By Wendy Pan
With the energy crunch impacting virtually everyone worldwide today, the timing for a green building environment is just right. People have begun their own efforts to become environmentally and earth friendly, with reuse, recycle, and renew projects in the communities and on their own. It is only natural that these efforts are being extended to basics, such as building and construction activities.
Most people are familiar with green products, safe, non-toxic, recycled items such as cleaners, plastic park benches, and other conservation efforts. In buildings, you can find the green building environment at work when you see solar rooftop panels, or water barrels catching rainwater runoff for reuse in yards and gardens. Some buildings use hard packed gravel for parking lots, which will allow water absorption, instead of solid blacktop or concrete.
Some large buildings are now taking advantage of rooftop gardens and green roofs, that are planted with highly water retaining materials like moss. Or, the roofs are designed to minimize rainwater runoff. Materials for construction can be green if they include rapidly renewable plants like straw, bamboo, certified sustainable forests, recycled stone and metal. Other products used are non-toxic, or renewable or recyclable. These would include materials made from sheep wool, recycled plastic or papers, adobe brick, clay, cork, coconut or other woody fibers, sandstone, and so on. There is an effort to save on shipping and gasoline use by purchasing materials locally when possible, or nearby to the building locations.
The green building environment is seen in the manner in which buildings are constructed, as they are designed to make full use of renewable energy sources including solar and wind power. Buildings are planned for directional use of natural light and heat sources so that passive solar energy can be utilized. They are built with roofs designed to hold solar panels, with enough space facing the sunward side so that adequate amounts of panels can be installed effectively and with maximum sunlight absorption capability. Added attention is given to insulation use and special sun control on windows, as well as placement and size of windows to take advantage of passive solar heat energy.
Combinations of solar, wind and hydrogen power systems are used to get maximum benefit from naturally occurring, free, energy generating resources. Interior lighting and appliances are super efficient, using Energy Star appliances, and CFL and LED lighting, combined with automation systems. Solar heat panels for hot water can reduce water heating costs. Some buildings use solar roof tiles, to provide maximum collection of sunlight energy for generators. Indoors, the use of special filtering and air cleaners, non-smoking rules, and plants helps keep air fresher, cleaner, and less toxic.
The final component of the green building environment is to consider disposal of waste products in an environmentally friendly manner. Reduction of waste, recycling of waste, and separation facilities for reusable waste completes this earth friendly effort. With demand increasing, and prices coming down with that increased demand, this technology is a natural to spread worldwide.