Though the scale and lifecycle of buildings differ from the office products used within, they can pose similar threats to people and the environment. In the US, buildings have a considerable impact on resources: they account for 36% of total energy use, 65% of electricity consumption, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of raw materials use, 30% of waste output, and 12% of potable water consumption. Raw materials such as steel, wood, brick, and concrete often derive from nonrenewable sources, are extracted by means that damage ecosystems, and commonly travel thousands of miles to reach the construction site. Building interiors are also problematic: carpets contain toxic pollutants, paint can off-gas and deteriorate air quality, and large appliances and air conditioning systems drain energy and embody hazardous materials. Most buildings also fail to take advantage of heating, cooling, and air circulation provided by the elements, neglect to generate solar power, and channel wastewater and contaminated runoff into surrounding ecosystems.
Green building is experiencing an international boom due to the environmental, economic, health, and community benefits of ecological design. Though the basic goals are universal – resource conservation, waste reduction, promoting individual and community health – the practice of green building takes on many forms and varies widely by climate and landscape. Whether you are building from the ground up or simply looking to lease, the options for inhabiting a green building are rapidly increasing. The U.S. Green Building Council maintains the most widely accepted standards called the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification system. LEED checklists provide direction for new and existing structures, interiors, exteriors, commercial, and private dwellings. Buildings can earn basic certification or be distinguished by silver, gold, and platinum awards.
- Ask your developer, real estate agent, or potential landlord about green building options
- Seek LEED Certified office space
- Consider the use of building materials, energy, and the generation of waste associated with the facility in question
If you already inhabit a green building stay informed about new developments in the field. As new systems emerge to increase efficiency and reduce waste it is possible to adapt your building to current standards. If your building was not designed green, the LEED-EB rating system addresses improvements that can be made to existing buildings including whole-building cleaning and maintenance, chemical use, indoor air quality, energy and water efficiency, recycling programs and facilities, and exterior maintenance programs.
- Conserve energy & water.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle office products.
- Contract janitorial, gardening/landscaping, and maintenance providers who use green products and maintain fair labor standards.