04 May Green Building – Is Our Focus Irrelevant? Part 1
Green building and sustainable housing have been hot topics since the first utterance of Global Warming. But have we been ignoring the main key to achieve this?
The focus for green construction is usually on topics including material choices, indoor air quality, landscaping, and the VOC content of paint. Is this wide array of information irrelevant?
From an environmental perspective, the most important factor is energy use — not energy efficiency, but actual energy consumption.
A study was done by CORRIM [Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials] to find the total difference, over 75 years, between carbon emissions for a steel-framed vs. a wood-framed home. The total life-cycle carbon emissions — for manufacturing and transporting the materials, building the
home, maintaining, heating, cooling and lighting it for 75 years, and dismantling and disposing of it at the end — had very little variance. However, according to their numbers, it’s evident that the big carbon impacts from a home are from heating, cooling, and electric power consumption, not the choice of framing materials.
Energy-efficiency features of a house, such as excellent insulation and passive heating and cooling are what make the largest positive impact long-term to the climate. Designers can orient windows and walls and place awnings and porches to shade windows and roofs during the summer while maximizing solar gain in
the winter. In addition, effective window placement (daylighting) can provide more natural light and lessen the need for electric lighting during the day. Solar water heating further reduces energy costs.
What does green building mean to you? Who do you think is doing it well, and who has their focus in the wrong place?
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR PART 2!