Green building, also known as sustainable or high performance building, is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance and deconstruction.
A green building may incorporate sustainable materials (recycled) in their construction, create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants, and/or feature landscaping that reduces water usage; all with the goal of designing a structure that efficiently use energy, water, and other resources, protects the occupants health and reduces waste.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) the green building movement arose out of the need for more energy efficient and environmentally friendly building practices. Specifically the increase in oil prices in the 1970s initiated significant research to improve energy efficiency and find renewable energy sources; together, with the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, led to the earliest attempts at modern green building. It wasn’t however until the 1990s that the green building field began to come together.
In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As of 2010, ENERGY STAR has successfully delivered energy and cost savings across the country, saving businesses, organizations, and consumers about $18 billion.
In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was established whose purpose is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green building. In 1998, the USGBC launched their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings.
The green building market has continued to grow over the last 20 years. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, in 2005, the green building market for commercial construction starts was 2%; in 2008 it was 12%; and in 2010 it was 28%-35%. By 2015, an estimated 40-48% of new nonresidential construction by value will be green, equating to a $120-145 billion opportunity for builders.