According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), "green," or sustainable, building practices have environmental, economic, health and community benefits. In the United States, buildings account for 72 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy use, 38 percent of all carbon-dioxide emissions, 40 percent of raw materials used, 30 percent of waste output and 14 percent of potable water consumption. Green building or architecture is intended to minimize consumption and waste while maximizing your comfort and quality of life.
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The environmental benefits of green architecture are significant. Green buildings promote and protect ecosystems and biodiversity, improve the quality of air and water, reduce solid waste and conserve natural resources. According to the USGBC, when compared with a conventionally-constructed commercial building, green buildings use 26 percent less energy, cost 13 percent less to maintain, have 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction and produce 33 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the built environment has a significant impact on the natural environment, and that green architecture and green building helps reduce consumption of natural resources--especially water. The typical water-consumption rate in the United States is 26 billion gallons per day, of which about 7.8 billion gallons, or 30 percent, is used for outdoor purposes, such as landscaping. Eco-friendly buildings often incorporate water-saving strategies to optimize use of rainwater for outdoor purposes, reducing the need to tap into underground sources.
Plenty of economic benefits stem from sustainable building, including reduced operating costs, increased asset value and profits, higher employee satisfaction and productivity, and a greater likelihood of eventually selling the building, according to EcoWorld.com. With substantially reduced utility bills, operating costs will be lower, and owners more quickly recover money invested in construction. They also will continue to reap savings. Because of the reduced operating costs associated with sustainable buildings, and because they are easier to maintain than conventional buildings, owners are likely to experience lower vacancy rates and significantly higher property values. Green buildings typically have optimized temperature control and ventilation, are healthier buildings in which to work and maximize the use of natural light--factors that consistently lead to improved employee satisfaction and productivity, and fewer days of missed work.
Health & Community Benefits
According to the USGBC, the health and community benefits of eco-friendly buildings include improved indoor air quality, temperature regulation and acoustics; optimal occupant comfort and health; a reduced burden on local infrastructure; and a higher overall quality of life. A 2000 study published by William J. Fisk, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in the "Annual Review of Environment and Resources" said there is significant evidence that design elements of buildings and indoor environments affect the occurrence of communicable respiratory illness, allergy and asthma symptoms, and "sick building" syndrome (SBS). SBS is believed to cause acute health and comfort effects in building occupants, effects that appear to be linked to the amount of time spent in a building in which green-design principles are absent. Green buildings are designed to minimize or eliminate the possible causes of SBS, which can include off-gassing of building materials, the presence of volatile organic compounds and molds, improper exhaust ventilation of ozone and the presence of numerous industrial chemicals.