The idea of Green Building is essentially a set of practical measures to make buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) outlines the standards and methods that comprise Green Building. From creating vegetative roofs to reducing waste, these practices have been proven effective in reducing carbon emissions and even daily living costs.
Green Building in New York City: A History
The first comprehensive green building project in New York was in the Schermerhorn Building, which underwent seriosu renovations in 1992. The project was designed by Croxton Collaborative Architects, a firm that also renovated the Natural Resources Defense Council Building in 1998. The renovation of this building was New York’s first green construction project. The firm dealt with energy efficiency, light, air quality, and the health of the building occupants. The first green skyscraper in North America was Four TImes Square, which earned this distinction in 1999. All of these developments were steps toward increasing awareness of the green building movement in New York (and the nation) and generated a great deal of momentum.
In 1997, the New York City Department of Design and Construction formed the Office of Sustainable Design, which published High Performance Building Guidelines in 1999 in order to introduce sustainable design to the entire city. These guidelines were followed by the High Performance Infrastructure Guildlines.
Battery Park City has become one of the greenesrt neighborhoods in the world due to the efforts of the Battery Park City Authority. The BPCA enthusiastically supported the LEED Green Building Rating System early in its development and was responsible for the building of North America’s first green high-rise residential projets, the Solaire, pictured below. For more information on the LEED Green Building Rating System, see the Public Housing Incentives page. (1)
The New York City Transit Authority has also worked to adhere to green design guidelines in order to create a more sustainable transit system.
In 2002, the Urban Green Council (expanded on in the following secton) was created.
Former Governor George Pataki announced in 2005 that the replacement and memorial towers for World Trade Center site would be built with the intention of achieving LEED Gold certification. 7 World Trade Center has achieved this goal and is going to house one fo the world’s largest fuel-cell installations.
In 2005, NYC enacted Local Law 86, which requires most city-owned and funded buildings to meet LEED Silver certification. This law is projected to make more than $12 billion worth of city construction by 2017.
Components of Green Building
1. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Heat islands (areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas) are the cause of much energy use in urban areas. For example, a city with 1 million residents can be as much as 5.4 degrees F hotter than the surrounding areas, resulting in heavier air conditioning use, heat-related illnesses, and greater greenhouse gas emissions. There are a number of practical methods that reduce heat levels and thus relieve designated heat islands from the medical, environmental, and financial burdens of the increased heat. Three of these methods involve physically adpating the roofs of buildings to conserve energy and create a cooler environment: green roofs, blue roofs, and white roofs. For information on blue roofs and white roofs, see the same-titled pages under Practical Ideas.
Green roofs refers to growing vegetation on rooftops. By creating rooftop gardens, building owners can not only create shade but also remove heat from the air through the process of evapotranspiration. By June 2008, approximately 8.5 million square feet of green roofs had been installed in the United States. (2) The benefits are further illuminated and simplified in the following diagram, produced by the Heat Island Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:
2. Water Efficiency
Water efficiency can be both cost-effective and environmentally-friendly through the implementation of simple measures. According to the EPA, the average household spends about $500 on water/year. It is possible to reduce this cost by about $170 through easy changes. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, but water efficient appliances make the reduction of this number fairly simple. The EPA offers two examples of how the change can be effective:
- “If one out of every 100 American homes retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year!”
- “If 1 percent of American homes replaced their older, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the country would save more than 38 million kWh of electricity—enough to supply more than 43,000 households electricity for one month.” (3)
In order to provide an incentive for people to install WaterSense products, the EPA has an online calculator that tells any given person how much money they can save through the installation of water efficient faucets and toilets. An example of the savings made possible through water efficient products is given below:
3. Environmentally Preferable Building Materials and Specifications
Suggested measures for waste reduction include reuse and recycling of construction and demolition materials, using spent foundry sand, using blast furnace and steel furnace slag, and encouraging the recycling of industrial materials in transportation and building construction projects. The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program “uses the federal government’s enormous buying power to stimulate market demand for green products and services” (EPA). (4)
4. Waste Reduction
One important element to focus on in terms of waste reduction is a building’s Life Cycle Assessment. In order to build truly sustainable structures, designers and contractors have to think about the bigger picture, which includes how the buildings will be disposed of at the end of their life cycle. The EPA encourages people to think about the entire life cycle of buildings with its Lifecycle Building Challenge.
The EPA offers the following statistics concerning the Life Cycle of buildings:
- More of the 100 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris are sent to landfills in the United States each year.
- Construction and demolition debris comprises about 40 percent of the solid waste stream.
- Reusing building components reduces the energy and greenhouse gases emissions associated with producing and transporting building materials.
- Between the years 2000 and 2030, an estimated 27 percent of existing buildings will be replaced, and 50 percent of the total building stock will be constructed.
They suggest the following characteristics of buildings as challenges for improving the sustainability of a building’s life cycle:
- A recreational building that breaks into 3 parts for transportation by truck to a new site;
- The green mobile home with detachable rooms allowing for additions or remodeling;
- A plug-in home with a specialized connector joint, allowing components to be unplugged quickly and without damage;
- Zip tape that allows drywall to be easily removed and reused.
The EPA also offers the following suggestions for construction and demolition:
- Incorporate environmental specifications into your building contracts and guidelines.
- Develop standard operating procedures for C&D reuse and recycling at your construction site.
- Rehabilitate an existing structure in place of planned demolition.
- Use deconstruction techniques rather than demolition if a building must be torn down.
- Employ efficient framing to reduce the amount of lumber used without sacrificing structural integrity.
- Invest in durable products to ensure that materials last as long as possible.
- Return unused construction material to vendors.
- Consider the end-of-life management, or recyclability, of building products at the start of a project.
- Salvage C&D waste for sale and reuse.
- Purchase recycled-content building materials including insulation, carpet, cement, paint, floor tiles, shower and restroom dividers, laminated paperboard, and structural fiberboard. (5)
5. Toxics Reduction
Green, or sustainable, chemistry is the “design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances” (EPA). The EPA’s Green Chemistry Program works with chemical technologies that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances during the design, manufacture, and use of chemical products and processes. Reducing toxic chemicals is good for the environment and for the health of every one inhabiting a given space. (6)
6. Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality (or IAQ) is a huge concern in terms of creating sustainable and healthy buildings. Though important in all buildings, increasing the air quality in residential buildings and schools is particularly crucial.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) systems are highly important in terms of air quality control. They help maintain good air quality but also consume a lot of energy. Creating and maintaining an efficient and cost-effective HVAC system is an essential part of green building, and the EPA has gone to great lenths to provide information for building owners and schools on how to ensure that systems are as beneficent and sustainable as possible. (7)
7. Smart Growth and Sustainable Development
CARE (Community Action for a Renewed Environment), EPA’s Green Infrastructure, EPA’s GreenScapes, EPA’s Sustainability Program, and EPA’s Smart Growth Program are all examples of programs that support sustainable development and smart growth through information, advice, and guidelines. (8)
Green Codes Task Force
The Urban Green Council is the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. They work to promote sustainability within New York City, paying a good deal of attention to construction and development.
In February 2010, the Urban Green Council published a prosposal of different methods to create a healthier and more environmentally-friendly city for New Yorkers. The following are the proposals listed by the Council Task Force. Highlights related to green building include measures such as better monitoring of energy use, energy effieicieny training for people in charge of buildings, improving lighting and various appliances (such as dryers) in order to increase effieiciency, incorporating recycled materials into construction, and encouraging the use of staircases in order to limit use of high-energy internal transport. (9)
- Add environmental protection as fundamental principal of the construction codes
- Fully enforce NYC’s construction codes
- Don’t exempt existing buildings from green codes
- Reconvene the Green Codes Task Force
- Consolidate regulation of landscape practices
- Streamline approvals for green technologies and projects
- Enhance code training for architects and engineers
- Limit harmful emissions from carpets
- Limit harmful emissions from paints and glues
- Restrict cancer-causing formaldehyde in building materials
- Keep street contaminants out of buildings
- Filter soot from incoming air
- Ensure ventilation airflow in residences
- Reduce mold in bathrooms
- Improve air quality during and after construction
- Phase out dirty boiler fuels
- Phase out toxic and inefficient light fixture components
- Convene Task Force on recycling fluorescent light bulbs
- Reduce oversized batteries in emergency lighting
- Treat corrosive concrete wastewater
- Reduce “red tape” for asbestos removal
- Allow stairway use
- Encourage stairway use with transparent doors
- Promote stair use through signage
- Encourage stairway use by holding doors open
- Provide zoning bonus for inviting staircases
- Increase availability of drinking fountains
- Simplify commercial energy code to current ashrae 90.1
- Build new homes to Energy Star standard
- Limit heat loss through exterior walls
- Promote super-insulated exterior walls
- Allow external insulation beyond the zoning limits
- Increase allowable size of solar shades
- Minimize air leakage through building exteriors
- Provide window screens to encourage natural ventilation
- Ensure operable windows in residential buildings
- Reduce artificial lighting in sunlit spaces
- Reduce summer heat with cool roofs
- Reduce summer heat with cool, shady building lots
- Clarify standards for attaching rooftop solar panels
- Allow large solar rooftop installations
- Remove zoning impediments to alternative energy
- Remove landmarks impediments to alternative energy
- Allow use of biofuels
- Re-tune large buildings every seven years
- Measure electricity use in tenant spaces
- Train building operators in energy efficiency
- Automate tracking of building energy use
- Inspect and maintain commerical HVAC systems
- Establish maximum heating and minimum cooling temperatures
- Improve energy modeling for building design
- Improve analysis of heating and cooling needs during design
- Assess co-generation feasibility in large buildings
- Improve energy and water efficiency upon sale of residences
- Improve effiiency of boilers and heating distribution systems
- Increase efficiency of large cooling systems
- Increase lighting efficiency in apartment buildings
- Encourage installation of Energy Star appliances
- Improve operation of dryers in apartment buildings
- Reduce overheating in apartments
- Turn off equipment in empty hotel rooms
- Provide ventilation only as needed in large spaces
- Use manual on-auto off lighing
- Limit after-hours retail lighting
- Reduce artificial light in sunlit lobbies and hallways
- Increase lighting efficiency on construction sites
- Use outdoor air for cooling
- Use waste heat from ConEd
- Insulate pipes exposed during construction
- Clarify standards for equipment venting
- Modernize boiler regulations
- Reduce lighting power requirements for offices
- Reduce CO2 emissions due to concrete
- Reduce CO2 emissions from specialized concrete
- Ensure new energy systems function properly
- Ensure lighting systems function properly
- Reduce leakage from air ducts
- Expand boiler efficiency testing and tuning
- Create and use 2080 map based on climate change predictions
- Safeguard toxic materials stored in flood zones
- Study adaptive strategies to flooding
- Study adaptive strategies to non-flood climatic risks
- Forecast non-flood climatic hazards to 2080
- Analyze strategies to maintain habitability during power outages
- Ensure toilets and sinks can operate during blackouts
- Enhance building water supply during blackouts
- Include climate change in environmental impact statements
- Recycle construction waste
- Provide recycling areas in apartment buildings
- Use recycled aggregate in concrete
- Use recycled asphalt
- Protect forests by using sustainable wood
- Enhance water efficiency standards
- Upgrade inefficient toilets, showerheads, and faucets during renovations
- Catch leaks by measuring water use
- Facilitate use of recycled water
- Reduce use of drinking water to clean sidewalks
- Stop wasting drinking water for cooling
- Reuse water from coned system
- Reduce excessive paving of sites
- Reduce stormwater runoff from new developments
- Reduce stormwater runoff from construction sites
- Send rainwater to waterways
- Encourage innovative stormwater practices
- Maintain site-based stormwater detention systems
- Analyze strategies to reduce stormwater runoff from existing developments
- Increase biodiversity in public landscapes
- Increase biodiversity in sidewalk plantings
- Construct sustainable sidewalks
- Preserve “100-year old” trees
- Protect street trees from construction activities
(1) http://www.urbangreencouncil.org/about-us/history.html (Acesssed on 4.11.10)
(2) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#energy (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(3) http://www.epa.gov/watersense/water_efficiency/index.html (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(4) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#materials (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(5) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#waste (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(6) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#toxics (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(7) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#indoor (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(8) http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/components.htm#sustain (Accessed on 3.8.10)
(9) http://www.urbangreencouncil.org/ (Accessed on 4.11.10)