Green Buildings

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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In the last 15 years, the movement to create more green buildings across the country has grown in leaps and bounds. In a nutshell, green buildings are buildings that are designed to reduce energy consumption, reduce the use of non-sustainable materials, improve human health, and generally do more with less. For commercial purposes, green buildings produce less material waste, consume fewer resources, and produce as little pollution as possible.

The green building movement began roughly over 20 years ago, but has done much of its perceivable growth during the last 15 years. In 1991, the only formal program to promote and regulate green buildings existed in Austin Texas. By 2002, though, much of California, the Pacific Northwest, some of the east coast, and some major cities in the south and southwest parts of the country all had green building programs.

Residential Green Buildings

An increasing number of options for green construction materials are available for the residential homebuilder. Materials such as ICFs (insulated concrete forms) and SIPs (structural insulated panels) can greatly reduce utilities costs by offering excellent thermal insulation. Energy-efficient windows can also help heat or cool a house by creating a more tightly sealed thermal envelope than traditional windows.

Spatial conditioning in green buildings requires special consideration, as well. In low-humidity climates such as the southwestern desert, evaporative coolers often cool more effectively and less expensively than standard air conditioners. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) are also becoming more popular. They save energy and money by salvaging the thermal energy of stale exhaust air and transferring it to incoming fresh air.

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