So you’re interested in going green, being environmentally responsible, and feeling pretty damn good about it—until the influx of terms and programs rush in—LEED, Energy Star, Passive House, Carbon Neutral. What’s right for me? That’s why we’re going to take you through our Sustainable Building Goals Made Simple.
Sustainability Building Goals Don’t Have to be Overwhelming
This can be a complex terrain to navigate, but this is one of the first topics that LEAP tackles and it informs the rest of the design process going forward. We divide sustainability goals into 3 sections of a pyramid—conservation, Net-Zero, and Living Building. A pyramid shape is a perfect representation of starting with a wide base of basic green building practices and becoming more refined as you go up.
Below is a graphical representation of our pyramid, with each of the 3 layers explained in the following text.
Conservation and Sustainable Architecture
Sustainable architecture is a pretty broad term, which basically seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings through conscious design, energy efficiency, choice of materials, development space and the ecosystem at large. Sustainable architecture has an eye towards energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment. The idea of sustainability is to think ahead to ensure that building are constructed for longevity and effectiveness. Read more about LEAP’s commitment to sustainability.
Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps people and organizations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and electronics that have superior energy efficiency
LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design)
LEED is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.
Buildings can qualify for four levels of LEED certification:
- Certified: 40–49 points
- Silver: 50–59 points
- Gold: 60–79 points
- Platinum: 80 points and above
Green Globes is an online green building rating and certification tool that is used primarily in Canada and the US. Their standard is recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Green Globe is an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO. Green Globe members are committed to benchmarking and managing the use of energy and water with the aim of reducing the use of these resources as well as promoting reuse and recycling of materials.
Net Zero Building
A zero net energy (ZNE) building is a structure with zero net energy consumption. This means the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. In some definitions, the energy balance can be from renewable energy sources elsewhere. These buildings consequently contribute less overall greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than similar non-ZNE buildings. They do at times consume non-renewable energy and produce greenhouse gases, but at other times reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas production elsewhere by the same amount.
Carbon Neutral Buildings
Carbon-neutral, also called carbon neutrality is a term used to describe the action of organizations, businesses and individuals taking action to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as each put in to it. It is similar to net zero building. The overall goal of carbon neutrality is to achieve a zero carbon footprint, which means using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate.
Read more in our story of meeting the 2030 CHALLENGE: CARBON-NEUTRAL BUILDINGS
Passive House Building
The term passive house refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. The requirements for a certified Passive House are very stringent. Per the definition—it can use no more than 1.4 kWh per 1 ft² of living space annually.
Read more on our series of Passive House Design Posts.
A Living Building operates as a structure that “generates all of its own energy with renewable nontoxic resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.
The Living Building Challenge™ is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek.
[box type=”bio”] Interested in Sustainable Building, Net Zero, & Passive House Design? Whether you want to start from scratch or renovate—we can help with Sustainable Building Goals Made Simple! Every $1 spent on design saves $10 in construction costs. Let LEAP provide you the best design possible.
Contact us to get started.[/box]