A Comprehensive Guide to Green Building

Learn what green building is, what its components are, and how it can help your business achieve its sustainability goals.

construction team discuss green building design plan

What is a Green Building?

Green building is an innovative construction approach that centers on sustainable practices to minimize the environmental impact of a structure. It involves sustainable materials, efficient energy systems, green roofs, and other eco-friendly features. Green practices are a growing trend in the construction industry, with more and more builders adopting them in buildings to reduce their carbon footprint.

Benefits

Green building practices present a great alternative to traditional construction systems for various reasons. According to the World Emissions Clock, buildings have contributed over 3 gigatons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2022. Adopting sustainable construction methods can significantly decrease this number through energy-efficient and water-saving systems, fixtures, and technologies.

Aside from their environmental benefits, green buildings also contribute to the following:

  • Lower utility and operational costs
  • Reduced waste generation
  • Improved indoor environmental quality
  • Optimal building performance
  • Enhanced comfort and well-being of occupants
  • Increased property values

Components

Green buildings often follow a specific set of benchmarks to gauge their sustainability. Each standard may vary per country or region, but it generally includes the following elements:

Building Design

Design is among the crucial aspects of constructing green buildings, as it provides the blueprint on which the structure will be based. The goal is to build high-quality, durable buildings without compromising the surrounding environment.

For this reason, incorporating green practices is a must at all stages of the design process. One of the best ways to do so is by taking advantage of the natural features of the site for lighting, ventilation, and other functions.

Land Use

Before construction begins, companies must first survey the land they will use for their building. Visiting the site on the ground helps determine if the land is suitable for the structure to be built and how to maximize its natural attributes when developing the building design.

Utilizing lands for sustainable buildings requires careful thought and planning, taking into account the following factors:

  • Location
  • Landscape
  • Land orientation
  • Physical security
  • Ecological impacts

Materials Selection

When building sustainable structures, it’s also vital to consider construction materials. It’s best to go for eco-friendly materials, as they are designed to have a lower environmental impact than traditional building materials like concrete and steel. Look for durable products made from sustainably sourced, prefabricated, or recycled materials, such as but not limited to:

  • Wood
  • Bamboo
  • Straw bales
  • Recycled steel
  • Recycled plastic
  • Rammed earth
  • Hempcrete

Energy Performance

In 2021, the International Energy Agency reports that buildings contributed to 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. This amounts to around 8 percent of the global energy-related carbon emissions for the year.

Reducing this number requires responsible energy use for buildings and their occupants, which can be resolved through sustainable buildings. Green structures often integrate energy-efficient systems and appliances to conserve energy. They can also harness renewable energy sources like solar and wind to power their operations.

Water Conservation

Water is a vital element for a variety of business activities but remains to be a finite resource. In fact, water scarcity continues to be a global problem that affects nearly two-thirds of the population worldwide.

Given the impacts of water shortage not only on businesses but also on communities, green structures should incorporate water-efficient practices and systems into their design. It includes using water-saving technologies and plumbing fixtures and employing construction methods that require less water use.

Waste Reduction

According to the World Bank, over 2 billion tons of waste are generated each year on a global scale. Yet, only less than 20 percent of them are recycled annually and instead are brought to landfill sites.

Thus, for a building to be considered sustainable, it must produce less waste and find ways to handle existing ones. One great example is establishing a robust waste management system for all stages of the building lifecycle—from construction to demolition. It can also involve efficiently utilizing construction materials and repurposing waste products from job sites.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Lastly, green buildings also consider the conditions inside the building. After all, a healthy indoor environment is a must for ensuring the health, well-being, and satisfaction of building occupants. It requires carefully looking into various factors such as:

  • Air quality
  • Lighting and views
  • Interior acoustics
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Building materials – low or no VOC paints and sealants

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Green Building Standards Around the World

After discussing the elements of sustainable structures, how can they be measured for future construction projects? Organizations can look into standards and certifications from their local green building councils. Each jurisdiction will have its own benchmarks and rating systems, so it’s best to refer to them for the requirements and metrics.

The table below summarizes 7 of the most common green building standards all over the world:

Green Building Standard Country Rating System
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) United States
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Certified
Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden
  • Outstanding
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Pass
  • Unclassified
Green Star Australia
  • 1 Star: Minimum Practice
  • 2 Stars: Average Practice
  • 3 Stars: Good Practice
  • 4 Stars: Best Practice
  • 5 Stars: Australian Excellence
  • 6 Stars: World Leadership
German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) Germany
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) Japan
  • S: Superior
  • A: Very Good
  • B+: Good
  • B-: Slightly Poor
  • C: Poor
VERDE Spain
  • 5 Hojas
  • 4 Hojas
  • 3 Hojas
  • 2 Hojas
  • 1 Hoja
  • 0 Hojas
Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS) United Arab Emirates
  • 1 Pearl
  • 2 Pearl
  • 3 Pearl
  • 4 Pearl
  • 5 Pearl

FAQs about Green Buildings

Sustainable building designs often adhere to the following principles:

  • Building functional, sturdy, and environmentally-friendly structures
  • Efficiently utilizing building space, materials, and construction methods
  • Optimizing energy and water consumption
  • Conserving natural resources
  • Improving indoor environmental quality

Green buildings are a great way to incorporate sustainable practices in construction. Adopting eco-conscious construction methods and materials allow for more efficient use of finite resources, reduced environmental footprint, and a sustainable future for the planet.

Green buildings take an environmentally friendly approach to construction. They integrate sustainable design and building methods to establish energy-efficient, resource-effective structures. On the other hand, smart buildings focus on the technological aspect of building operations. They harness the power of information technology to run building facilities at their optimal function, such as lighting, HVAC controls, air quality, and more.

The most prominent green buildings around the world include the following:

  • Bank of America Tower (New York City, USA)
  • One Central Park (Sydney, Australia)
  • Museum of Tomorrow (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • One Angel Square (Manchester, UK)
  • Marco Polo Tower (Hamburg, Germany)
Leizel Estrellas
Article by
Leizel Estrellas
Leizel Estrellas is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her academic and professional training as a researcher allows her to write meaningful articles that create a lasting impact. As a content specialist, she strives to promote a culture of safety in the workplace through accessible and reader-friendly content. With her high-quality work, she is keen on helping businesses across industries identify issues and opportunities to improve every day.