Environmental Issues in Construction
Green design is not merely the use of energy-efficient materials. It also involves the creation of products and systems with a light footprint on the environment over the full life-cycle. Life cycle ranges from production to transportation, installation, use and renewal. As such, sustainable green design should be thought of as a process, not just a goal—allowing for a broader evaluation of the environmental issues, economical and societal impacts of a product. We look at products as single units and as part of a system in their environment.
Considering environmental issues in construction and life cycle, some only focus on evaluation of products in terms of waste disposal. This is too narrow. A product’s “use phase” can account for as much as 90 percent of a product’s impact on the environment. Consider insulation. A host of factors and influences of a product’s impact on society should be evaluated and contrasted to the product’s performance. A systems approach allows determination of the environmental impact of a product in terms of energy consumption at each state of a product’s life cycle. This is good. Beginning at the point of raw materials extraction from the earth and proceeding through processing, manufacturing, fabrication, “use” and finally disposal or reuse. Transportation of materials and products to each process step is also included.
In support of this “systems approach” to sustainable and green building design, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has drafted the following guidelines for building design, systems and products:
- Environmental considerations and energy efficiency should be part of building design and purchasing criteria. This is balanced appropriately with other important criteria, such as product safety, price, performance and availability.
- Energy efficiency and environmental performance should be evaluated using a “systems” approach, focusing on how individual components interact within the building system and identifying options with the greatest potential for improving energy efficiency and reducing overall environmental effects.
- Any process for establishing “sustainable” building/product criteria should be science-based, transparent, open to all stakeholders, and should consider any new and significant information.
Green Globes™ System
The Green Globes™ system is a green building management tool that includes an assessment protocol, rating system and guide for integrating environmentally friendly design into commercial buildings. Green Globes™ can also facilitate recognition of the building project through third-party verification. There are many rating systems and green building assessment tools. For further information please refer to the links below.
Green Building Initiative: http://www.thegbi.com/greenglobes/
Green Globes Rating System: http://www.thegbi.com/greenglobes/ratingsystem.asp