Green Building

Green Building

Designing Energy Efficient Metal Buildings Green Building

The American Iron and Steel Institute reports that steel is the most recycled material in North America. However, green construction ideas go far beyond recycling. A building’s design and construction methods, its end use and occupants’ productivity, as well as maintenance requirements throughout the life of the building, are among the many considerations that have changed the way Heritage works with our designers and engineers. It has also been the catalyst for developing programs to help our products’ users meet their green building objectives.  Use this section to learn more about how building green can work for you.The demand for environmentally-friendly construction products and practices, or green  building. has accelerated in recent years. Heritage Building Systems is taking a leadership role in this initiative through innovation and expert consultation in the use of metal construction products and processes.

What is Green?

Heritage, along with the rest of the construction industry, has experienced a greater demand for environmentally-friendly, or green building, construction solutions. A building is considered green if it has characteristics that reduce its environmental impact during its life cycle – from construction all the way to the end of the building’s useful life. These green building characteristics are measured against three criteria:

  • The environmental  impact the building will have now and in the future when considering such factors as energy use, efficient use of space, recyclability, and the materials used for construction, all in an effort to conserve natural resources
  • The economic  impact, such as lowering operating costs, enhancing asset value, and improving productivity, as well as optimizing lifecycle performance
  • Health and community. through the improvement of air quality, occupant comfort, and overall health conditions

The U.S. Green Building Council cites these advantages for building green:

  • Decrease in a building’s cost to operate, including energy savings
  • Increase in a building’s value, improving ROI
  • Improved occupant comfort
  • Increase in a building’s occupancy capacity
  • Increase in potential rent
  • Reduction in urban heat island effect and smog
  • Mitigation of global warming

The U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program is designed for building owners and operators. To receive certification through the LEED program, designers, builders and building owners incorporate energy-saving strategies throughout the complete cycle of a building, from best construction practices to occupation and the end of the building’s useful life. Strategies include choosing an environmentally sensitive design, roofing, insulation, delivery methods and other assorted criteria, which earn points toward certification.

To learn more about LEED, visit the USGBC website .

LEED Certification

Certification is now administered by the Green Building Certification Institute through a network of professional, third-party certification bodies. To register a project for LEED certification, visit .

If you are interested in the LEED Green Building Certification System fact sheet, click here  to download a copy.

Heritage is affiliated with several trade organizations involved in regulating general building practices, which can include standards for green buildings associations. as well as the following associations focused specifically on the improvement of environmental building policies and products.

Discover what makes a building green

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Green buildings are designed, built and managed in a way that makes them as sustainable as possible, with minimal impact on the environment. There are hundreds of ways of making a house, a school or a commercial building green, but the best green building will include the following:

1. The Right Site

Before a single shovelful of dirt is moved, a green building should be properly sited. Ideally, the building will not be constructed in any sensitive habitats like wetlands, groundwater recharge zones or old growth forests. Many new green buildings are purposely built over former brownfields (polluted industrial areas) that have been reclaimed.

Buildings that are sited near major bus, train and subway lines encourage use of public transit. And buildings with smaller building and parking lot footprints tend to be more energy-efficient while leaving more room for landscaping — ideally, landscaping that uses non-invasive native plants, some of which produce food for humans and wildlife alike.

2. Minimal Energy Use

Energy efficiency is a key component of any green building, making energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal increasingly important. Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) are usually a building’s biggest energy costs, so simple practices like moderating summer and winter thermostat settings makes a real difference — as do efficient appliances like those with Energy Star certification.

Using good-quality, insulating windows is as important as window placement; windows in the right places allow daylight to reduce lighting use while providing solar warmth in cool weather. Newer technologies like ICF construction and SIPS panels greatly enhance energy efficiency. And landscaping can also save energy through smart placement of shade trees and green roofs. where plant beds provide insulation and reduce storm runoff.

3. Material Wealth in a Green Building

It seems that every other day, some innovative, new green building material is introduced. Some are recycled, recyclable, or brought back into use from architectural salvage companies. Others are local materials — including those, like adobe, rock and gravel, that can be harvested from the building site itself. Most of these contain few or no toxic substances or finishes, and many, such as bamboo, straw bales, cork, and recycled denim insulation, come from sustainable or low-impact sources.

4. Breathing Easy

Most of us can identify the smell of fresh paint, but there are many other indoor air pollutants that can be even more harmful. The EPA estimates that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from some paints, carpets, synthetic fabrics and adhesives are a known health hazard, contributing to the malaise known as sick building syndrome. Proper use of HVAC can help, as can one obvious but hard-to-find office technology — windows that open to let fresh air in and bad air out.

5. The Water-Wise Green Building

6. Waste Not

Some of the greenest buildings aren’t new at all — they’re older buildings that have been adapted for reuse. Adaptive building reuse, like turning an old warehouse into housing, is just one example of how smart design can reduce the waste stream from construction, as well as the waste generated during building occupancy. More efficient building processes, like prefab buildings, also reduce the amount of waste generated by building demolition, construction and renovation.

7. Amenities and Management

Green Building

From 1980 to 2003, global energy consumption grew 48 percent, from 283 quadrillion Btus to 421 quadrillion Btus.

And from 2010 to 2030, it’s estimated that global energy consumption will climb to 678 quadrillion Btus representing an additional 28 percent growth.

Now the question is will we be able to generate enough energy to meet these consumption demands?

Well, let’s see.

In 2006, the world generated 472 quadrillion Btus.

But in order to supply consumption demands by 2030, we need to come up with another 206 quadrillion Btus within 21 years. That’s almost double the increase in world energy output over the previous 23 years.

Meanwhile, these increasing energy demands continue to push electricity prices higher and higher. Talk about a supply and demand reality check!

In just the past four years alone, cost per kWh has risen by nearly 15%.

Fossil "Fools"

The days of cheap and abundant fossil fuels are over.

We already know about the oil scenario, but the next great hope — coal — is on the fritz as well. The physical mass of coal left in the world is not the issue. The amount of energy it can produce is.

You see, if you view coal in terms of tons of oil equivalent. then U.S. production peaked in 1998. And the U.S. isn’t the only country whose coal production is in decline. For the last 20 years, all major coal-producing nations that have updated their reserve numbers have adjusted them downward. In the last 25 years, the total global reserve estimate has been cut by 60%.

And as if that weren’t enough, global warming legislation is putting even more pressure on the coal industry.

Whether you’re on board or not. the global warming debate is over. Now, and especially in the very near future, it’s going to be extremely cost-prohibitive to emit CO2 as a byproduct of any production process.

The Kyoto Protocol was the first step. And while it’s still up in the air as to how successful any of it will be, there’s much more in the works.

Take the EU, for instance.

The European Union has recently agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 and 60% to 80% by 2050. Each country in the union will have different cap levels that average to meet these requirements.

"We have an urgent need to take steps to combat the causes of global warming," Senator Feinstein said. "Safe, energy efficient buildings can be an important part of a comprehensive global warming agenda. This bill will save electricity consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and streamline existing federal regulations. It is a good first step." Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

And the United States, which refused to sign Kyoto, has begun to take action at the state level. where governors are now picking up the slack while bureaucratic palms on the Hill continue to get greased behind press releases calling for "more studies."

Of course, the sea change on Capital Hill is beginning to disrupt the status quo. We’ll find out soon enough it anything’s going to stick.

Meanwhile, California passed legislation similar to the EU back in 2006, calling for a 25 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020.

And eight Northeastern states have joined the action as well. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts have all signed a memorandum of understanding which provides for the reduction of each state’s emissions by 2.5% annually beginning in 2015.

So here we are with dwindling oil and coal supplies, legislative initiatives demanding CO2 reductions and a hefty projected increase in energy demand.

Where to start. where to start?!

Building Energy Use

A fast way to improve energy efficiency while reducing emissions is to tackle one of the biggest users of energy: buildings.

Commercial and residential buildings in the U.S. alone use 40 quadrillion Btus of energy annually at a cost of $300 billion. That’s 9.5% of total world energy consumption!

Buildings are also responsible for 38% of the nation’s CO2 emissions — more than the industrial or transportation sectors.

"As a legislator, I have always stressed the importance of environmental awareness in the creation of new public policy, corporate citizenship, and our every day routines. These green building initiatives will help our Connecticut citizens dually through short term energy cost cuts, and long term environmental preservation." Joe Lieberman (D-CT)

But a burgeoning green building movement is looking to change all this.

Green building is essentially a combination of updated construction techniques with a sharp eye on energy and water efficiency and conservation.

On average, a green building uses 33% less energy than a conventional building. If green design were fully integrated, you could be looking at a reduction of energy consumption in buildings from 40 to 26.8 quadrillion Btus per year. just in the U.S.

Green buildings offer the added benefit of carbon emission reductions.

Applied to the existing green buildings in the US, 1.04 million metric tons of CO2 are avoided annually. That is the equivalent of taking 208,000 cars off the road every single year!

Where’s the Water?

Green buildings are huge water savers too!

A certified green building reduces water use by about 30% compared to a conventional building.

"What Centerbrook has done is remind us that what is good for the environment can also be good for business," said Lieberman. "The foundation for a new, clean energy future for America will be built brick by brick and volt by volt at places like green buildings where they pull the plug on Global Warming every time they flip the switch on solar energy." Lieberman

This translates to more than one million gallons of water savings per year. per building.

This is going to be extremely important in coming years, especially since only 0.2% of the planet’s water is accessible fresh water — and only 30% of that is potable.

Even more alarming, buildings use 12% of all potable water, which equates to 15 trillion gallons/year.

Currently, more than a billion people, a sixth of the world’s population, don’t even have access to clean drinking water.

And if we continue to use water at current rates, the U.N. predicts half the world population will be living with water shortages in the next 50 years. Some say this could happen by 2025. That means a family of four will only have access to enough water for two people.

But green buildings can help by reducing water consumption in commercial buildings up to 50% with the implementation of several strategies:

  • More efficient fixtures
  • Waterless urinals
  • Gray water reuse
  • Electric instantaneous hot water heaters
  • Rainwater reuse
  • Water-efficient landscaping

One case study in Minnesota showed annual water savings of up to one million gallons annually from gray water systems, a rooftop collection system, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Green Building: The Time Has Come

We’ve been telling you about the benefits of green building for a long time now. But the green building industry has finally reached a financial tipping point that can no longer be ignored.

"Available technology now ensures that the trade-off between environmental protection and economic health is a choice towns don’t have to make," said Lieberman.

The fact is it’s simply more economical in the long term to build green.

The savings in water and energy alone are enough to slash building operation costs by 50 percent or more. So it’s really no surprise to see so many in the industry transitioning to green these days.

Nonetheless, there are still questions that need to be answered.

And as investors, we need accurate data to make wise investment decisions.

Massive Scale, Massive Returns

The construction industry in the United States represents one fifth of the economy. This industry also comprises 14.2% of the $14 trillion U.S. GDP, which equates to roughly $1.98 trillion dollars.

In total, U.S. buildings consume 75% of the nation’s electricity and 12% of all potable water.

Plus, construction and demolition produces 136 million tons of debris that needs to be disposed of every year.

I know being confronted with random numbers like these could make it hard to realize just how big an industry we’re talking about here. Because really, what does 136 million tons of debris even look like?

To put it in perspective, that much trash equals the weight of 3.7 million tractor trailers. The point is, when dealing with scales this big, minor changes make a huge difference.

By improving the design and energy efficiency of federal buildings, our government will become part of the solution." Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)

It’s like getting a dollar from everyone in the U.S. To everyone else it’s a buck, but to you it’s $300 million.

The same holds true for green building. There is a small upfront cost. But the long-term value is so much greater. In fact, the return on investment can actually be as much as 20:1.

Check it out.

Green Schools: A Case Study

Green schools provide the most adequate data to develop a paradigm for green building as a whole. It is this sector of the green building industry that has the best kept records and the most thoroughly analyzed results.

And it should! After all, some 60 million students and staff spend their days in America’s schools. That’s 20% of the population!

It should be understood that what goes for schools also goes for other buildings — commercial, industrial, and privately owned homes.

The upfront cost is the same and the ensuing benefits are equal — schools just have the most complete dataset.

According to the DOE, commercial buildings account for 35 percent of America’s electricity consumption. An upfront investment of 2 percent in green building design, on average, results in life cycle savings of ten times that upfront investment. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

So let’s not beat around the bush here. It does cost more to build green schools. To be exact, it costs 2% more. or $3 per square foot. But the economic benefits can be as much as $71 per square foot, as you’ll see in just a moment.

Schools directly save $11/sq. ft. (that’s already almost four times the initial investment) by way of lower energy and water costs and reduced emissions. At that rate, each green-built school could afford to hire an additional full-time employee.

The rest of the savings are passed on to the community in the form of reduced infrastructure costs and lower air and water pollution.

In addition to those benefits, there are unquantifiable advantages, including:

  • fewer teacher sick days
  • increased power reliability
  • increased state competitiveness
  • educational enrichment

Now, I know there may be a bit of skepticism. So, let’s go through each individual savings piece by piece.


First off, green buildings use 33% less energy than conventional buildings as a result of:

  • energy efficient lighting and daylighting
  • efficient heating and cooling
  • better insulated roofs

The average school has energy costs totaling $1.15/sq. ft. per annum. That’s $138,000 per year for an average 120,000 sq. ft. school.

A green school of that size, with 33% energy savings, has energy costs of $0.77/sq. ft. or $92,400 — a savings of $45,600 annually.

That’s a savings of $0.38/sq. ft. annually. Over a 20 year span, adjusted for inflation, those savings add up to $9/sq. ft.


The nation’s buildings use 45% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.

And air pollution from burning fossil fuels to generate this power imposes enormous health, environmental and property damage costs.

In fact, demonstrated health costs include tens of thousands of deaths per year and tens of millions of respiratory ailments.

Reducing electricity and gas usage in buildings can mean lower pollutant emissions. On a per school basis, green schools could account for the reduction of:

  • 1,200 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx) — a chief component of smog
  • 1,300 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2) — a principle cause of acid rain
  • 585,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) — primary byproduct of combustion and leading greenhouse gas
  • 150 pounds of coarse particulate matter — a leading cause of respiratory illness and contributor to smog

Over twenty years, the value of these reductions is estimated to be $0.53/sq. ft. though this may be a gross underestimate when additional environmental factors are factored in.

These savings amount to $63,600 for a 120,000 sq. ft. school over twenty years.

Water and Wastewater

One Massachusetts city saved $400,000 by avoiding the construction of a storm water detention facility. The savings were a direct result of a green school providing an on-site containment system.

Green schools have an average water reduction rate of 32%. A reduction rate of that caliber entails direct savings for the school as well as societal benefits in the form of reduced pollution and lower infrastructure costs for water distribution and treatment.

You see, when there’s heavy rainfall, wastewater systems can overflow, causing a variety of problems like water pollution, waterborne illnesses, river contamination, and beach closings. The benefits of green building strategies — such as rainwater control systems and green roofs — can dramatically offset these problems.

And that 32% reduction in water costs translates into a $0.84/sq. ft. savings over twenty years.

Future Earnings

Green buildings can also help increase productivity by providing comfortable settings for working and learning. One of the leading national centers of expertise on the topic is the Center for Building Performance at Carnegie Mellon University. The Center’s Building Investment Decision Support (BIDS) program has reviewed over 1,500 studies that relate technical characteristics of buildings, such as lighting, ventilation and thermal control, to tenant responses, such as productivity or health.

"You have a choice between a building designed to be healthy and efficient or one that is not. With a 50-year life-cycle investment, green buildings are growing at a rate of 40 to 50 percent each year. As energy pricing increases, the risks of doing conventional design are increasing. The obsolescence risk is becoming a big phenomenon." Greg Kats, principal of Capital E, a Washington, D.C. consultancy focusing on clean energy.

Collectively, these studies demonstrate that better building design correlates with increases in tenant/worker well-being and productivity.

If green schools improve productivity by 26% (the highest known productivity increase in recent studies), any reasonable person can assume that translates to at least a one standard deviation increase in mathematics performance. Are you with me?

Good. Because it has been concluded that a rise in a student’s mathematics performance to just the 84th percentile means 12% higher earnings throughout his/her working life.

Based on an average salary of $38,000 annually, that translates into an earnings increase of $6,800 per student.

Clearly, this increase in earnings is the single largest cost benefit of green buildings. Building green schools is one of the most economical ways to increase student performance. Especially since green building has an upfront cost of only $3/sq. ft.

Asthma Reduction

American students miss more than 14 million school days each year because of asthma symptoms that are worsened by poor indoor air quality.

"The federal government must lead the way in encouraging the construction and use of safe and efficient buildings. We owe it to our federal workforce and our taxpayers," said Senator Jim Jeffords (I-Vt). "Increasing the use of readily available green building technology, and investing in the development of new technology, makes sense, both economically and environmentally. I am proud that Vermont entrepreneurs and researchers, including those at UVM, have often led the way in this important field." (Jim Jeffords)

These problems have a direct annual healthcare cost of $11.5 billion, with indirect costs — such as lost productivity — of another $4.6 billion.

What’s more, healthcare costs are three times higher for children with asthma than children without. At that rate, healthcare costs total $1,650 per child.

A recent review by Carnegie Mellon of five separate studies evaluating the impact of improved indoor air quality on asthma found an average reduction of 38.5% in asthma in buildings with improved air quality.

But even a conservative estimate of 25% would translate to annual savings of $33,000 for an average sized school.

Over 20 years, those savings work out to $3/sq. ft. That means the cost savings of asthma reduction alone is enough to justify the "greenification" of schools.

Cold and Flu Reduction

Green schools reduce the occurrence of cold/flu by up to 51% as a direct result of improved air quality and ventilation. And since schools contain such a great percentage of the citizenry, that translates into a reduction of these ailments by up to 20% in the general population. That could mean 37 million fewer cases each year.

Allow that to sink in: Just building green schools alone could reduce the number of cases of cold and flu by one fifth in the general population.

Imagine if offices and homes were built this way!

The prevention of one of our nation’s most common illnesses would mean a savings — due to reduced healthcare costs, the recovery of lost productivity and wages from staying home with sick children — of $14 million, or $45 per person per year.

In terms of building costs, that translates to $5/sq. ft. That’s two dollars more per square foot than it costs to build a green school.

Additional Employment

"We don’t need hundreds of sustainable buildings in the future; we need thousands," Heinfeld says. "We’re not in a situation where we need demonstration projects. Every building needs to use less energy and less water."

With a marketplace of this magnitude embracing green building, it’s no surprise to find a wealth of new job creation — from design and production to manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

Just like the steel industry during the construction of Chicago and New York in the late 19th century. And just like the booming railroad industry during the same period, which saw the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S.

The point is, as green building tips the scale toward commonplace, the creation of new jobs is inevitable. In fact, a Massachusetts state study recently found that for every $10 million invested in energy efficiency, 160 short-term and 30 long-term jobs are created.

So, if each new green school makes a $200,000 investment in energy efficiency technology, the creation of three short-term jobs and half a long-term position is to be expected.

"More and more buildings can be built at the LEED-certified level for little or no cost premium. You can easily get at least halfway to certified at a zero-cost premium."

Over a twenty year period that means an additional $250,000 in in-state salary per averaged-sized school.

In building terms, this equates to $2/sq. ft. for a typical 120,000 sq. ft. school.

Teacher Retention

This is sort of a bonus prize.

A report in Washington State by Paladino & Company, an internationally recognized building consulting firm, estimates that green schools reduce teacher turnover rate by 5% annually.

"We believe that every project, regardless of budget or program, can have a sustainable quotient to it." Dan Heinfeld, President of LPA, Inc.

And the cost of replacing one teacher can be anywhere from 25% to 200% of an exiting educator’s salary.

If we conservatively assume it costs 40% of an average educator’s salary with benefits to replace a leaving teacher, then $25,000 would be saved for every one that remained at his/her school.

Plus, a reduction of turnover by just 3% — instead of the estimated 5% — would save $4/sq. ft. over twenty years.

I’m really not even interested in the savings here. I’ve already shown the financial benefits of greener schools. For me, the benefit of educator retention is ultimately employee happiness which, in turn, means the better education of America’s youth.

Additional Benefits

Beyond these quantifiable financial benefits as a result of green building, there are a plethora of others — including environmental and humanistic.

Green buildings generate significant economic benefits. According to the McGraw-Hill 2006 SmartMarket Report, these things deliver 3.5% higher occupancy rates, 3% higher rent rates, and an average increase of 7.5% in building values; they also improve return on investment by 6.6%, on average

In addition to the creation of jobs, there are other things to consider: reduced sick days, increased productivity, lower maintenance and operations costs, and the reduction of heat trapping and the associated temperature increases in large cities, just to name a few.

And we can’t forget waste reduction, insurance benefits, improved equity, and the general sense of heightened values and educational enrichment that would also be a part of this revolution. The latter two are normally forgotten in a sea of statistics.


The case outlined for green schools can be applied to buildings in the private and public sectors. All the construction costs and financial benefits of energy efficiency and emissions reduction are the same, with the only difference being in the productivity arena.

You see, while increased productivity in schools has financial implications in the form of future salary, when applied to the business sector the implications are there in the immediate present.

That’s because increased productivity in businesses translates to increased revenue. If a company’s employees are more productive, then the company itself is more productive — leading to increased revenues, profits, and a general sense of vigor and competition that should be inherent in any healthy company.

Of course, even with all these benefits, we still can’t avoid the reality that there is a $3/sq. ft. premium on green buildings. But that added price tag won’t be around much longer — thanks to advances in technology and increased accessibility of this technology.

In fact, it is possible to offset this cost during construction even now as new technology and building products become price competitive with traditional materials.

For instance, PNC Bank has constructed 27 of a planned 117 LEED-rated bank branches on the East Coast. Each cost $100,000 less to build than a standard bank branch, uses 40% to 50% less energy, and was ready to go in 45 fewer days.

Make no mistake. The financial benefits of green buildings are inarguable. And that’s ultimately what it all boils down to for those who build and profit from these things.

So as the green building revolution continues to unfold, we will continue to profit.

For more on green building, and more importantly, the publicly-traded companies profiting from this sector, visit Green Chip Stocks.

Benefits of Increased Health and Productivity

Recent studies confirm that inadequate lighting, temperature control, and poor indoor air quality undoubtedly have financial consequences in the form of health issues and lost productivity.

In fact, the value of lost productivity has been set at up to hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Not surprising, considering that people spend 90% of their time indoors, where the concentration of pollutants is typically higher.

"I believe it has done more to boost productivity than all the bandwidth in the world." William R. Pape, cofounder of VeriFone, Inc.

A number of studies have suggested that better air, lighting and temperature control can increase productivity by up to 26%. But what does increased productivity mean in terms of the almighty dollar?

Well, many of the benefits of green building — mainly increased ventilation, temperature and lighting control and increased daylighting — can significantly improve productivity.

Let’s take a conservative estimate of a 1.5% increase in productivity — which equates to only 7 minutes for every working day, or about 30 hours per year.

That small increase is equal to $1,000 per worker per year in increased productivity. So even tiny changes can translate into large financial benefits.

LEEDing the Way

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards are designed and maintained by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). It is a voluntary system used to pinpoint the exact degree of sustainability of new construction and renovations.

In other words, to be considered a green building — at least officially — the project has to be approved by an agent of the USGBC’s LEED certification program.

It goes something like this. A building can be approved as having one of four degrees of sustainability: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. This rating comes from points awarded in a variety of different categories.

New buildings are evaluated in the following categories:

  • Sustainable Sites — 14 points
  • Water Efficiency — 5 points
  • Energy and Atmosphere — 17 points
  • Materials and Resources — 13 points
  • Indoor Environmental Quality — 15 points
  • Innovation in Design — up to 5 additional points

The more sustainable and efficient a building is in each category, the more points it is awarded.

Nick Hodge

Editor, Green Chip Stocks

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about green building, renewable energy, and associated opportunities for profit, you may be interested inGreen Chip Stocks .

Energy demand will increase 58% over

Executive Summary:

The California Building Code update effective January 1, 2011 has new mandatory green building measures for all new construction. It is the first statewide mandatory green building standard and has been labeled CALGREEN. There are implementation issues with the new code provisions. Many jurisdictions already have their own local green building ordinances which the code does not easily readdress.

An analysis to assess the impact of CALGREEN and its alternatives has been commissioned by the City of San Francisco assisted by the Green Building Codes Educational Collaborative. The initial findings of this comparative analysis study should be ready in June 2010 and should be useful for officials and the design/construction community in determining the implementation of CALGREEN. More info on the study can be found at

Training on CALGREEN is now available from the private and public sector. As professionals and officials, we need to stay informed, get trained and help build a better future.


The purpose of this article is to address some of the current confusion and misunderstandings over the new green building code which has new mandatory and new voluntary provisions. Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39 percent of CO2 emissions, 40 percent of energy consumption, 13 percent water consumption and 15 percent of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant environmental opportunity.

NEW CODE Effective January 1, 2011, the next update of the Title 24 California Building Code will take effect.  It requires all new buildings to incorporate more environmental sustainability green building measures into new construction. The sustainability measures adopted in January 2010 by the California Buildings Standards Commission have been labeled CALGREEN .

CALGREEN is the first statewide mandatory green building code standard in the nation and is projected to significantly help California reach AB 32 goals. The previous California Green Building Code only had voluntary requirements. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent) by 3 million metric tons in 2020

Mandatory Minimum Requirements:

The 2010 Green Building Standards Code will require:

  • 20 percent mandatory reduction in indoor water use, with voluntary goal standards for 30, 35 and 40 percent reductions;
  • Separate water meters for nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects;
  • Diversion of 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, increasing voluntarily to 65 and 75 percent for new homes and 80 percent for commercial projects;
  • Mandatory inspections of energy systems (i.e. heat furnace, air conditioner, mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity according to their design efficiencies;
  • Low-pollutant emitting interior finish materials such as paints, carpet, vinyl flooring and particle board.

The CALGREEN Code is a comprehensive and uniform regulatory code for all residential, commercial, hospital and school buildings.

Voluntary Requirements :

The CALGREEN code provisions raise the floor for minimum sustainable and efficient buildings.  CALGREEN also allows local jurisdictions the opportunity to voluntarily adopt higher green standards beyond these code prescriptive minimums.

CALGREEN provides two higher levels of voluntary adoption labeled CALGREEN Tier I and CALGREEN Tier II in an attempt to provide a uniform higher green building code statewide if all jurisdictions adopt these provisions. Each tier adds a further set of green building measures that go above and beyond the mandatory measures of the Code. There are separate but similar sets of tiers for residential and commercial buildings.

In both tiers, buildings will use less energy than the current Title 24 California Energy Code. Tier I buildings achieve at least a 15% improvement and Tier 2 buildings are to achieve a 30% improvement. Both tiers require additional non-energy prerequisites, as well as a certain number of elective measures in each green building category (energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource conservation, indoor air quality and community).

If a local government chooses to go beyond the baseline Code by adopting one of the tiers, it will be up to each city to decide whether the tier will be voluntary or mandatory, and how the additional measures will be enforced.

Discussion of the Voluntary Tier Provisions:

There are issues with the Tier I and II categories that may be stumbling blocks in implementation.

Proponents say adopting the CALGREEN voluntary tiers will

  • Provide a uniform higher green building standard for all jurisdictions since most jurisdictions do not have the capacity to develop their own ordinances;
  • Provide a defined certainty for building owners on how to get a green certification label with defined prescriptive methodology written in familiar code language.
  • Provide a more inexpensive method of getting a green certification label than current third party point rating systems.
  • Provide better compliance since building inspectors will verify all work before occupancy

Critics say adopting the CALGREEN voluntary tiers will

  • Provide less uniformity since the code allows local jurisdictions to vary
  • Provide more uncertainty for building owners since this iteration of the code has conflicting and vague language for the compliance path subject to local interpretations
  • Provide buildings with green labels that will not be as environmentally sustainable or energy efficient as third party rating systems
  • Provide training and budget challenges for many building departments who believe they do not have the staff, the training or the expertise to implement Tier I and II certification.
  • Provide conflict for those jurisdictions that have previously voluntarily adopted a local green building code in trying to resolve the differences in approaches and requirements.
  • Provide only a short term solution towards high performance green buildings since there are substantive alternate solutions for building high performance green buildings in the pipeline.

Some observers see added confusion in the marketplace with additional labels while others see no problem or limited overlap between CALGREEN and private certification programs.

Regardless of these different viewpoints on the voluntary tier approach, versus the private rating systems, there does not appear to be much disagreement about the objectives or needs of green building practices.

CALGREEN Tier Alternatives :

At least 26 jurisdictions already have voluntarily adopted higher requirements than CALGREEN Tier I and II. These early adopters of green building codes before CALGREEN include San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Palo Alto, Those jurisdictions have voluntarily adopted third party private rating systems as their green building standards, i.e. U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED ® rating system or Build It Green’s GreenPoint Rated system. The LEED ® and GreenPoint Rated standards have more stringent conservation and sustainability requirements than CALGREEN and a different process for compliance.

Some are mulling over if they should lower their existing green building standards to the State level in response to the cries of the need for the economy and uniformity. Others disagree standards should be lowered since the early adoption of a green building ordinance was meant to set a leadership example; and the adoption of Tier I and II ratings may be superseded by the IGCC in any event.

In March 2010, the International Code Council issued a proposed International Green Construction Code (IgCC). To regulate the construction of new and remodeled commercial buildings. The proposed IgCC code includes provisions for agencies to adopt the 189.1 Standard released in 2010. The 189.1 standard is the first green building standard written in model green building language with standard compliance paths written in prescriptive and performance detail for easy adoptability by all jurisdictions. It was a collaborative effort of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) that also meets ANSI standards.  The 189.1 provisions provide a strong technical backbone to the IgCC and is a good step towards consolidating the multiplicity of green building rating systems available. Preliminary reports indicate the IGCC to be at least 30% more energy efficient than Title 24. If adopted, then the IGCC will likely be incorporated into Title 24 effective in 2014. The IGCC is a formidable option to CALGREEN Tier I and Tier II.

The City of San Francisco, which has the LEED ® rating system as its green building code, commissioned a study to analyze CALGREEN and compare its provisions with the LEED ® rating system, the GreenPoint Rated system and the proposed IGCC/ASHRAE 189.1 standard. The City was joined by AIA California Council, AIA San Francisco, Build It Green,, the U.S. Green Building Council Northern California Chapter and Simon & Associates in forming a Green Building Codes Educational Collaborative to assist in  this comparative analysis. The findings are scheduled for release starting in June 2010 and should provide jurisdictions, designers and builders, better insight on how to handle the interest for higher performance green buildings with the appropriate standard of care, and whether or not it is advantageous to wait out this cycle of code updates for the IGCC.

Regardless what agencies do with the voluntary standards, training for the new minimum green building standards is a requirement. Here are four ways to get training.

  • Check in with your professional local chapter of CALBO, AIA or USGBC for networking and training discussions.

    As professionals and officials, CALGREEN is here with mandatory and voluntary provisions.  We need to deal with it.  Three next steps are suggested.

  • Three – Get involved with your professional organization to influence a better and more consistent future. Whether you are in CALBO, AIA, IFMA, BOMA, Corenet or USGBC, your professional expertise is needed.
  • Ronnie Fong. P.E. LEED ® A.P. has over 30 years experience in public sector facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently chairs monthly educational and networking meetings on the green building movement on the 2 nd Tuesday of the month in Silicon Valley.

    The author has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented given the ever changing data available,  however the opinions expressed above are solely his own and do not necessarily state or reflect those of any organizations he may be affiliated with.

    Larimer County has adopted a voluntary green building program for single-family homes.

    What is Green Building?

    There are many definitions here is one from the US Environmental Protection Agency :

    Green 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, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building.

    Green Building can include anything from buying more efficient appliances to designing your home to take advantage of solar energy to constructing a full-blown straw-bale, adobe-brick or tires-and-recycled-cans earthship home. There has been an explosion of interest in Green Building as energy costs have risen along with concerns for the environmental impact of human activities. In addition, there are now state and federal tax incentives for using energy-efficient techniques and products. You can also receive rebates from Xcel Energy for solar installation.

    How do I get my Green Building project approved?

    While there are a few added issues involved in getting your green building project approved by Larimer County, there are now also many websites and agencies that can provide guidance and resources if you want to build green. The adopted Building Codes of Larimer County (the International Building Code, International Residential Code, International Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, International Energy Conservation Code, 2009 editions) are based upon standard wood and light-gage metal framing construction methods. Other materials — including building materials used for thousands of years such as rammed earth and adobe — are not specifically addressed in the codes. They can still be used, provided they meet the provisions for "Alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment" (2009 IRC Section R104.11):

    The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code.

    Section R104.11 "Tests" goes on to say

    Whenever there is insufficient evidence of compliance with the provisions of this code, or evidence that a material or method does not conform to the requirements of this code, or in order to substantiate claims for alternative materials or methods, the building official shall have the authority to require tests as evidence of compliance to be made at no expense to the jurisdiction.

    In general, you will need to hire a licensed Colorado engineer or architect to verify the proposed structure meets all snow and wind loads and is otherwise structurally adequate.

    Find a Green Builder

    • LEED Professional Directory
    • NAHB Certified Green professional
    • A list of builders signed up with the Built Green Colorado program of the Home Builders Association (program is inactive, but these builders are knowledgeable about the issue).

    Adopted Energy Codes in Larimer County

    Larimer County has adopted energy code standards [pdf] for insulation, heating and cooling equipment, and window performance. Green Buildings should have no trouble meeting these standards and may well exceed them.

    Health Department Issues

    For information on graywater systems, composting toilets and other plumbing issues, please visit the Larimer County Dept. of Health and Environment .

    Electrical Issues

    Larimer County has no jurisdiction over electrical issues, permits and inspections — please go to the Colorado State Electrical Board .

    Learn About Green Building

    Colorado Green Consortium has announced the public release of "Building Green in the Rockies", a video series on DVD, explaining sustainable building practices and products.

    Mortgages and Realtor Information

    Colorado Green Building Information

    Professional Organizations

    Construction Waste Diversion/Recycling

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