Green Building

The single most important category is Energy & Atmosphere, where the overall goal is to reduce energy consumption and encourage the generation of renewal energy. Strategies include: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, HVAC systems and lighting; use of renewable and clean sources of energy generated on-site or off-site; and natural daylight in spaces by windows or skylights.
Indoor Environmental Quality strives to improve indoor air quality; access to natural daylight and views; and improving acoustics. The category focuses on reducing indoor pollutants such as VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) in paint and off gassing of irritants found in adhesives, carpets, composite wood products and furniture. Strategies include managing moisture to prevent mold, increasing ventilation rates and mechanical controls to maintain the proper levels of temperature and humidity.
Water Efficiency rewards water conservation both inside and outside. The interior strategies include high efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings. Water-wise landscaping and water harvesting in rain barrels or cisterns for reuse are exterior conservation options.
According to Building America, a whole-house systems approach can reduce the energy consumption of new green homes by as much as 40% with little or no effect on the cost of construction. For example, framing the home with 2×6 studs spaced at 24 inches allows increased insulation, compared to conventional 2×4 studs spaced at 16 inches, saving heating and cooling energy and improving comfort. This may also allow for the downsizing of heating and cooling equipment as well as reducing wood use and labor costs.
The whole-house systems approach requires that the design and construction process be highly integrated. This involves:

  • Careful planning and attention to detail from the outset of design through all the phases of construction.
  • Understanding of building science principles, including the principles of air, heat and moisture flow.
  • Good communication among the entire team, including the developers, architects, engineers, builders, trade contractors, and material suppliers.
  • Proper sequencing of decision-making and building activities throughout the entire design and construction process.
  • Adequate training and supervision to ensure quality construction.
  • Testing and verifying performance during and after construction, and establishing a feedback loop to improve future designs based on the testing results.

Here is an Adobe PDF provided by the NAHB which helps to show the many facets of a green home: How Homes Become Green.
While green construction is a construction project built to a standard higher than common building codes, they also last longer, are cheaper to operate, sell for a premium, use fewer resources and ultimately have lower impact on the environment. You might also qualify for tax savings or money back.