Summer this year in Korea was hotter than ever, and the abnormally hot temperatures are widely known to be related to global warming. In this sense, the dreadful heat we felt this summer might also be seen as an opportunity to think about ways to build a safe and environmentally sustainable future. One of the best ways to build a sustainable future is, in fact, by building better buildings. According to the United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), buildings take up almost 40 percent of total energy usage. This means that constructing eco-friendly buildings, also known as “green buildings,” is critical to the larger effort of improving the environment. What exactly are “green buildings,” and what advantages do they have?
What Is a Green Building?
Green buildings are buildings that have eco-friendly elements applied to them in whole stages, from the production of subsidiary materials to the construction of the building itself and finally to the management afterwards. In other words, green buildings are buildings that are sustainably constructed throughout the whole life cycle of the building: planning, preparing materials, managing, and waste treatment. Green buildings are built not only to improve the efficiency of electric power usage, but also the usage of water and other materials. Nowadays, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have announced many systems that encourage the construction of green buildings. This means that green buildings are appreciated as constructions that cause minimal harm to our ecology.
LEED: Green Building Rating System
What Is LEED?
LEED, an abbreviation of Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, is an evaluation system for green building that was made by the U.S. Green Building Council. This system is used internationally, and it is normally applied to evaluate public facilities and high-rise residential apartment buildings in term of their energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. LEED goes through several stages of in-depth assessment and categorizes buildings into 4 grades: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
What Does LEED Evaluate?
There are 8 required evaluation stages in LEED. CAH will present the most representative stages among them. Appearances of buildings are of course important, but most people spend more time inside a building than outside it. Thus, important factors in LEED evaluation are natural light reflected inside, views that can be seen from indoors, and noise level. The next important thing is the usage of sustainable land. Scores are given after a precise evaluation has been made of the land chosen for the construction site, and how the land is managed. This stage is regarded as important since the degree of environmental pollution during construction depends on the way the land is managed. Next, the efficiency of water usage is evaluated. To earn high scores on this criterion, the building should use less water and the quality of the water should be well managed as well. Other LEED criteria include air quality, usages of resources, and more.
Advantage of LEED Evaluation
To get a high LEED score, a tremendous amount of money should be invested in the beginning of the construction, and this means there will be big difficulties in obtaining the eco-friendly materials needed to meet for LEED building standards. In fact, it is said that early stage investment needed to meet LEED standards raise building costs by 5 percent. Naturally, many people will wonder whether these extra building costs are worth the trouble. The answer is yes, for after getting good a high LEED score, the owner of a building can raise rent fees while also lowering maintenance costs. This means more return on investment for landlords. For occupants of the building, it means being able to enjoy good air quality, sunlight, and more. Plus, the name ‘green building’ itself can bring about great commercial effects.
LEED Certified Buildings
One of the famous buildings in the world that got a ‘Gold’ grade from LEED is The Empire States Building in New York. The reason for its high marks is the building uses less energy, the elevators circulate the building’s energy, and it has recycled windows. Another building that got a high grade by LEED is the Chinatown Public Library in Chicago. This building not only got ‘Gold’, but it is also known as the most beautiful building in the world. This building earned high evaluations due to its efficient usage of low-power LED lights and solar power.
Extended Benefits of Green Building
Creation of Jobs
According to UNEP, more than three thousand new jobs have been created in the United States and Europe since green buildings started being built. As the new concept of ‘green building’ was introduced, new construction technology was needed as well as the development of the materials, renewable energy, and system of energy supply. This brought about the need for a lot of research and design manpower. Moreover, professors say that when green buildings are built, not only is research manpower needed but also manpower in several other fields as well. This is the reason why UNEP asserts that green building is not just an option for developed countries. If this concept is introduced in developing countries, the health of the people in those countries will get better as well, and new jobs will be created too.
Invention of New Technology
What surfaces most in discussions about green buildings is the role of new technology. We cannot but regard new technology in thinking about the construction of green buildings in more effective and efficient ways. In fact, there will be much money spent if the newly developed technology is applied. However, if these bases accumulate, we will be able to enjoy green buildings for a cheaper price not in the not-so-far future. In the case of solar power, much money was invested when it was on the stage of development, but now, it is already being used as an element that reduces the energy costs. Similarly, many experts are at work developing new technology for green buildings. When this goes on, it is pretty safe to assume that our type of resident will soon change.
In the past, people considered their pleasant lifestyle most when constructing a building. However, in a situation in which our environment is deteriorating, eco-friendliness should also be regarded when we imagine a pleasant lifestyle. Since buildings are not only used for a short time, it is an unconditional thing to consider the whole life cycle of the building: from construction to waste. Starting with green buildings, we will surely be able to embody the shape of the eco-friendly city that we dreamed of.
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