When the concept of green building emerges, environmentalists and researchers automatically assume the solutions lie on materials and their constituencies in buildings they are part of and the lifetime of the building. Exterior material directly in contact with the environment and natural elements may enhance the sustainability of the building, but may greatly impact the functions of nearby ecosystems. Hence building sustainability and environmental maintenance are not exactly interchangeable, and yet these terms are often utilized mistakenly. The pioneers of environmental constructs are not confirmed, although architectural historians suggest they date back prior to Ancient Roman times. Architects took centuries to recognize the importance of green construction in the Americas, but failed to capture the interdependence of environmental maintenance and building sustainability. When comparing centuries old buildings with modern buildings, the comparisons state that each building has a degree of sustainability regardless of its limited design life.
The question also emerges whether the influence of LEEDS and ASHRAE are necessary to upgrade the construction industry. If so, ripple effects of acquiring licensed professionals and applicators may become the largest corporate topic discussed by these outfits. Building centuries old in Europe have proven they do not require the requirements of LEEDS and ASHRAE let alone the green building policy. But design requirements were different then because of lower population, purpose and functions of buildings. To apply the green building program under these rating and regulatory systems raises more questions than answers. The better approach would be to confine the green programs to the jurisdiction where green buildings are proposed and study them from there.
2.0 Purposes and Scope of Study
The arguments to building sustainability and environmental maintenance hold their merits. But in order to evaluate both sides and determine whether green building construction will benefit, more knowledge and research are required. The following report identifies the advantages and disadvantages of green buildings, and elements that shall be directly addressed as occurrences during the lifetime of the building rather than performance during the preliminary stages to preserve material to lightly impact nature. Other aspects affecting human health perhaps not captured by LEEDS and ASHRAE have been citied and suggested.
3.0 Research Method
As human activity continues to interfere with nature, it must compensate for nature’s losses. Green buildings do not guarantee impact-free results on the environment, but may only merely reduce its environmental impact because of the limitations of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) credits (Rathmann, 2013). The purpose is to maximize humankind’s compatibility among its movement into natural resources with the environment. With the growing and migrating population, humankind is transitioning to isolated dwellings that are changing economic and demographic elements. Long-term effects of elements within green buildings are often overlooked when acknowledging financial and base material performance that will be sought later in this report (Pillai & Syal, 2006). The materials are derived from LEEDS and ASHRAE sources pinpointing where these rating systems are not fully accurate, but adequate to meet the minimum requirements of conceptual designs.
4.0 Research Questions
When it comes to questioning the validity and authenticity of green buildings, many misunderstandings of what green building really entail become popular topics of mistaken ideas. The resourceful questions below are deemed the most suitable for reliable answers:
- Do all green buildings have to be LEED certified and comply with ASHRAE?
- Are natural and recycled products interchangeable for green buildings?
- For every geographical jurisdiction entailing green buildings, do they posses their own by-laws and regulations?
- Do green building design professionals require certification and recognition exclusive to variable locations (city, state, province, district, county, etc.)?
- Do all green materials and products require a label?
- What is the warranty on green buildings?
5.0 Data Collection and Analysis
The data collected is a descriptive explanation deriving the benefits and challenges of the green building program. Following are counterarguments opposing the views of environmental designers and their methods of study and hardships of green building upgrades from conventional buildings. Most sources are from professional designers experienced in the building industry instead of reporters formulating a story with pieces of information. This is not to suggest that reporters do not understand the green building concept but the regulatory information transitioned into this report is, for the most part, derived from professional experience. some professional designers often do not appreciate when a report is formulated without their finalizations before their literature is set in print. Hence the information contained is beyond trade publication material and from professional and environmental designers.
6.0 Limitation of Study
Introducing to green buildings cannot be practiced and executed similarly to conventional building design because of its late and recent popularity. Supposedly green buildings have been lurking for decades by environmentalists but under discrete methods. Nowadays they have emerged from their comfort zones and have become widespread. Many local government boards have expressed their support toward green building and farming, but may only yield so much information because of limitations for green space in many communities.
All data and information, as the terms imply, are strictly for information only. In the final analysis, judgment of all information whether supportive or critical is left up to the readers to determine authenticity and reliability of green building information and research. Some designers produce disclaimers that finalized rating in association with their designs do not guarantee full compliance and shall be retained by building owners and occupants. The sole purpose of designs is to ensure minimum compliance with all by-laws and be held harmless.
8.0 Literature Review
When the US Green Building Council was formed to regulate sustainability in how buildings were to be designed, built and function, it required a new set of rating systems to accommodate the green building programs. Hence the formation of LEEDS was set in motion to operate in conjunction with ASHRAE. The formation of green buildings meant the alterations of energy requirements. The aforementioned jurisdictions over the years required cross-referencing of accepted practices to reduce conflict with the green building programs. These regulatory movements were similar to buildings codes and NFPA overlapping or referencing to acknowledge where regulations originated. The advantages and disadvantages are generic in practice but may be relevant to various countries where they research and study green buildings. All the data are compiled based on former building construction coordinators involving engineers and certified professionals. The article concludes where green building programs stand against conventional buildings and speculates how long before all buildings will eventually require green design.
Normally acquiring facilities for green buildings may be expensive. Initially during the building and design stages, green buildings cost approximately the same as conventional buildings. But in the long-term, the maintenance results in higher cost savings. Efficient water and energy facilities are somewhat interchangeable green building components. For water usability and heating, energy related measures are often sought to reduce cost savings. Conserving fixtures providing recyclable water for toilets and pool showers reduce several gallons of water and heat required. When less heat is consumed fewer costs accumulate and this heat can be rerouted for other facilities that require more heat at lower costs because of less stress on facilities.
Renewable, non-toxic, reusable and recyclable materials such as lumber, compressed earth block, concrete, and wool is proposed in green buildings and is LEED certified. The problem with conventional buildings is the expenses of creating building block components such as energy, water and wood were used to build these buildings. This is the reason why supply and material costs for conventional buildings are higher.
In areas with dense populations or higher building density, it is more likely for temperatures to elevate than normal. Mainly in downtown regions of major cities, high-rise buildings are composed of heat retention materials and are usually toxic to the occupants. Within the last decade, green roofs and gardens have been proposed to counteract heat buildup to reduce these toxic effects.
Ventilation systems have evolved to improve indoor air quality in various ways including passively and naturally as well as mechanically (Lallanilla, 2013). Many building materials have proven to be toxic, but do not pose any direct ill effects as long as they remain undisturbed. However when buildings are being renovated and parts of them are being demolished, the fumes radiating from these materials can have adverse effects. Hence the ventilation system in green buildings coupled with a well-insulated building envelope improves the indoor air quality. The interior of green buildings also reduces the effects of allergies, skin problems and headaches that are commonly known to occur in conventional buildings. The ventilation inside the building is just as critical as the ventilation outside.
Buildings with recyclable and sustainable materials instigate less energy consumption and therefore less money is spent (Lee, Hayles & Egbu, 2005). Since less energy is consumed by the building, energy remaining is supplied in reverse to the energy grid. Tax provisions on all government levels and retailers support this improvement of energy. Tax provisions enact on buildings with greater value. By constructing buildings with less opaque material and more glazing (skylights, curtain walls, etc.) the use of natural daylight reduces electrical and operating costs.
10.0 Disadvantages and Risks
Regardless of how much promise the latest green project can be forecasted, the positive concept of proposing green buildings frequently overshadows the negative impacts on the environment and the building occupants without capturing many important factors. Such examples involve the simultaneous and variable effects green products have on building occupants and the environment (Malin, 2013). Surely cost effectiveness is the initial counter factor to green buildings because of the sensitive processes of acquiring environmentally friendly products. But even some recognized products having environmental value, especially if they are organic products, have not been tested enough to project the long-term effects on occupant health nor have they been tested for recycling or salvage ability (Redavide, 2013). From a design management perspective, the “green” approach and the risk of building failure are unparalleled when comparing environmental and structural safety.
10.1 Nature of Problem
The problems with green buildings will be elaborated in the subsequent sub-sections. Generally since green building programs have not been researched or practiced extensively compared to convention al buildings, their status as new entrant buildings are not all favorable to replace existing building protocols for environmental purposes, at least with building occupants. Human occupants and the environment need to be treated as a single entity instead of separate problem solving categories. The environment purely benefiting from green products cannot be assumed to also benefit building occupants. Researchers often forget to conduct both ends of the environmental spectrum and then compare them. A building may include occupants allergic to both chemicals and green products. For example cedar homes in the past been known to cause allergic reactions because of how cedar reacts to chemicals and pollution in the air migrating into the ventilation system. When designing green buildings they cannot be copies of other renowned buildings. They shall be taken as an individual basis to ensure maximum efficiency and environmental cleanliness of all occupants. only can they serve as design models, but when it comes to products and location, they shall be overseen by a certified LEED professional.
10.2 Loans and Financial Risks
The initial costs of green buildings outweigh the costs of regular buildings. Environmentally friendly products are not the most acquirable products in North America. Frequently they are imported from other countries and add to higher costs. Major cities do not have this problem as much because they are more likely to carry higher volume of importing channels. But smaller towns and isolated communities require extra trade routes for their products and resources to reach them. Hence by the time all eco-friendly products reach these somewhat inconvenient communities the costs of material transport has already consumed the budget for green buildings and shall continue with conventional building (Dogra, 2011). Local and regional construction economists can only imagine the high costs of importing, but also the costs of the availability of eco-friendly products.
As aforementioned with initial costs, these costs solely may catapult green projects into net losses and delays in project completion because they depend on product availability. In North America time and money are interchangeable and the duration of product obtainment directly affects these sensitive factors even if the project is numerically estimated to be within an optimal budgetary range. A single mishap, such as delays in importing products from overseas, with obtaining eco-friendly products may cause ripple effects across entire projects (Lovins, 1994). With limited availability and affordability, product and project insurance can be extremely expensive and their volatility may only hinder the project.
For major construction projects, developers seek loans to buy eco-friendly products. Some banks may refuse loan requests because green products depending on project location are still difficult to acquire. If developers cannot guarantee acquisition of eco-friendly products, they cannot provide alternative guarantees. Their only available option is to build a conventional building. Several qualifications entail of a guaranteed loan for green buildings particularly for private homeowners. Some American states and Canadian provinces require a homeowner’s protection warranty in order to protect homeowners from high costs of repairs in the event their homes experience building failure. The builder has to be fully licensed, experienced and qualified in the green building program in order to be guaranteed a loan. Even then, if builders are successful in acquiring a loan, this does not guarantee a loan for subsequent green building projects.
10.3 Liability and Legal Risks Since a green building requires LEED certification
The architectural firm behind the designs must maintain its promise to achieve certain levels of performance. Liability claims can become enormous because of specific laws regulating the functioning of green buildings with their neighbors. Legal claims need to be carried forward in the event a building does not meet up to its design standards or if it causing problems to its neighbors. Generally the responsibility lay upon the architects because they are often imprinted as the coordinating professionals overseeing the performance of other professionals in all other fields involved (Seville, 2013). In some jurisdictions, the owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring all by-laws are followed because they hired the professionals. Surely a building must be built according to plan and developers and superintendents shall also take their contractual agreements seriously.
Some districts enforce their own laws where certain eco-friendly product and green building locations are prohibited. In some locations where they are permitted the rules and regulations can be very strict and proposing a green building may not be feasible otherwise. For example, for zoning and development reasons green buildings are to be specifically positioned to minimize their impact on neighboring buildings. The issue with restricted building positioning in this sense limits the amount of sunlight the building may receive. These defeat the purpose of green buildings designed to achieve maximum energy efficiency and heating cost reduction. The restricted positioning also reduces the control of natural heating and ventilation and therefore the building occupants will not feel comfortable. With the introduction of green building programs, government regulations regarding construction also change that may affect green buildings. As green building programs are material and time sensitive, changes in regulations may affect existing green buildings.
10.4 Energy Retrofitting
The green building program is proposed mainly for new construction because of the nonrequirement of integrating green products with incompatible products. But for existing buildings the costs and compatibility with existing products is very difficult to achieve. Only when an existing building is heavily renovated or reconstructed does ASHRAE recognize its importance in meeting with its current regulations (Vittori, 2002). Additionally only certain types of buildings may only qualify with ASHRAE. Again buildings in given locations may qualify to meet energy retrofit regulations. Some buildings smaller in size, for example, a multiple dwelling building up to only three storeys do not require to meet ASHRAE’s energy regulations. But the interior of this building may house several rooms, walls, and occupants that would greatly affect the heating and ventilation throughout the building. The only advantage is with newly constructed building falling short of ASHRAE’s radar will more likely meet current building by-laws and ventilation requirements. But in the long-term, its absence of ASHRAE’s enforcement may bring harmful effects to the occupants and to the neighborhood.
The feasibility of energy retrofitting can also depend on the ownership of the building. Most strata owners may in favor of spending vast amounts of money in upgrades especially energy retrofits are only voluntary. If a building consists of rental suites, most tenants do not have the budget of spending on retrofits. If a building already complies with the building code, legally there is no obligation to retrofit the building. By converting an existing building to a green building, most of the costs deplete the tenants’ budget and do not receive significant returns, unless the building is only a few years old to begin with. When replacing existing materials with green products, the demand of these products often need to be rushed into the market. The problem with introducing new products is, although they may be suitable for the building upgrades, they may not meet manufacturers’ standards. A compliant building in one region may carry certain green products, but may not be permitted in other locations where they, on the other hand, pose an environmental threat.
10.5 Indoor Air Quality
Since green buildings are constructed of eco-friendly products, air pollution is less of a concern to the exterior environment. But the fact that green buildings require to be sealed from the exterior environment the interior air is mostly contained indoors and not considered by green designers. This type of overlook reflects upon over time when the air quality takes ill effects on building occupants. This is where upgrading the ventilation system may take a financial toll on a green project because of high costs. Unfortunately during the design stage the greatest difficulty of collaborating the architectural and mechanical aspects cannot be determined until after the building is constructed because the green building program is fairly new to many local and regional governing boards. This can lead to further extravagant costs because the issue cannot be resolved until after the fact whether the architectural and mechanical realms are harmonized.
In addition to the harmful effects of poor indoor air quality, some recycled products within the building components contain harmful chemicals (Roaf, 2005). Occupants could be allergic to chemicals. Regardless of allergies, toxins emitted from recycled products shall be avoided as they may have long-term health effects on the occupants. Lighting components such as fluorescent lights emit radiation can cause headaches and eye irritation. This is an ironic concept as green building products are supposed to be designed to increase a building’s lifespan but does not compensate for building occupants.
10.6 Untimely Construction Schedules
As explained in Sub-Section 3.1, when ordering green building products, the timing in purchasing and acquiring products may not meet scheduling expectations. Currently some green products may be acknowledged in the construction specifications but may not be readily available by manufacturers even they frequently carry such products. Specific green products may not be carried locally for every project in progress. On the same token, these products may only be project specific. If products are not available locally or nationally, the cost increases when they have to be ordered internationally. Upon worse matters, the unavailability of products cannot guarantee or permit equivalent products because the actual designed project cannot allow replacement products integrated into the original design. To resolve the issue a redesign is required but would also increase professional costs. Only time will tell when product availability as well as qualified professional design will become more common as green building product popularity grows.
11.0 Challenges and Solutions
When the layperson considers solutions by proposing green building material they think of salvageable and recyclable material and do not pose any environmental problems. While this may hold true under several circumstances, this may compromise human health conditions. The waste disposal may become part of the natural environment and decompose, but natural resources are not always safe for humans. What shall be understood is how green building products are gathered as not to be altered in such a manner that is still compatible with the environment (Vyhnak, 2013). In other words, as the exterior details are deemed acceptable for the environment, the building envelope can follow. The base building elements are the source of support for the envelope components and need to be structurally sound to carry all loading where other building elements cannot and the remaining elements work their toward the building interior (Gijsbers, 2006). Hence it is more than just demolishing an entire building for environmental suitability. The following solutions are not absolute but serve as recommendation models for the future.
11.1 Greening The Building and The Environment
Several sources to turn a building especially a home into a green building can be found almost anywhere in everyday life. Nowadays many power providers are turning paper mail into email with only the option of allowing customers to continue receiving their due notices by paper. Many customers are willing to switch to email notification and save many trees from being cut. Some wood products are more available than others such as bamboo being more environmentally friendly than others. Plus its yield per acres always spares more of its planting than cutting down trees for limber on specific building components (Archer, 2012).
Many neighborhoods are saving space by promoting community gardens and many major cities are active in support of urban gardens. Compost is becoming more common than synthetic fertilizers that can be toxic. By increasing organic community gardens, more of its planting can be used to grow natural substance to be used as safe and natural cleaners instead of toxic chemicals. With the growth of healthy gardening, less powered facilities are encouraged resulting in less energy consumption and water shortages.
11.2 Long Lasting Building Material
Unfortunately most homebuilders do not have the budget to acquire durable building material. The next best step is to acquire material when deemed to occupy the building and determine how long before the building is to be demolished and replaced. For fixed and permanent materials, anything lasting up to 15 years is considered a practical solution even if it is not the most expensive or the most long lasting (Melman, Seiders, & Liang, 2007). Unless the budget is extremely feasible, incorporating material with variable durability would suffice. If the building is only to be occupied seasonally, only the minimum amount of maintenance particularly on the building exterior may extend the life of the building. If the building is not being used for a lifetime as more as such buildings are being promoted, they can be constructed temporarily with the equivalent of a permanent building, and then dissembled for future use (Durmisevic & van Iersel, 2003). Many prefabricated and modular buildings approved by accepted and referenced documents and certified organizations are being imported into larger urban communities on immense scales. For example, the Beaver Stadium in Pennsylvania and Crystal Palace in London, England are designed to reusable materials and deconstruction (Pulaski, Guy, Hewitt & Horman, 2003).
When improving or upgrading a ventilation system for the indoor air quality, sometimes replacing the entire system is more economical. Over the course of 20 years, the design quality of heating and ventilation systems has changed. What may have been the prime system 20 years ago may not be environmentally friendly nowadays despite of their high functionality (Barnes, 2013). With natural ventilation growing, mechanical ventilation components are being reduced to save space and reduce expenses.
11.3 Technological Gadgets
Most homeowners misinterpret the concept of all components in a building that can help improve the building’s lifespan. Components such as faulty electricity and poor piping can add to the degradation other than wall, floor and ceiling materials of a building and are often overlooked (Glenn, 2013). Smart thermostats, automated equipment, power adaptors and dual flush toilets functioning as one unit can make a difference to the age of the building whether they are residential, commercial or industrial. If indoor temperatures are not properly monitored, even in a green building, the components react drastically to certain temperatures and contaminate the air. Providing a smart thermostat to regulate these temperature differentials not only saves costs, but also protects occupant health.
The concept of green buildings has drawn global attention and acclaim from governments, industries, and professional designers. Green buildings are surely a way to accommodate the increase in population, not necessarily by numbers alone, but by density in specific geographical areas. Similar to practices standardized by ASHRAE and LEED, the concept of green buildings are observed and practiced by various professional groups.
But why do some buildings built centuries ago have lasted longer than modern buildings and still remain stronger than ever? Many older buildings are no longer occupied and have different uses than buildings North Americans are used to. This is an example of how ancient design practices continue to effectively function as opposed to modern designs. Today’s designs do have their virtues. Unfortunately over time when plans to incorporate green components into buildings became more popular, the concepts of material and structural sustainability were dissolved.
When one solution is proposed, another problem emerges as in the case with green buildings (Krach, 2013). Energy efficiency has become the most discussed topic because of the global energy consumption and finite resources available. To increase green building solutions, the zoning and development point of views need to be considered rather than only the building point of view. This does not suggest that current green materials are determined to be faulty, but they may function effectively for other buildings. Buildings in other climates around the world may be suitable for proposed green building products that failed in tested areas. LEED designers shall be recognized and qualified in their geographical areas of design. If they intend to expand their designs to other locations with diverse by-laws, they shall inform and propose their incentives to local governing boards to identify whether their practices are acceptable there instead of outing forward their proposals (Pawson, 2011).
Green building can only be improved similar to the building envelope problem that has experienced its drawbacks, and only invited better research, product, and application methods. Even an entirely new building with the most appropriate products may fail because of improper application. The key is to understand how the green building functions in tandem with other buildings and how various building systems operate as the finished product after construction completion takes time to analyze the long term effects on occupants and the neighborhood (Glisic & Inaudi, 2007). No single practice is formidable, but can be most practical among designers having full understanding of ASHRAE in topics of energy efficiency and humidity control (Stavins, 2013).
As many modern design practices have been examined and funded by national boards, green building programs may hopefully obtain funding for research of new tried and rested products with warranties recognized and accepted more globally rather than just locally and more net-zero homes can be constructed (Paulsen, 2012). If government and professional boards continue to work together to explore sustainable technologies, green building programs will also continue to establish in progress variable building models where products will yield less waste and no longer be a threat to the environment.
Lallanilla, M. “8 Benefits of Green Buildings”. About.com – Green Living. 2013.
Redavide, F. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Green Building”. Castalia Homes. 16 July 2013.
Pawson, O.D. “Green Buildings: Problems and Solutions”. Miller Thompson Partners. 18 May 2011.
Vyhnak, C. “Earth Home Powered by Mother Nature”. Homes – Toronto Star. 02 Aug 2013.
Paulsen, M. “Why Isn’t Canada Spearheading the Movement to Build More Sustainable Homes?” Housing – Canadian Geographic. Jun 2012.
Gijsbers, R. “Towards Adaptability in Structures to Extend the Functional Lifespan of Buildings Related to Flexibility in Future Use of Space”. 03 Jul 2006.
Archer, A. “The 10 Easiest Ways to Green Your Home”. MSN Real Estate. Jun 2012.
Melman, S., Seiders, D. & Liang, M. “Study of Life Expectancy Of Home Components”. National Association of Home Builders /Bank of America Home Equity. Feb 2007.
Durmisevic, E. & van Iersel, T.M., “Life Cycle Coordination of Materials and their Functions at Connections Design for Total Service Life of Buildings and its Materials”. Proceedings of Deconstruction and Materials Reuse Conference, CIB Publication. 2003.
Barnes, J. “Life Spans of Building Systems”. The Cooperator – The Co-op & Condo Monthly. 2013.
Roaf, S.. “Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change: A 21st Century Survival Guide”. Architectural Press, Oxford, UK, 2005.
Krach, A. “12 Easy Ways to Green Your Home”. House Beautiful- Eco Friendly Home Ideas. May 2013.
Lee, C.C., Hayles, C. & Egbu, C. “The Adoption of Requirements Management in the Delivery of Refurbishment Projects”. The Queensland University of Technology Research Week International Conference, Brisbane, Australia. 04 Jul 2005.
Dogra, A. “What Are the Disadvantages of Green Buildings”. The Buzzle. 01 Oct 2011.
Stavins, R. “Thinking About the Energy Efficiency Gap”. The Energy Collective. 06 Aug 2013.
Malin, N. “The Problem with Net-Zero Buildings (and the Case for Net-Zero Neighborhoods)”. Building Green. Aug 2013.
Pillai, G. & Syal, M. “Health Performance Criteria Framework for Homes Based on Whole House and LEED Approaches”. Lansing: Michigan State University. 2006.
Glenn, D. “10 Ways Technology Can Turn Your House Green”. Mother Earth News – The Original Guide To Living Wisely. 15 Aug 2013.
Lovins. A.B. “Energy-Efficient Buildings: Institutional Barriers and Opportunities”. E Source, 2nd Edition. Jan 1994.
Vittori, G. “Green and Healthy Buildings for the Healthcare Industry”. Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. Oct 2002.
Rathmann, K. “Sustainable Architecture Module: Recycling and Reuse of Building Materials”. National Pollution Prevention Center for Higher Education. 2013.
Seville, C. “The Problem With Modern Architecture”. Green Building Advisor. 19 Jun 2012.
Glisic, B. & Inaudi, D. “Large Scale Lifespan Monitoring of High-Rise Buildings Using Long-Gauge Fiber Optic Sensors”. 3rd International Conference on Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 13 Nov 2007.
Pulaski, M., Guy, B., Hewitt, C. & Horman, M. “Design for Deconstruction: Material Reuse and Constructability”. Greenbuild Conference. 2003.