What Is a Green Home?

The 8 Components of a Green Building

The goals of any 'Green' building are:

  1. Life cycle assessment
  2. Siting and structure design efficiency
  3. Energy efficiency
  4. Water efficiency
  5. Materials efficiency
  6. Indoor environmental quality enhancement
  7. Operations and maintenance optimization
  8. Waste reduction

So, the answer to 'What is a Green Home?' is relatively simple. Let's take a look at each one in more detail.

1. Building Life Cycle Assessment

The LCA is a scientific methodology used to calculate the environmental impact of a building. The tests determine how a structure will affect the environment in its entirety, from the extraction of raw materials through to the construction phase, use, demolition and disposal. Assessments include a carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions analysis and measurements for a building's ozone depletion and acidification potential to any surrounding soil and water.

By adopting building LCAs, building professionals are increasing awareness of the environmental impact of a building. The system also stops the backlash of 'greenwashing' and vague eco-labelling. In other words, performing a building LCA is the only reliable way to evaluate the sustainability of a building. 

Why is a building LCA so important? 

  • Did you know that buildings cause 39% of global carbon emissions? Construction professionals and property investors have to take serious responsibility for the environmental impact of their projects and portfolios.

  • Safe, healthy and affordable living is one of the UN's 'Sustainable Development Goals. "By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums."

There are obvious business benefits to an LCA. Beyond reducing a building's environmental impact, there are many business benefits too. With measured eco-data, you can excel at land sales competitions, contests, refurbishments, city planning and achieve credits for green building certification schemes.

2. Siting and Structure Design Efficiency

The foundation of any building project is rooted in the concept and design stages. The concept stage is a significant step in a project life cycle, as it has the biggest impact on cost and performance.

The construction of a building is not as streamlined and a mechanical process and varies considerably from one building to the other. Structures are composed of a multitude of materials and components, each constituting various design variables. Any variation in design may affect the environment in any one of the building's relevant life-cycle stages.

3. Energy Efficiency

When people ask, what is a green home, they commonly think of energy efficiency being the most important element of green building. Higher levels of energy efficiency reduce carbon emissions - both from power plants and the home's own energy systems.

A recent survey in India revealed green buildings certified by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) resulted in energy savings of 40 - 50% and water savings of 20 - 30% compared to conventional buildings in the same area.

The Patni building’s depth is designed in such a way that it captures daylight for 75 percent of the occupied interiors. About 50 percent of the area is reserved for open green space. In addition to this, the campus follows the efficient water management practices like rainwater harvesting, solar water heating and drip irrigation. 100 percent sewage is treated and the recycled water is used for the purpose of cooling the tower makeup, gardening and flushing.

Green buildings, and even your green home office, can include measures to reduce energy consumption. To increase the efficiency of the 'building envelope' a building should utilize high-efficiency windows and insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors.

What is a green home 'Building Envelope'?

Architects and designers strategically place windows, walls, awnings, porches, and trees to shade windows and rooftops during the summer while maximizing solar gain in the winter. In addition, effective window placement, otherwise known as 'daylighting', can provide more natural light and reduce the need for electric lights during the day. 

4. Water Efficiency

Being water-efficient means using the appropriate amount of water required to carry out the specific task. By improving water efficiency less water is wasted and its economic, social and environmental value is maximised. Water efficiency has an important role to play in the green economy, an inclusive society and a thriving environment. Water reuse and rainwater harvesting also have a strong role to play in efficient urban water management.

Reducing water consumption and preserving water quality are key objectives in any sustainable green solution. Wastewater is minimized by utilizing water conserving fixtures such as ultra-low flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. Dual plumbing installations, which recycles water from around the home or property, also help. Bidets help eliminate the use of toilet paper, reducing sewer traffic and increasing possibilities of re-using water onsite.

Point of use water treatment and heating improves water quality and energy efficiency while reducing the amount of water in circulation. Using non-sewage and greywater for onsite use, such as site irrigation, will also minimize demands on the local water authority.

What is a green home greywater recycling process?

Greywater may look unclean but it’s perfectly suitable for watering the garden, vegetable plots, irrigating lawns and watering flowers and fruit trees. 

5. Materials Efficiency

Material efficiency can be achieved through using recycled materials, materials that use renewable energy, and other ways. For example, using recycled steel instead of new steel reduces the energy produced in making the steel by 75%, and saves space in landfills as well.

Building materials typically considered 'green' include rapidly renewable plant materials like bamboo, straw, lumber from forests certified sustainably managed. Plus ecology blocks, dimension stone, recycled stone, recycled metal, and other products that are non-toxic, reusable, renewable or recyclable.

For example, Trass, Linoleum, sheep wool, panels made from paper flakes, compressed earth block, adobe, baked earth, rammed earth, clay, vermiculite, flax linen, sisal, seagrass, cork, expanded clay grains, coconut, wood fibre plates, calcium sandstone, and high and ultra high performance, roman self-healing concrete.

What is a green home material efficiency example?

A few more examples of material efficiency initiatives for a green home are:

  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Durable bamboo and cork flooring
  • Solar panels
  • Natural fibre wool carpeting
  • Concrete flooring & walls
  • Reclaimed wood and metal for roofing & sidings

It doesn't stop there.

Material efficiency is also linked to the life-cycle journey as detailed in the LCA, in point 1. Calculating the effect of a product's life-cycle from the extraction of the material through manufacture, use, possible replacement or repair to disposal and recycling is an essential part of determining environmental impact.

Most building materials already contain integrated consequences, such as detrimental transportation costs and production processes that release toxic gases into the atmosphere.

6. Indoor Environmental Quality

The IEQ category addresses design and construction guidelines, primarily: indoor air quality (IAQ), thermal quality, and lighting quality.

Indoor Air Quality seeks to reduce volatile organic compounds, or VOC's, and other air impurities such as microbial contaminants. Buildings rely on a properly designed HVAC system to provide adequate ventilation and air filtration and isolate operations (kitchens, dry cleaners, etc.) from other occupancies.

Choosing construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low emissions will improve indoor air quality during the design and construction process. Many building materials and cleaning products emit toxic gases, such as VOC's and formaldehyde. These gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants' health and productivity.

7. Operations and Maintenance Optimization

Green building operations and maintenance includes management of building systems, such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, security, and, in some cases, data and telecommunications cabling; maintenance of building structures and interiors, furniture, and equipment; and maintenance of grounds, landscaping, and site improvements.

No matter how sustainable a building may have been in its design and construction, it can only remain if operated responsibly and maintained properly. Ensuring operations and maintenance personnel are part of the project's planning and development process will help retain the green criteria designed at the project's onset.

Keeping the facility clean decreases the occurrence of “sick building syndrome” and uses less toxic chemicals in the process. Occupants are also more likely to express satisfaction and lose less productivity due to absenteeism in a well-cleaned building.

Take a look at some sustainable, non-toxic home solutions from TopEco Home.

8. Waste Reduction

Green architecture also seeks to reduce waste of energy, water and materials used during construction. For example, 32% of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition, and 13% of building products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfills without even being used. 

By reducing, recycling and reusing waste you can:

  • reduce the amount of waste going to landfill
  • reduce emissions, pollution and contamination
  • protect scarce resources
  • reduce overall construction costs
  • reduce tipping fees
  • sell salvaged recourses
  • contribute towards Council’s waste reduction targets for your community.

During the construction phase, one goal should be to reduce the amount of material going to landfills. Well-designed buildings help reduce the amount of waste generated by the occupants by providing onsite solutions such as compost bins and segmented recycling units.

Developing a waste management plan that describes what materials will be reused on site or separated for offsite recycling is a very effective way of reducing waste going to landfill. As a rule of thumb, a minimum of 70% of waste (by mass) of all demolition and construction waste should be recycled or reused.

Check out some new sustainable materials for furniture...

Does Green Home Design Cost More?

The most criticized issue about constructing environmentally friendly buildings is the price.

Solar power, green appliances and modern technologies tend to cost more money. Most green buildings command a premium of 2% more but yield ten times as much over the entire life of the building. 

The stigma is between the knowledge of up-front cost vs life-cycle cost. The savings in money come from more efficient use of utilities which result in decreased energy bills. 

There is also incredible projected results on productivity for workers in an energy-efficient, green building. Studies show that over a 20 year life period, some green buildings yield £40 to £53 per square foot back on any investment. Projected data shows that some specific sectors could save £96 billion on energy bills.

Statistics from the World Green Building Council

Green buildings offer a number of economic or financial benefits, which are relevant to a range of different people or groups of people. These include cost savings on utility bills for tenants or households (through energy and water efficiency); lower construction costs and higher property value for building developers; increased occupancy rates or operating costs for building owners; and job creation. 

  • Green buildings achieving the Green Star certification in South Africa have been shown to save on average between 30 - 40% energy and carbon emissions every year, and between 20 - 30% potable water every year, when compared to the industry norm.

  • Green buildings achieving the LEED certification in the US and other countries have been shown to consume 25 per cent less energy and 11 per cent less water, than non-green buildings.

Since the publication of WorldGBC’s groundbreaking 2013 report, The Business Case for Green Building, the link between green buildings and the economic and financial benefits they can offer are increasingly well-known with architects, builders and designers worldwide.

Have Your Say...

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read. Leave a comment in the box below.