Green building and the greening of existing buildings will be essential in the fight to meet climate impact goals and curb the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines green building as the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle. Existing buildings should be undertaking energy audits (the most beneficial audits are software assisted) to identify energy efficiency projects that will lead to the greening of the building.
A recent article published by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) provides a wealth of information on the many benefits of energy efficient buildings. The benefits of green or efficient buildings are myriad but can be broken down into three categories:
- Environmental - Green, efficient buildings not only limit the negative impacts of GHG emissions, but can also have a positive environmental impact through the generation of their own energy and increasing biodiversity in their city. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has identified the building sector as having the largest potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions as compared to other emitting sectors. Green buildings that achieve LEED certification traditionally consume 25% less energy than non-green buildings which contribute to these GHG emission reductions.
- Economic - The economic and financial benefits of green and efficient buildings span from the owners and developers all the way down to the tenants of a building. Owners of green or energy efficient buildings have found a 7% increase in building value over traditional buildings while tenants see cost savings on their utility bills. These savings for tenants lead to higher occupancy rates in both commercial and multifamily green buildings when compared to traditional buildings.
- Social - The societal benefits of greening a building are not just environmental but also include increasing the health and wellbeing of tenants. One study spearheaded by Harvard found that well ventilated, green offices found a 101% increase in cognitive scores for their employees. Another study has suggested that increased indoor air quality, a requisite for green buildings, can lead to performance improvements in employees of up to 8%.
Curbing climate change will not be easy. There are many different ways to tackle the problem, but greening existing buildings and constructing green, energy efficient buildings should be prioritized because of the countless benefits that come from them.
To learn more about green buildings please check out this video series by the WGBC!