As World Green Building Week 2018 approaches (24 - 30 Sep), we thought we’d share some of the most recent research on the environmental benefits of green buildings. This post is part of a series which will explain why we should all be aiming to ‘green’ our buildings, and furthermore, why we should be pushing government policy in this direction too.
It’s not just the planet that will benefit from going green, there are social and economic benefits of green buildings as well as the more obvious environmental benefits. In fact, when discussing the benefits of green buildings, they are often broken down into the following three categories: environmental, economic and social. It’s for this reason that some people refer to these buildings as ‘healthy buildings’ as well as green buildings. This post will focus on the environmental benefits of green buildings.
According to the World Green Building Council: “[green buildings] provide some of the most effective means to achieving a range of global goals, such as addressing climate change, creating sustainable and thriving communities, and driving economic growth.
First of all, we should define what we mean by green buildings. Green buildings have been built from a sustainable design, also known as eco design. This means all facets of the design process takes into consideration the impact the building will have, both in construction and use. The World Green Building Council defines green buildings as "a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life."
Lets look at the environmental benefits of green buildings.
One of the most obvious impacts of making our buildings green is the environmental benefit. We've mentioned before that building and the construction industry accounts for 30% of global carbon emissions (and recent research is pushing that figure to closer to 40%) which means the building sector has the largest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other major emitting sectors (UNEP, 2009).
In fact, the emission saving potential of green buildings is thought to be as much as 84 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050 (UNEP, 2016) which would happen through direct measures in buildings such as energy efficiency, fuel switching and the use of renewable energy.
According to Citu, the average house takes between 50 and 80 tonnes of CO2 to build and emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 every year just from heating alone. But this can be improved – encouraging statistics from Australia show green-certified buildings produce 62% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings.
Here at Koru, we know how to build green homes: our office and director Mark's home (left) is a great example.
Due to creative use of passive solar design, high insulation and energy-efficient appliances and lighting, the building only consumes around half the energy of a typical UK household and does not produce any direct carbon emissions in use.
Moreover, during construction steps were taken to minimise the embodied carbon from its construction by specifying sustainably-sourced timber.
According to the carbon analysis company Phlorum, the embodied carbon of the building was 17 tonnes, compared with a national average of 60 tonnes.
Through its generation of clean, renewable energy (solar PV panels) it is expected to offset 41 tonnes of carbon over its life and it will only take 23 years for the house’s whole lifecycle to be carbon-neutral.
As you can see from the above evidence, the environmental benefits of green buildings are huge, and by building healthy buildings we have the potential to vastly reduce carbon emissions, both in construction and in operation.
You don't need a zero carbon home to make a difference, even small changes can yield big results. So, if you're thinking of renovating, rebuilding or extending, bear in mind that investing in a green home will massively reduce your carbon footprint. The planet will thank you!
This post is part one in a series.
- Benefits of Green Buildings: part one – environmental
- Benefits of Green Buildings: part two – economic
- Benefits of Green Buildings: part three – social