Green Buildings Constructing the Future

With the rise of environmentalism and recycling, and the renewed emphasis on energy efficiency since the 1970s energy crisis, has come the idea of the “green building,” which are buildings that actively conserve energy. The idea first took hold in the commercial and institutional sectors, but is now gaining strength in the residential sector, including multi-family housing.

The saying “it’s not easy being green” is only half-true—it all depends on how green you want your building to be. Even if you don’t want to go green in a big way, you can take measures that can make your building a little bit greener, or more environmentally-friendly and energy-friendly.

The concept of a building that meets these criteria isn’t really new. As a writer at Energy User News in the late ’80s, we frequently wrote about buildings that used low-emissivity windows that cut down on heating/cooling costs, compact fluorescent lights, or, in some cases, solar panels.

Pamela Lippe, president of e4 inc., an environmental building consulting group, and executive director of Earth Day New York, dates the term “green building” to 1996, when the U.S. Green Building Council came into being.

“Since then,” she says, “there’s been a little bit of conversation among practitioners whether the term `green’ is the best term. High-performance may be another choice. I work with developers, and I don’t know if `green’ speaks to the business community.”

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