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In a time when the destruction of the environment is in the news every day, architects and builders are being pressured to use more environmentally-friendly methods for building. What this means varies with perception, but in its most basic sense, Green building is the intention to design, build and maintain neighborhoods while remaining aware of the effect these buildings have on the environment.
There are ways for building designers and owners to prove that they are following a “green” path to the building. They can become certified through a third party; this most likely includes a program through the US Green Building Council called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This is why you see a lot of condominium developments touting LEED-certified construction.
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For Earth-friendly condo developers, LEED® certification is the ultimate reward for thinking of the environment. But the path to reaching that certification is fraught with innumerable pitfalls. When building, it is hard to think of everything that might impact the environment. So, the Green Building Council has narrowed down the requirements for building “Green.” The first thing a development company needs to consider is how best to care for the land. Not only the spot that will hold the building but the surrounding area. This idea of creating a “sustainable site” has to do with making the least impact on the land surrounding the building. Choosing the right site is only part of it. The owner must consider whether this area can help with urban redevelopment. Are there alternative methods to get to the site (other than by car)? How will storm water be managed? Finally, is this development going to cause light pollution?
Using water efficiently is another requirement for LEED® certification. A development company needs to consider carefully how best to conserve water, especially in larger buildings. This could mean changing the way a site is landscaped to minimize the use of potable water.
Land developers must also consider how a building will affect the atmosphere, and how much energy it will take to run the building efficiently. The building has to go through the proper channels to ensure that everything is working as it should be, in the most efficient way possible. Builders should not use refrigerants or ventilation that requires the use of CFC-based products. Using renewable power, such as would be found with solar or hydro-power, extends “extra-credit,” so to speak, to Earth-conscious companies.
Using recyclable materials is a way to become LEED® certified, through the Materials and Resources requirement. Simply providing tenants with the ability to recycle materials helps, but there is more to it than that. Building developers should be using recycled materials in the building itself. They should be using locally manufactured materials instead of those that have to be transported at the expense of fuel and air quality. Finally, they should have a well-designed waste management plan for the remnants of the construction material used.
Finally, thinking of the indoor environmental quality is necessary to become LEED® certified. Green buildings should not simply be friendly to nature; they should be friendly to all of Earth’s inhabitants, including humans. A building should allow for the thermal comfort of its residents. The lighting should be bright, but not so bright as to be uncomfortable. There should be some active attempt to control the effect of tobacco smoke and other ventilation issues. Buildings that monitor carbon dioxide levels are afforded extra consideration for certification. Likewise, those paints and finishes that use low-emitting materials are seen in a good light when considering possible certification.