Green design, also called green architecture or eco-friendly design, minimizes the negative impact of building materials and construction on the environment. It offers a powerful alternative to conventional building that uses fewer precious national resources and increases human health and happiness.
Conventional construction practices contribute to significant environmental degradation and resource use. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, in the United States alone, buildings account for 72% of electricity consumption, 39% of energy use, 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and 40% of raw materials use.
Green design's most visible importance is to minimize harm to the local health and environment, and in many cases benefits the environment. Green designers protect the natural environment by selecting development sites with respect to local ecosystems, and plan construction that minimizes carbon dioxide emissions by using local vendors as well as organic and recycled materials. These design elements lead to improved air and water quality, conservation of natural resources and stronger ecosystems.
Green design also reduces construction and operating costs. Innovations such as adding a special insulating film to windows, can reduce building heating and cooling costs by more than 30 percent. Green design can include cheap or self-contained energy sources such as solar roofs or peat furnaces that bring down the cost of heat and electricity. Green roofs present another new new green design opportunity, which entails adding a water-proofing and drainage system and covering a roof with vegetation. This creates additional green space for residents—particularly valuable in cities—as well as protects roofing materials over their lifetime as well and saves on heating and cooling costs. Careful green planning will often pay for itself and avoid costly redesigns or other major expenses down the line.
Green design also benefits the health of the people that work in and inhabit it as well as builds community with and contributes to overall happiness. Sustainable paint and carpeting made from natural or organic materials won't give off harmful chemicals to workers or inhabitants. Ergonomic and environmentally friendly design also contributes to an overall higher quality of life.
The U.S. Green Building Council has offered The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification since 1993, granting third-party verification that a building or community meets green design standards of energy savings, water efficiency, low carbon dioxide emissions, and conservation of natural resources. LEED is available to commercial and residential buildings and takes the entire construction and design process of a building project into account.