Building green is the practice of reducing the negative effects construction has on the environment by increasing the efficiency with which buildings use and consume resources (energy, water, and materials). In addition to reducing the impact the building has on the environment, green building is also intended to reduce the project’s impact on human health throughout the complete building life cycle, by utilizing better design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal techniques. This is accomplished, in part, by using sustainable materials, by covering the floors with tile instead of carpet to reduce the existence of allergens and other airborne toxins, building in a manner that does not waste space, using renewable energy sources, utilizing larger windows to allow more natural light, building in a manner that takes advantage of the site (i.e., shade from trees), using LED lighting products and thoroughly insulating the project.
However, it has recently been discovered that there is a dark side to building green. For example, the very methods intended to enhance a building’s performance, such as building solid airtight structures, prevents a building from breathing and can actually make a building highly susceptible to moisture and/or mold problems during its first few years of operation. This is because if no air goes in the building, no air goes out. While this is easily treated and/or prevented, it requires residents and other occupants of green buildings to do their part in reducing the chances of mold growing in the units by opening windows on a regular basis and in some rare instances bringing in dehumidifiers.
In addition, the cost to build in a green manner may increase the cost of construction by 10%-20%; while these initial costs are intended to be offset by the human health benefits and reduced cost to operate the completed project (i.e., using less energy and water) that is not always the case and the cost to construct is not offset by the desired efficiency savings.
In conclusion, it is critical that well established maintenance plans are established, desired efficiency ratings are properly defined, budgeted, and contracted for and an overall “green plan” is in effect prior to the commencement of the project.