So called “sustainable buildings” are those structures designed, or renovated, to minimize their harmful impact on the environment – both internally, for the occupants, and externally – for the planet. Sustainable building encompasses a number of related measures ranging from using environmentally benign products (e.g., paints, wood treatments, recycled building materials), to ways to manage air quality (e.g., stove/oven vents, air filters) and from efficient fixtures and solar panels to improved insulation. In exchange for implementing said measures, building owners and occupants stand to reap much in benefits.
Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Here are some examples of the benefits to be had in choosing sustainable building practices.
- Sustainable buildings are much less expensive to operate. For example, environmentally-improved building reduces the cost to both cool the building in summer and heat the building in winter, which can build up to impressive savings over time – sometimes bringing energy costs down to a pittance. Similarly, measures like automated thermostats and light sensors result in greater energy reductions, helping to cut costs for the building owners and/or occupants.
- Governments at the municipal, state, and even federal level have reason to encourage the usage of sustainable building. This means that building owners can often collect tax credits and other incentives which reduce the spending needed to make their buildings sustainable. Examples include federal tax credits for specific renovations, other tax credits in states such as New York and Maryland, plus grants and other tax incentives at the federal, state and municipal levels.
- Less pollution suspended in the air is an important benefit to certain sustainable building practices, such as the refusal to use paints with high concentrations of volatile organic compounds. Occupants have an easier time using buildings without having to breathe in such pollution. Furthermore, it ensures that said individuals have reduced risks for a number of serious medical conditions extending to and beyond breathing problems. For example, did you that there is strong evidence that the fumes from cooking with oil is linked to lung cancer?
- Of course, the reduction of wasteful practices also reduces a building’s impact on an over-burdened planet. Given the rising importance of environmentalism, trumpeting sustainable building practices can see building owners’ reputations soar, leading to improved relationships with their stakeholders. Increasingly, many environmentally-conscious home buyers actively seek to rent or purchase sustainable dwellings.
Sustainable building practices are both ethical and practical. Given the persuasiveness of the combination, the rising interest in sustainable buildings is not surprising.
- EPA on Why Build Green? See also their list of additional statistics on buildings and the environment (PDF)
- EPA’s Frequent Questions about Green Building
- U.S. General Services Administration: Benefits of Green Buildings on Costs, the Environment and Jobs