Benefits of Building ‘Green’
While it may not be immediately recognized, construction fits into the intense debate about global warming. Because most scientists agree that 100% of global warming is due to humans, it’s up to humans to work to reverse it. Sustainable construction can play a vital role as the World Green Building Council estimates building and construction account for approximately 39% of the world’s CO2 emissions as well as 36% of global energy consumption. Finding ways to integrate sustainable designs can help reduce energy usage while taking steps to save the planet.
There are environmental, economic, and social impacts for “going green.” Environmentally, reducing heating, cooling, and lighting loads by using daylighting, passive solar, solar thermal, and photovoltaics, reduces the dependence on fossil fuels. Designs that incorporate trees for shading, eco-friendly landscape design, and rainwater harvesting also reduce the energy burden.
Economically, because there is a shift toward eco-friendly construction and more competition among manufacturers, it makes it easier for building green. David Callan, a senior vice president at the Syska Hennessy Group, responsible for the super-efficient Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, points out that “an environmentally responsible building can be constructed for the same price as a Class A ‘jewel.’” He notes that putting funds toward a sculpture for the lobby may differentiate the building but “spending money on improved indoor air quality not only provides a functional benefit and adds market value but also may be a more effective way of making the building stand out.”
Additionally, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, “high-performing green buildings provide the best value for the taxpayer and the public through both life cycle cost benefits and positive effects on human health and performance.” Their studies indicate that 12 federal buildings that incorporated green and sustainable construction show energy use is down 26% compared to commercial office benchmark data. Additionally, there are 53% lower maintenance costs and 39% less water use.
The impact also shows in studies that find people who reside in green structures experience health benefits when eco-friendly materials utilized because they do not contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other dangerous materials linked to respiratory disease, allergies, and in extreme cases, an increased risk of cancer.
Building a better future
For COVID-19 economic recovery, experts say investments must benefit American workers, and jobs in construction and green industries can help. The Biden administration is laying out plans to advance a meaningful green building policy at the federal, state, and local levels. It’s something the U.S. Green Building Council fully supports. They sent a letter to President Biden describing why green buildings must remain a foundational piece of any sustainability plans and investments, while also sharing specific ways it can be strengthened. Biden says with his plan, “a clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs — not 7, 8, 10, 12 dollars an hour, but prevailing wage and benefits.”
After her confirmation, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Tweeted: “I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!”