The phrase green building is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun, green building represents a physical structure that exists as a result of environmentally friendly design and the construction process. As a verb, green building seeks to increase the efficiency of energy, water and materials use in buildings (both residential and commercial) and to reduce their environmental and health impacts. Properly applied green standards can improve health, save energy and water, and reduce waste.
A green building is exactly what it sounds like, a building that has been made "green." This can apply to a residence or a commercial building. A green development consists of an entire project, whether it is a residential community or a commercial development project. A residential development project, for instance, may be developed using "green building" practices that demand fewer non-renewable resources and provide a healthier environment for residents.
Sustainability is preserving a certain condition or way of life and can be used in reference to just about anything. However, in the case of building, sustainability is another word used to describe the practice of developing and building with a responsibility to the environment and to the community.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
To make a building green one must follow a structured set of guidelines to earn certification such as those set by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). In the case of USGBC, for each green feature incorporated into the home, points are awarded. Homes that acquire a minimum number of points qualify to receive the green home designation.
Studies suggest that green construction can result in significant economic savings by improving employee productivity, increasing benefits from improvements in health and safety and providing savings from energy, maintenance and operational costs over the life of the building. Additionally, people are often surprised to learn that green buildings often cost little or no more to build than conventional designs.