Sustainable, Green and Energy Efficient Design

Sustainable, Green and Energy Efficient Design

What is the difference between “Sustainable”, “Green” and “Energy Efficient”? I’ve come to the following conclusions based upon some of the definitions I have found out there in the industry.

Sustainable seems to have the broadest coverage of related terms and applies to objects, the built environment and services and goes to the greatest effort to avoid depletion of resources whether by direct or collateral effect.

Sustainable design (also called environmental design, environmentally sustainable design, environmentally conscious design, etc.) is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The main objectives of sustainable design are to reduce, or completely avoid, depletion of critical resources like energy, water, land, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive.

In addition to including sustainable design concepts in new construction, sustainable design advocates commonly encourage retrofitting existing buildings rather than building anew. Retrofitting an existing building can often be more cost-effective than building a new facility. Designing major renovations and retrofits for existing buildings to include sustainable design attributes reduces operation costs and environmental impacts, and can increase building resiliency. The “embodied energy” of the existing building (a term expressing the cost of resources in both human labor and materials consumed during the building’s construction and use) is squandered when the building is allowed to decay or to be demolished.

Buildings use resources (energy, water, raw materials, etc.), generate waste (occupant, construction, and demolition), emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions, and fundamentally change the function of land, and the ability of that land to absorb and capture water into the ground. Building owners, designers, and builders each face unique challenges to meet demands for new and renovated facilities that are accessible, secure, healthy and productive, while minimizing any negative impacts upon society, the environment, and the economy.

Green appears to have a specific awareness associated with materials as well as means and methods; it is a sub-feature of Sustainable design.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, in order for a home to be considered “green,” some important factors are a suitable location, relatively small size, the use of environmentally-friendly building materials, and energy efficient design.

Energy Efficient seemed the most straight forward to understand. It is also a sub-feature of Sustainable design.

Energy efficient design focuses on developing products that use energy significantly less than a standard or traditional version of that product. Energy efficient is becoming increasingly popular not only because of the cost savings associated with constantly rising energy prices but also because of reduced environmental impact. Energy consumption that is powered by fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas account for 82 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and contribute to localized environmental health effects on humans. Energy efficient design for large energy consuming sectors like buildings, appliances and vehicles aims to minimize these negative effects of high energy demand and consumption.

… and so what the heck is LEED? It’s an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a set of sustainability standards for the construction and operation of buildings administered by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

As a building project progresses from research through planning and then implementation, the LEED guidelines are also very specific about the order and the manner in which a project is documented, built and commissioned. With significant capital invested in a building program and sustainable guidelines, LEED helps to ensure that this investment achieves the level of return established during the identification of the project charter. LEED certification is a globally recognized resource, industry standard and best practice guideline that provides the same level of consistency, accuracy and independent validation.

Stuart-Lynn Company, Inc. provides construction cost estimating, scheduling, and project controls services to a wide variety of clients within the United States and Globally. It is the company’s belief that understanding the financial commitment and planning requirement for a project, provides the control and proactive management to keep projects not only on time and on budget, but to realize the greatest value for every dedicated resource.

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