and farmland by encouraging growth to be located in areas with existing infrastructure.

The LEED building process will produce a building that conserves resources, reduces operating costs and pollution, helps address global warming, improves marketability, protects occupant health, and improves occupant productivity.Designing and constructing a project in a holistic and integrative way takes more time and brain-power and can cost from 1-10% more than a conventional building.

The LEED process helps publicize the need for, and benefits of, green building.Administrative costs are high;  Project registration costs $2,250 at a minimum.
LEED helps to provide independent verification that an owner is getting a sustainable building, not just an architect or builder's claim or "green" (reduces greenwashing).There is a risk that the design team will become more focused on earning credits, regardless or whether they add environmental value.
LEED documentation requires design teams to measure building performance.There is a risk of becoming  point-focused and valuing the benefits of certification more highly than achieving a more sustainable building.
LEED focuses on developing and sustaining local community infrastructure.LEED is not yet climate-specific.