You have built or renovated your building to code; in other words, “the lowest possible value you could build to” . Building codes are quite simply, the minimum standards you can achieve. They are equivalent to acquiring a fifty percent, a bare minimum passing grade; as a result, those criteria accomplish very little in terms of a building’s longevity, its energy efficiency, or the overall health and well-being of people occupying the building. There are superior benchmarks to strive for but they are recommendations only; that may be integrated voluntarily or not. Research and simulation models have proven that building green is far superior, and because the environmental, economic, and social aspects of building green are so significantly beneficial to us all, policy makers should designate them as mandatory, not voluntary.
Quite possibly the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases today are buildings, mainly due to the way we design, construct, and operate them; many people do not understand the serious, long term implications that buildings have on the environment, and “the most important reason why every building should be green is the effect on nature itself” . Small changes can produce enormous benefits; we need to more seriously consider the things that sustain us, and how we can improve our overall environmental impact. The most obvious place to start is with the waste we generate. Without considering all the other wealthy, developed nations in the world, the United States of America alone generates some 160 million tons of construction and demolition (C&D) debris per year, with the considerable majority of it going to solid material landfills . One hundred and sixty million tons annually is an astounding amount of waste, and in an industrial, technologically advanced society, that amount of post-processed product going nowhere other than a landfill seems ludicrous. With that much material being tossed into construction dumpsters from only one nation, just imagine the amount of C&D debris being sent to landfills worldwide and the negative environmental implications that produces. We need to do better, but how? We can recycle more within the building and construction industry; a lot of useful material can be salvaged from building and renovation projects . One of the main aspects of building green is recycling and reducing waste; wood is easily remanufactured into other products; old concrete and asphalt can be reused, and some of the most valuable items to consider for recycling are metals, such as copper and brass from old wiring and plumbing. We can easily accomplish this by separating our building and renovation waste materials and finding outlets to divert them to, which will ensure the material is reused instead of being sent in large, mixed piles to the landfill . Building green also encourages conservation of natural resources, which is extremely important for the well-being of the environment. One of the most substantial misuses of natural resources is exterior landscaping; we despoil vast amounts of soil and water for the benefit of a beautiful looking lawn and garden. Composting our leaves and organics reduces the environmental impact of having to transport them somewhere else; in addition, we create our own nutrient rich soils to use on our lawns and in our gardens . Probably the biggest waste of natural resources is the overabundant waste of fresh water. Not including natural rainwater, the average homeowner uses approximately 10,000 gallons of water annually just to water their lawn and garden . Without considering that fact for very long, I think it would be quite difficult to rival that amount of waste with almost anything else we use on a daily basis. One simple solution would be to install rain sensors on our irrigation systems. Rain sensors will ensure that lawn sprinklers aren’t running on rainy days; in addition, we could choose more