All about Green Buildings

With the term ‘green’ the first thing that comes to our minds is ‘trees’. Yes, the term ‘green’ represent trees or vegetation; but the green concept or green building concept is a bit more complicated than that. Different countries and regions try to shape the meaning and approach to green buildings differently. That is due to their unique climate conditions, resource availability, geographical condition, cultural background and broad-scale environmental, social and economic factors.

Early days

For many years, rapid material development was considered as a good thing until awareness of energy crisis and environmental pollution concerns arose around 1960s and 1970s. People became more concerned about the capacity of our Earth in dealing with harmful impacts brought by

  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • global warming
  • pollution
  • natural resources exploitation
  • land abuse
  • energy abuse
  • waste production

According to United Nations Environment Program (2016), the building and construction sector accounts for 40% of worldwide energy use, 30% of energy-related greenhouse gas emission, nearly 12% of water use, and almost 40% of waste. In addition, the construction industry is also a key sector contributing to approximately 4% – 15% of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of a nation, regardless of developing or developed countries. By the time we started realizing this, a great deal of damage was already done. So, as a solution for these energy and pollution issues regarding building development, the “green building” concept introduced.

Definition of a Green Building

As defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2016), a green building is:

“The practice of creating structures and adopting processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction”

C.S Goh, Steve Rollinson , 2018

Green Building Council South Africa website (2007) defines a green building as:

“Building that includes design, development and operational practices that essentially decrease or remove negative effect of growth on the environment and people”.

Elizabeth Motunrayo Ojo- Fafore, Clinton Aigbavboa, Pretty Ramaru, 2018

In a simpler manner, the green building concept is about constructing and maintaining buildings in a more environment-friendly and energy-efficient manner.

Okay, now we have a basic idea about the green building concept. But what’s wrong with the conventional buildings? The goal of a conventional building is providing shelter to the users. In fact, it is the main purpose of any building. But when a conventional building is being built, the owners prefer to finish the work within a minimum amount of cost. Therefore, they try to use cheaper materials and cheaper construction methods. But in these cheaper ways, the impact on the environment and the energy consumption is higher.

The techniques and materials used in a green building consume a smaller amount of energy and they are more environmentally friendly. But then why is it a slow trend? The reason is the initial cost for the process. Materials and techniques used here are a little bit expensive than in the conventional method. Most green structures cost a premium of more than 2%. However, they return 10 times more advantage over their life cycle.

Why green buildings are needed

Green structures such as green walls help to reduce the heat generated within a building significantly, reducing the air conditioning cost. These elements can also act as sound barriers and visual barriers. Most importantly, they make a positive impact on the human mind. According to Kellert & Wilson’s (1993) Biophilia hypothesis, people like to focus on life-like processes. Simpler mannered people prefer to stay close to nature. Hence green walls, green structures and roof gardens help them to connect with nature easily in an urban setting. Furthermore, solar energy and rain gardens also fall under the green building concept.

Among the most popular green buildings, Crystal in London, Pixel in Melbourne, ACROS Fukuoka Foundation in Fukuoka, Japan, Taipei Public Library in Beitou Branch, Taiwan stand as pioneers.

Government regulations

In many countries, there are rating systems to review a green building. In Sri Lanka, this rating system is maintained by the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka or GBCSL. Having a green building certification is important not only environmentally but also socially. Since this is a new trend in Sri Lanka, a green certificate would give your building a unique identity and good popularity. This is why most modern shopping malls are built according to green concepts.

Anyhow, when rating the green buildings in Sri Lanka there are seven key aspects to consider. These aspects are:

  1. Management
  2. Sustainable sites
  3. Energy atmosphere
  4. Materials and resources
  5. Indoor environmental quality
  6. Innovation and design process
  7. Social and cultural awareness.

A green building is offered marks according to these seven aspects. The final mark of the building decides the rating level of the building. This green rating system is developed through an open, consensus-based process under the supervision of the Green Environmental Rating and Life Cycle Assessment Committee. It is composed of a diverse group of practitioners and experts representing a cross-section of the construction industry.

Green Building Rating system (Source: Green Building Council of Sri Lanka)

Green building concept is an ideal way to deal with modern world energy crisis and environmental pollution issues. This is a great solution for developing countries like Sri Lanka. For us to reach our peak, we need development strategies like this. Most importantly, people need to be aware of the green concept. It is our responsibility to spread this knowledge with you and help turn this country green.

Click to see References 📚
  • Xiaoping, Mao & Huimin, Lu & Qiming, Li. (2009). A Comparison Study of Mainstream Sustainable/Green Building Rating Tools in the World. Proc. Of Conf Management and Service Science, MASS ’09, IEEE. 1 – 5. 10.1109/ICMSS.2009.5303546.
  • Goh, C. S., Rowlinson, S., & Wang, C. (2018). A Paradigm Shift from Green Buildings to Sustainable Cities: Concept and Future Direction. Paper presented at 23rd International Symposium on Advancement of Construction Management and Real Estate, Guiyang, China.

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S. Herath
Landscape Architect Department, University of Moratuwa

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One comment

  1. I think it’s really important to live as environmentally friendly life as possible, I always try to do my bit by recycling and composting but I always thought I should be doing more. Thanks for your post, it was very informative. I also found this site which helped me with some great ideas Get More Eco Friendly Tips

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